Do you think rock is dead? (Gene Simmons does)

Is rock dead? Gene Simmons says soPeople have been lamenting the death of rock for decades. Now KISS frontman Gene Simmons, in an interview with Esquire, has declared that “rock is finally dead.”

Long live rock.

But what’s the postmortem? According to Simmons, “Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered.”

By file-sharing, downloading, freemium business models, and a lack of fan support.

“I am so sad that the next 15-year-old kid in a garage someplace in St. Paul that plugs into his Marshall and wants to turn it up to 10 will not have anywhere near the same opportunity that I did,” said Simmons. “He will most likely, no matter what he does, fail miserably.”

Maybe my bias is showing through too soon, but I’d like to first point out that perhaps the 15-year-old kid doesn’t want a Marshall stack cranked up to 11 anymore. Maybe he’s happy playing an acoustic guitar, or a microKORG, or a clarinet, or an iPad. And even if the kid IS playing through a Marshall, it’s probably for the love of the music, not the financial opportunities it offered Gene Simmons.

As one of my friends said: “Gene thinks rock is dead because he only thinks of it as a job and a way to make money now. The one who can’t fail is the kid in the garage who’s doing it because he loves it” — which actually kinda seems more rock and roll, and means that rock will never die, right?

If part of Simmons’ definition of rock is wrapped up in the particular methods of music monetization that once benefited his band (and I’m not claiming that’s his intention), I’d counter by saying that business models shift, tastes change, careers go up and down — but plenty of artists are still making plenty of money from their music. The kid in the garage (no matter what the genre being played) probably has a BETTER chance of earning an income from music today than in the early 70’s.

Plus, if Simmons is mourning what appears to be a loss of commercially successful anti-establishment musical acts (contradiction intended) — I’d also like to mention that, to my mind, Béla Bartók rocked way harder than KISS.

What do you think? Is rock dead? Or has it simply lost its standing as the sole popular genre of commodified rebellion? And what is “rock” anyways in a world where audiences aren’t required to define themselves according to genre allegiances?

Maybe rock, however Gene Simmons defines it, is just the big band music of today (and I say this as someone who loves lots of rock music). Though I’m open to being proven wrong.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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[Rock image from Shutterstock.]