Dan Schawbel, Contributor
I recently spoke to Gene Simmons, who co-founded KISS back in 1973 and was also the bassist and co-vocalist of the band. KISS has exceeded worldwide sales of more than 100 million albums, 40 million of which were in the US. The merchandising machine of KISS has over 2,500 licenses to date and the band has broken box office records set by both the Beatles and Elvis. Among Simmons’ projects include the KISS Golf Course in Las Vegas, the Kiss Coffeehouse in Myrtle Beach and his reality TV show called “Gene Simmons Family Jewels,” which has been on air for nine seasons. He is also a partner with the global restaurant chain called “Rock And Brews” and has written two bestselling books.
How did you decide to get involved in Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp and what do you hope people will get out of it?
I’ve been looking to do something like this for the longest time because when I was growing up and I saw The Beatles up on stage and I was a 13 year-old kid, it felt like a disconnect. They were the gods from Olympus and there was a leap to us mortals walking around. There was just no ways to scale Mount Olympus, no roads, you just didn’t know how to do it. Then I started reading Cashbox, Record World and Billboard, the record industry trade magazines and then you started to get a hint of it. So when KISS was being formed I read everything about the music business because at the same time I was learned how to play chords and play songs and play bass in a band, I was also learning the business, the structure, how it works and how things get done.
It is a very peculiar business because it is populated with people who are completely unqualified out of all the businesses in the world to do anything in that business. It’s music, but they can’t read or write music. You’re writing and playing songs, but you never trained in it. You just sort of start doing it. It’s sort of a magical thing, but people don’t understand that it wasn’t called “Music”. It was and always will be called “The Music Business”. As in “Show Business”. There was always a business entity to it. What I intend to do is show corporate entities, Wall Street, Times, anyone that has dreams and aspirations, that you can actually pick up an instrument and learn how to play. I’ll show you, in a very short period of time, how to play in a local band playing covers and make more money than you would working 9-5.
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