KISS insider and marketing guru Michael Brandvold talks about his new ebook, working with Gene and more

KISS insider and marketing guru Michael Brandvold talks about his new ebook, working with Gene and more
April 5, 2012 | By | Reply More

Michael Brandvold founded KISS Otaku which was one of the very biggest and best of the original fansites on the web before being tapped on the shoulder by Gene Simmons to personally oversee the band’s online marketing via KISSONLINE.  His story is a longtime KISS fan’s version of the movie “Almost Famous” and in the process of doing plenty of hard work on his own he got access to the band most people only dream of.  He’s since become a marketing guru, speaking at conventions, conferences and the like while also running his own podcasts and businesses.  I have been in contact with Michael for some time and have personally found him VERY helpful in terms of launching the very website you’re reading this on.  Michael has recently released a really cool and FREE ebook (link below) and I sat down to ask him a few questions about our favorite band and much more.  Read on…

Legendary Rock Interviews:   Thanks for talking to us sir.  Your free ebook is fantastic.  Those of us in the KISS circles are well aware of your connections but for those unaware, how did you get into this and what prompted you to want to share it like this?

Michael Brandvold:  I have always appreciated KISS from a business and marketing standpoint, not just a fan of their music and shows. For years I joked that I went to the KISS School of Marketing, even before I went to college and majored in marketing. In 2010 I wrote a article on the 10 lessons I learned from the KISS school of marketing and it was very well received. I immediately got requests to speak about my lessons learned and the audience loved it. Everyone knows KISS, recognizes the logo, knows who the band is, has seen Gene Simmons Family Jewels. The common sense of the lessons hit home with everyone.

I decided I wanted to expand my original article into a ebook, something a bit more “permanent.” I added one additional lesson, bringing the total to 11, and a special “encore” chapter contributed by Steve Jones, author of Rock Star Branding, along with some of my favorite photos that I took of KISS over the years. Who knows where this book leads, I know there  are another 10 lessons out there.

LRI:  When we started our page you were one of the first people we emailed with questions and concerns.  You advised us, wisely, that there was no such thing as simply doing one social media and backed me up on my seemingly controversial decision to also interview classic adult stars by telling me that it wasn’t that far out of my audience’s reach (proven correct).  Again, you know a lot about many things and have worked with companies, BRANDS, like Playboy as well as bands or BRANDS like KISS.  Do you think there’s something to be said for casting as wide of a net as you can for whatever you’re marketing  while still remaining passionate and focused on what got you to the dance?

MB:  I think you should never be afraid to cast a wider net, to expand beyond  your immediate comfort zone.  How else do you grow if you don’t look beyond your immediate market? Look at KISS, they have never shied away from something new or different… as I write this tonight they appeared on the Academy of Country Music Awards. KISS and country music, would Metallica do this?  Believe in what you are doing, who you are, be passionate, and you can’t be faulted for trying.  KISS might be my first love, but just like KISS I am also working with country music now with Andy Gibson who has the hit song “Wanna Make You Love Me” and is cowriter of Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson’s award winning #1 hit song “Don’t You Wanna Stay”.

KISS HELLO KITTY

KISS HELLO KITTY

LRI: You went from a kid obsessed with KISS to a guy interviewing Vinnie and the guys to a guy running the very best fansite on KISS to a guy handpicked by Gene Simmons to oversee Kissonline the bands official site.  Describe the honest emotions you cycled through can you? I would be honored, intimidated, confident and concerned all at the same time.

MB:  I was extremely excited, who wouldn’t be? I was going to be working with my childhood idols. I know many fans only dream about that. But, I tried to keep a cool, level head and deal with everything that was happening as business. It was a business to Gene and KISS and I was not going to be the crazy, screaming fan. I was building Kissonline because I was skilled and a great fit. Once started I put my heart into the site and just kept doing what I thought I as a fan would want in a website. That was my primary focus… what would a fan want. It was amazing to see how Kissonline touched so many fans, brought many fans together.
Michael's Original KISS fan page, the greatest ever, KISS Otaku

Michael's Original KISS fan page, the greatest ever, KISS Otaku

LRI:  You spearheaded the creation of lots of things that made Uncle Gene
and Paul a lot of coin including but not limited to Baby Bottles and bibs
to the 1,000 dollar V.I.P. ticket deal which has simply become the INDUSTRY standard for all bands and artists.  Did you ever get the feeling Gene and Paul were more open to some of your ideas than say, another artist you’ve worked with like Motley or ____?
MB:  KISS were always open, I felt like they were never afraid to consider a new idea, never afraid of something new or different. They admittedly were never afraid to do something for money. I think many artists want to do something for money, but just are afraid to put their name or logo on something like casket or condoms. Not KISS, if the fans want it they will
give it to them. KISS went somewhere with their VIP Platinum packages that no artist had done before.  But you know what, the fans LOVED it.  I can’t tell you how many emails I received from fans who bought the package saying “thank you, you made my dream come true”.  Of course with the success KISS had, every artist wanted to do their own packages. I organized packages for many artists and KISS did them better than anyone else, they really make the fans feel special at each meet and greet.
KISS product

KISS product

LRI:  Kane Roberts told me one of the things he really learned while writing and hanging out with Paul was that no matter how the band’s fortunes were at a given point in their career he always maintained a razor sharp work ethic and the law of averages maintained that eventuallly the tide would turn in KISS’S favor again.  Did you get the feeling that as different as Gene and Paul are they shared a similar approach to learning from failure?

MB:  I think KISS has never been afraid to try something new, never afraid that some things may not be as successful. A failure did not slow them down, they just learned from it, didn’t repeat it and kept moving forward. They only did one Music from The Elder, lol.
Entry to the Vip room at the Mini-putt is via the ELDER door

Entry to the Vip room at the Mini-putt is via the ELDER door

LRI:  This  FREE ebook you’ve written seems, in my opinion, to be for the small startup garage band, the professional website operators, the local small business owner and the major label CEOs.  Gene caught some shitty reviews for his Sex, Money, Kiss book but the guy really did offer some common sense advice in it that I still appreciate. Everyone who’s a millionaire from Jon Bon Jovi to Gene likes to feel like they have their finger on the pulse of the “everyman”.  Do you think Gene gets it MORE or LESS than other famous “working class” millionaires like Springsteen?

MB:  I have always felt Gene got it more than many others because he understands and admits it is about money. His business honesty has always been refreshing to me. I may not agree with everything he does, but I do admire his honesty, his passion in what he does.
LRI:  I told Snake Sabo that I thought the “kids get in free” gimmick the other year was one of the most amazing concepts ever.  Do you think the  band is taking a step back from that family friendly image by going out with Tommy “bust out your titties” Lee and Vince “F bomb” Neil?  Are we gonna see a return to the illustrious sex laced ASYLUM stage raps?
MB:  No. I think KISS is going more towards being family friendly.  They love kids, they love parents bringing their kids.  This is different than what KISS were about in the 70s when they thought all the kids coming to their shows was not what they were about. Why the change? I personally think they see these kids as their future fans.  A whole new generation of fans are now growing up with KISS, just like we did in the 70s and 80s.

KISS Minneapolis on the Dynasty promo blitz

KISS Minneapolis on the Dynasty promo blitz

LRI:  I’ve gone easy on you, not anymore. We both obviously love KISS and I hesitate to ever criticize their moves due to that loyalty.  Some bitch about Eric and Tommy, I won’t cause the band sounds better with them than they did on the Farewell tour.  Some bitch about the makeup and say they want a REVENGE reunion.  My bitch is the setlist and the avoidance of the 80s and 90s material.  The set is predictable to the point of insanity because they really continue to appeal to the casual fan primarily.  So……Now that you are no longer tied to the band,what is your NUMBER ONE bitch about the beloved?

MB:  Don’t ever hesitate to criticize.  Just remember, it is only your opinion.  Stand behind what you think, but don’t feel like you need to convince everyone you are right.  My problem,?  That they seem less concerned about the die hard fans; changing the setlist, changing the stage show. But, from  a marketing and business standpoint I completely get why they are doing, and frankly, it is working.  You give the people what they want, and the
majority want the hit songs.  We may want to hear a song from The Elder, but we are not the majority.  I can see that KISS has evolved to the point where the image and characters are bigger than the person under the makeup.  I get it, I may not like, but I accept it.
KISS Kondoms

KISS Kondoms

LRI: What KISS products have you been looking forward to seeing and what products do you think they have shockingly missed?  My wife keeps telling me there is a void in the KISS pillow pet division and I told her it will likely be at the miniput gift shop by this June when we go to the Hotter Than Hell Wedding Chapel to renew our vows.
MB:  For me the ultimate product is always new music but we know that is coming this summer. I wish they would release a DVD that is all about the making, rehearsals, production of a album and/or tour.  I want to see how it is all put together, the planning, the meetings, the mockups, the designs.  A DVD that doesn’t even contain performances.  I don’t need to see yet another performance of Rock and Roll All Nite.  I want to know what is involved with confetti explosion.  How does that work. How much do they use each night.  Take us into the warehouse and the soundstage as a tour is put together.LRI:  Last question.  If anyone can afford to hire you they should but, like this free ebook, you offer plenty of help to those willing to pay NOTHING BUT ATTENTION.  If I could offer folks one piece of advice it would be to follow your blog.  What is the one piece of advice you learned from someone OTHER than KISS that has become a guiding principle for you?
MB:  KISS has clearly been the largest influence on me, but I would say that Apple and Steve Jobs have also impacted me greatly. The concept of the user experience, the simplicity that Apple has always been about has played a role in my life. Think of your customer, your fan. Their experience is the most important thing. If they love it, they will tell everyone. If they hate it, they will tell everyone. Which one do you want?
Download a copy of KISS School of Marketing: 11 Lessons I Learned While
Working WIth KISS. http://kissebook.michaelbrandvold.com
Michael Brandvold Marketing

Michael Brandvold Marketing

 

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