by MATT BACON >
KISS is another one of those bands who have had a huge impact on the industry, their impeccable branding and willingness to break into just about every sector of the entertainment industry has proven that they are one of the most important bands of the modern era.
Sure they are pretty ‘Spinal Tap’ and they do a lot of corny shit, but when it comes down to it they are one of the defining rock and roll bands. With seemingly endless studio releases, a surprisingly intense touring schedule given their age and a willingness to sell literally anything to anyone (I’m looking at you KISS air guitar strings!) they have made an impact on many a young self promoter. While yes a lot of their legacy has been marred by Gene Simmons being an asshole and yes a lot of what they did back in the day is no longer really viable I think that to look at how KISS was able to turn the industry on its head and give it a whole new face is really important to realize, because the moves KISS made forty years ago still have an impact on you today.
So yeah, let’s talk about the most visible part of the KISS legacy first, the look. KISS knew from the start that they wanted to be rock stars. There was no desire with this band to be a club band who maybe worked their way up, they knew from the first that they wanted to be mega stars. They booked massive gigs and somehow pulled it off because they knew that they could. They had minimal backing at first, they were selling some units, but not enough to really break until they realized, people responded to their live show, their vision and the way that they were totally unafraid to go for the throat when performing. By being these larger than life characters both on and off the stage, they crafted a sense of godhood that has rarely been matched in the world of music. Despite that though they always talked about their roots, all living together in a shitty New York apartment, adding a sense of legitimacy to what KISS was doing, even when they started to sell kids lunchboxes.
I think this is where KISS proved that they really didn’t give a shit what people thought if they knew it would make money. When it comes down to it you can get KISS anything. If you want a KISS kitchen set you can find one licensed by the band. If you want a KISS bedspread, it’s yours. The list goes on, all the way down to the KISS Koffin, a coffin which I personally plan on being interred in. Of course not every band can afford to license things from top to bottom like this, and it doesn’t make sense after all. But there are also countless artists who do have large budgets who don’t bother to create this variety of merchandise. KISS wanted to ensure a future for their band and even though that future has proven to be extremely fucking weird (KISS nappies anyone?) it has also ensured long term success. When you look at all the stuff the band sells you can’t help but to be impressed. It’s a marketing strategy that has influenced countless huge bands and one which has been proven to make money time and time again.
Tied into the endless KISS merchandise is the way the group has worked to extend their brand to all aspects of the entertainment business.
Be it weightlifting videos with Paul Stanley, one of Gene Simmons multiple TV shows, their record label, their animated series, the comic books, the branded radio shows or any of myriad of projects that KISS has tied themselves into. Through it all they make sure these projects maintain a constant image, circling back to their famous logo and their ability to tap into the imaginations of countless fans. I think this is almost as important as anything else the band has done, is the fact that they have an image which is proven to work across countless platforms. So whenever they roll out a new project, you can tie it into a much larger thing. This is actually something bands can do substantially and reliably, your band should be creating more than just music anyway, so why not work your ass off on branding it all together? It’s been proven to work after all!
Here’s the thing though, KISS has a lot of bad songs, a lot of bad business ideas and a general wealth of clunkers across the board. They were never especially attractive guys (Except for possibly Paul Stanley) nor were they ever especially talented at their instruments. The songs are usually good, with a few truly great ones and a whole mess of stinkers. But somehow that’s okay, because there is just so goddamn much to unpack with KISS. They give you just about everything you could ever want, and if you’re not getting some weird specific piece of KISS branded content then I’m sure Gene Simmons is working on figuring out how to create it so that you can buy it from the KISS wedding chapel next month. That’s just how these things work. They have been able to drown the world in content such that they have become one of the most important bands of all time without ever coming close to being one of the best bands of all time.
Few bands out there are as truly ridiculous, fun and over the top as KISS ever was.
Few bands ever really understood the magic of rock and roll in the way that KISS did and thus none were able to market the hell out of them the way KISS has been for what will soon be approaching fifty years. They have created one of the most recognizable global brands by sheer persistence. Those dudes didn’t go to college for this, they just paid close attention to what their fans wanted, what the market wanted and then were able to grow from there. The music industry would be totally different if KISS hadn’t come out of the blue to take over the world, and I think we can all be grateful for their enduring and oftentimes life changing influence.