By Andrew Barker
Last week, Kiss co-founder and frontman Paul Stanley was busy preparing for an upcoming co-headlining tour with Motley Crue, just after putting the final touches on the group's studio record, "Monster," which is due out this fall and will be inevitably followed by yet another tour.
By now, this is all old hat for the 60-year-old arena rock veteran. Yet as staunchly stratified as Kiss' flashpot-and-greasepaint-aesthetic has become, the group seems set to enter its 40th anniversary year in 2013 amidst a music industry that has in many ways reformed into the band's own image.
Though no longer attempting to stay abreast of every change in the musical weather, -- as it did with disco and glam metal in its middle period -- Kiss has managed to keep its name in the pop music conversation admirably well, slotting in on "American Idol" and launching a previous co-headlining tour with Aerosmith. Yet what's perhaps most remarkable is the degree to which Kiss' longtime operating procedure -- aggressive multimedia licensing and an overall reliance on touring over record sales -- has positioned the group for the industry upheavals of the last decade.
The band has a catalog of 3,000 officially licensed, branded Kiss products, and recently signed a worldwide licensing deal with Hello Kitty owner Sanrio. (Kiss beer, coffins and condoms have also recently joined its immense catalog of apparel and toys.) Of course, Kiss' uber-capitalist stance was once regarded as anathema to the countercultural spirit of rock and roll, yet given the explosion of music branding, licensing and marketing agencies over recent years (as well as such ventures as Dr. Dre's Beats by Dre electronics line and David Guetta's new sponsorship platform), the band's gung-ho branding approach now seems to rival only George Lucas' "Star Wars" merchandising deals in its prescience.
"Our credibility is defined by our own criteria, and we are as credible as we are profitable." Stanley said. "It's undeniable that the (non-traditional) revenue streams can be enormous, and to not maximize your potential outside of music would be absurd. It is the music business, and the business element doesn't negate or detract from the other end of it. We're a band, and we're a brand. And without one, the other suffers.