Is Gene Simmons the man to give our economy the kiss of life?
Business leaders of the future are tuning into Kiss frontman's billion-dollar brand lecture
Adam Sherwin is Media Correspondent at The Independent and an award-winning writer who specialises in covering the entertainment, broadcasting, music and popular culture industries. Previously Media writer and diarist at The Times, he was a co-founder of the Beehive City media and entertainment website. As regular contributor to BBC London 94.9 Radio station, he was named Music Business writer of the year at the awards of influential music industry site Record of the Day in 2006.
Wednesday 09 November 2011
His lecture to Britain's next generation of business leaders will reveal how to build a $1bn brand, selling everything from condoms to caskets, while still finding time to sleep with 4,800 groupies.
But are the London Business School's MBA students ready for the gospel according to Gene Simmons, the fire-breathing, blood-spitting frontman with shock rockers Kiss?
Under Simmons' ruthless leadership, the 1970s US group, famed for their face paint and spectacular live shows, pioneered the notion of the band as a "brand", flooding the marketplace with Kiss merchandise, from comic books to branded coffins. When the 61-year-old isn't flicking his seven-inch tongue at stadium crowds, he provides financial planning for individuals with a net worth of $20m and pursues deals which will expand the Kiss empire even after his death.
The musician will reveal the secrets of the Kiss phenomenon at the London Business School tomorrow. "Music, marriage and religion, it's all a business. Even God passes the hat around," he told The Independent. "It is your fiduciary duty not just to understand how to play a minor chord but how to maximise your pay."
The music is just a sideline for the bassist and singer: "If someone offered me a billion dollars for the Kiss brand I wouldn't sell. We now have 3,000 licensed products," said Simmons. "There's no limit to what Kiss can do. We have everything from condoms to caskets – we'll get you coming and we'll get you going."
Tonight, Simmons will present the Classic Rock magazine awards in London. His lecture will use the Liverpool "Mersey Beat" explosion, which spawned the Beatles, as an example of how global business propositions can emerge from the unlikeliest places.
His advice to MBA students is "Always use other people's money for investments. Banks and institutions are dying to give you money for creative projects they don't understand."
Illegal downloaders should be prosecuted, not indulged: "During the riots, when people broke into stores, do you just let them have their way? Even after your store has been broken into, you continue to fight and hold on to what's yours. Don't believe bands who say it's all about the fans and they want to give their music away for free. The result is they will continue to live in their mother's basement."
Simmons, who advocates the abolition of the welfare state in favour of compulsory workfare, said: "I would urge all bands that say they only care about credibility and don't care about money to send Gene Simmons every dollar that they don't want. I'd be happy to take it off them. Everybody lies, don't believe it for a second."
He criticises U2 and Coldplay for using "enhanced" musical backing when they play live. "Some bands use a lot of tapes...U2? I'm sorry, it's a fucking tape. The great bands like Metallica, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin – what you see and what you hear is what these people are actually playing."
Confirming he indeed slept with 4,800 women during his groupie-ravishing past, Simmons breaks off to read a text from wife Shannon, advising him to turn off his data roaming to save money. Every cent counts for the Kiss cash machine.
Kiss: Band on the make
* Kiss Monster mini-golf course opens in Las Vegas next year
* Kiss Coffeehouse in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
* Worldwide deal with Hello Kitty
* Kiss Angry Birds smartphone app
* Charges $100,000 (including first-class flight) for business lectures – more if his Playboy playmate wife Shannon Tweed comes along
* The Kiss Kasket, a coffin
* The Kremation ashes urn, for humans and pets.
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