Ace Frehley is back in a old stuck groove

Speaking of Space Ace, Time Out New York’s classical music writer Steve Smith interviewed former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley last week (check out his blog for some backstory on it). He mentions that Frehley isn’t playing songs from his new album on the tour to prevent leaks on YouTube before its official release date later this month. This seemed insane to me, so I went looking for a direct quote and found one in
this story from Billboard:

“Every show’s on YouTube, every song…I don’t want to play any of the new songs ’cause I don’t want to give away anything. I want that magic and mystique of hearing something for the first time when you’re supposed to, so I don’t think I’m going to play any of (the new songs) until the CD’s released.”

To some extent, I understand what he’s saying: part of what’s exciting about music is hearing it within a specific context, whether it’s in a live club or on an album. And if you’re hearing or seeing it on YouTube, you’re getting a grainy picture with distorted sound that could potentially turn off the audience you’re trying to entice into buying your new record.

But with all due respect to Ace, the time for cultivating mystique has long since passed.

No one’s going to be playing Ace Frehley’s new record on the radio. That’s not a comment on the quality of his work, it’s just a reality of the biz in 2008. Rock radio has been in decline recently, and most classic rock artists – even touring behemoths like Springsteen – have a hard time getting adds.

But that audience is out there. They’ll still go to see these artists in clubs, and are chomping at the bit for new music. Steve’s post alludes to the personal connection that people have with the people who first introduced them to music. But they’re not kids anymore, looking up in awestruck wonder at the man with the makeup. They know the addiction battles, and the difficulties that he’s gone through. In fact, it’s a lack of mystique that inspires his current fandom. That kind of connection inspires a rabid fanbase, and there’s no better place to feed that rabidity than on the Internet.

The best way to beat the bootleggers has been to join them. If Frehley were to post his own YouTube videos (filmed with a decent video camera, not a camera phone) of live performances and the occasional behind-the-scenes clips, people would flock to them, and then buy tickets and the new album in order to have that same “first-time” experience again. And perhaps he ought to look into putting together his own site, so no one has to go searching for news about his latest record or tour. I guarantee that there’s a huge Frehley fan out there who’s just dying to be Space Ace’s webmaster. Probably for free.

In a world of instant nostalgia, rockers like Frehley ought to be trying to bring their audience closer, not keep them at a distance.

3 comments for “Ace Frehley is back in a old stuck groove

  1. April 8, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    I agree with your premise but would counter that part of the appeal of the youtube phenomenon IS the pixelated video quality and sometimes scratchy sound. It’s an evolution of the bootlegging culture that has been in place since we had rock music–fans want the feeling that they’re seeing something special, something the mass market CAN’T buy. If you make your viral stuff too slick, you’ve compromised the point a little bit. Just my two cents. Totally agree that Space Ace has his head in the clouds if he thinks his massing some great market share by touring and not playing any new material.Devil’s advocate: Bob Dylan does the same thing. Victims of generational thinking, I guess.

  2. April 9, 2008 at 1:37 am

    Good point, Kerry. One thing I was going to mention is that Led Zeppelin used to have mystique back before all the re-releases and DVDs because most of the footage was less than perfect. And with YouTube and what not, you’re only getting snippets of the real thing. Just enough of a tease to make you seek out more of it.

  3. Kerry
    April 9, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    This is also a piece of instruction to you younger artists about the savvy and acumen of the people you surround yourself with. I can say with almost 100% certainly that Ace himself has very little grasp on the ins and outs of viral marketing and what youtube could or could not do to any future gross profits. What he probably has is a manager and/or publicist who have no capacity for keeping up with these kinds of trends and therefore approach any new-fangled techno-thingy with trepidation rooted in ignorance. In my opinion, Ace would do better to position himself as an old dude fearlessly embracing the future, sending ZIP files of the whole album to Stereogum, et al, creating some cheesy/fun video for, etc.And, of course, he should broker a lucrative sponsorship deal with NASA to premiere the entire album in a live concert from the Int’l. Space Station this summer. ACE RULZ!!!Full disclosure: KISS was my second-ever concert, and I was much more of a Starchild kind of guy.

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