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KISS frontman Paul Stanley: Streaming a 'Wild West' for artists

Alexandra Canal
Associate Producer

This week, streaming giant Spotify (SPOT) hit a big milestone, reaching 100 million paid subscribers. Meanwhile, Amazon (AMZN) reportedly plans to launch a new high-fidelity music service in a direct challenge to Tidal, the platform owned by rapper/mogul Jay-Z.

Yet even as streaming explodes and artists reap more rewards from the medium, one music legend believes the sector is not compensating artists fairly.

“It’s still the Wild West,” Paul Stanley, the frontman and guitarist of legendary rock band KISS, told Yahoo Finance in an interview this week.

“Overall, it’s unfair to the musicians because the musicians, as anybody who is a laborer, should be able to set their fee and either you buy it or you don’t,” Stanley said.

Stanley’s critique comes despite new legislation, signed last year, that updates existing laws. Among other things, the Music Modernization Act allows rights holders to get compensated easier when their songs are streamed.

Each platform pays different rates to stream music, on what amounts to pennies on the dollar per song. That structure is something Stanley said is not in the best interest of performers.

Streaming “is basically, ‘We’ll pay you ‘X’ or we won’t pay you anything,’” the rocker said. “The premise of it is wrong.”

‘Blaze of glory’

Nearly 50 years since KISS’ formation, the music industry has changed dramatically — and streaming’s at the forefront of that change.

Gene Simmons, one of the most well-known KISS members, has also lashed out at digital music, calling it a “disaster” that trains fans “not to pay for music.”

These days, Stanley and his fellow bandmates are hoping fans will turn out in droves for the group’s farewell world tour, called “End of the Road.”

KISS is planning to go out “in a blaze of glory,” he told Yahoo Finance.

Reflecting on the group’s heyday, Stanley said “KISS was the band we never saw.” The band was “a wake-up call to audiences that when they’re paying money they should get something for their money.”

Years of association with KISS has helped Stanley become very wealthy, but the rocker worries more about up-and-comers than himself.

“My rent is paid — and then some,” he chuckled. “But there are young people who are making music who may be very idealistic now and say money is not the motivation, but when you need to pay the rent it will be the motivation.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 27: Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley of KISS perform on stage during End Of The Road World Tour at Madison Square Garden on March 27, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

Stanley also shared an anecdote about his early days with the band — underscoring how even glamorous rock stars have a soft spot for their mothers.

He revealed that part of his first paycheck went to purchasing an unlikely gift for his mother.

“I bought my mom a washing machine,” he told Yahoo Finance. “We didn’t have one, and I think the first obligation you have is to give back to the people who gave to you.”