There are few bands who have really maintained the longevity and vision of KISS. For nearly fifty years now they have been one of the biggest bands in the world. They defined multiple generations of rock fans and even now in an era of live streams are pushing the envelope to craft some of the most impressive content in the field. So what are the lessons we can take from KISS?
Well, I think the things that are important have been their willingness to go over the top, but also to roll with the punches and embrace new platforms. Beyond that – most impressively is their ability to be everywhere. Which is something those first two elements fuel. Let’s pick this apart.
3. Going Over The Top
This is something KISS has always been really good at. Be it in the early days with the makeup to later advances like the seemingly endless storm of confetti that they blast the crowd with at the end of every show. KISS has always understood that if you want to dominate, you need to be the one people are going to talk about.
Local bands should draw from this even if they don’t have the big budgets to make these things happen. This can mean anything from recruiting some friends to start a crazy pit during your set to decking yourselves out in outlandish stage costumes. The point is – you need to go over the top and give people something to talk about.
2. Embracing New Platforms
Here’s another thing KISS have always excelled at (And part of why I’m surprised they aren’t on TikTok) – KISS are usually great at embracing new platforms. They were one of the first of the classic rock bands on MTV with the video for ‘Lick It Up’ and Gene Simmons had multiple TV shows and is a Twitter superstar.
These guys make a serious effort to tackle new platforms, like with their livestream in Dubai, because they want to be dominant across all fields. It’s the same reason there’s such a huge variety of KISS merch – you don’t know what’s going to hit next, so you need to take the time to see what you can create. Get ambitious. Try something new, it might just pay off.
1. Being Everywhere
This is of course the great triumph of KISS – that they are fuckin’ everywhere. They’ve done this by cultivating superfans and making it weirdly easy to have an entire lifestyle dedicated to the band. By breeding superfans and creating a ton of over the top content on a broad variety of platforms they have managed to be literally everywhere.
Your band needs to, like KISS, be open to a ton of different cross-promotion activities. Most of them probably won’t work out and some might feel silly, but again it’s a numbers game. It allows you to add to the universe of your band and connect with even more people. If you can’t embrace that… then you are just slowing yourself down.
Suffice it to say KISS is a one of a kind force, but a lot of the core elements of their success were fairly straightforward. They went over the top early and hard. Then they made sure to embrace every new platform as it came up. These two things along with constantly pushing for new partnerships meant that they were everywhere, even decades after their peak!
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Matt Bacon is a consultant, A&R man, and journalist specializing in the world of heavy metal. Having worked with everyone from Glam Rock icon Phil Collen of Def Leppard, to post Black Metal titans Alcest, by way of legendary thrashers Exhorder as well as labels including Prophecy Productions and Ripple Music, he has dedicated his life to helping young bands develop. Having started his own blog at the age of 14 he views his career in artist development as ‘a hobby that got out of hand’. In 2015 he formed Dropout Media in order to better support the artists he loves. We sit here now, years later with countless tours booked, records released and deals signed, and loving every minute of it.
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