Thursday, August 27, 2009
Gene Simmons' uncharacteristic bungle
KISS legend Gene Simmons is – and has for decades been – a master of publicity. If you haven’t seen evidence of it yet, just watch a single episode of his A&E series, Gene Simmons Family Jewels, and you will.
Which is why today’s Canadian Press story, “Kiss frontman Gene Simmons blaming media for spoiling Oshawa surprise,” surprised me.
As the CP story reports, KISS invited fans earlier this year to go to its website and vote for their hometown to be included on the band’s upcoming “fan-routed” tour. Oshawa, Ontario beat out all other “hometowns” large and small, and came in at #1 on the list.
But when KISS published its tour schedule earlier this week, Oshawa wasn’t included – with no explanation as to why – and its devoted KISS fans and politicians were outraged.
The Sun Media story reporting Oshawa’s absence from the tour schedule provided KISS’s official response on the matter:
While the makeup wearing performer could not be reached for comment, a band spokesman said "a few situations" required locating shows in neighbouring market concert venues.
"This was necessary to make sure that all regional fans get a chance to see KISS with the band’s full stage production," said spokesman Erik Stein.
The band is however, planning "something special" for the city of Oshawa itself, although Stein wouldn't provide more details.
Fans and politicians in Oshawa were outraged that they were skipped over, and the backlash eventually forced the band to announce it would play a show in the city after all on Oct. 7.
Simmons was reportedly “pissed off at the media for creating this nonsense,” annoyed that coverage of the snub had fanned the flames of fan discontent. From his perspective, according to the CP story, fans “should have trusted the band wouldn't let them down.”
"Respectfully, the fans aren't qualified to understand how things are done ... (they) don't know how things work," he said. [A side note: when you hear "respectfully" or "with all due respect," get ready to be disrespected!] If the issue was who was right, and who knows best, Simmons might have the basis for a debate.
But the issue here is making customers happy. How did Simmons do on that front?
Now, spend any time following Gene Simmons and you’ll soon notice that he is incredibly confident. After decades of thrilling KISS fans with music, shows, and merchandise, he knows that he has a cult-like following.
But I think the problem he’s (maybe, maybe not) discovered here is that while his fans may adore him, people are unable to simply “trust” that a mega-star will “do the right thing” without some indication that he will. The hints the band gave when pressed about Oshawa were far too vague – they sounded less like “just hold on, wink wink, there’s something very special in the works for you” and more like “we’ll figure something out once we’ve got our real priorities dealt with.”
Simmons now says KISS had planned all along to have a show in Oshawa, where the band would launch its new album. If that was the case, all KISS had to do was include in the schedule announcement that Oshawa, the contest winner, was going to be the centre of something big, which would be announced in the coming weeks. Oshawa fans would've known they hadn't been forgotten or ignored, and the excitement and anticipation would likely have continued to build.
As for blaming “the media” for the debacle, Simmons is wrong (and uncharacteristically out of touch). First, Simmons ignores the impact of social media like Facebook, Twitter and blogs, which alone could have sustained the fan protest. Secondly, the media's job is to report on things that matter to their audiences; here, their audiences were insulted (and, some felt, cheated) by a rock legend.
That’s news, no matter how you slice it.