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How Kiss became Merchandise Kings

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[The following is a guest post from Stay Sourced. When I was in high school, everyone was buzzing about going to the Kiss concert for weeks. That might make sense if it was the 70's, but it was the early 90's. I couldn't imagine they knew two songs that Kiss sings. Finally someone clued me in that they were talking about the local radio station, Kiss 108, and the concert of pop artists. Honest mistake, right?]

When Kiss formed in 1973 among the growing popularity in glitter rock fuelled by acts such as David Bowie and Alice Cooper, it took them a little while to become successful; it wasn't until the mid-late 70's that the band shot to fame, thanks in large part to their rather fantastic live performances which included incredible pyrotechnics, fire breathing and blood spitting, all while each band member wore a comic book inspired black and white face paint. Due to their outward appearance, Kiss quickly became idols for a generation of rock fans in the 1970's who called themselves the Kiss Army, and this in turn spawned a new era in Kiss's money making machine.

In 1978 after the bands release of their first greatest hits album, Double Platinum, merchandise became the bands second biggest source of income; it is estimated that worldwide Kiss merchandise sales reached $100 million between 1977 and 1979. Popular merchandise sold and used for promotional giveaways available at Stay Sourced included branded key rings, Kiss Dolls, Halloween masks, board games, t-shirts, wall clocks, trading cards and even pinball machines. Kiss are said to have sold more merchandise than any other rock band throughout history.

Today, Kiss merchandise is still a top money maker for the band. Accessories, drink ware, clothing and collectibles are all sold through the official Kiss store.

Whichever way you look at it, Kiss are merchandise kings; in the space of three years, they were able to shift $100 million worth of branded products and become a household name. There are three main reasons for this:

1. Kiss capitalised on glitter rock and escapism

In the early 70's glitter rock was more popular than ever. Kiss loved the escapism that glitter rock provided, and took it upon themselves to become different; they applied what they called war paint and wore comic book inspired make-up. This instantly created a mysterious and intense persona about all of the band members which is something that the general public found intriguing. Although at first the music Kiss produced didn't receive favourable reviews, their intensity and willingness to adapt showed real spirit and drew a VERY loyal fan base.

2. Comic books

For over 90 years, comic books have offered escapism for millions of individuals. Due to their mysterious ways and their comic face paints, Marvel Comics published a comic which presented the band as superheroes in 1977. In 1978, Marvel released yet another comic. This helped to draw in a younger audience who could only just afford a comic book through their  pocket money. This audience would become vital towards the future of Kiss, buying up Kiss merchandise even through the bands troubled times.

Due to their huge following, Kiss are widely regarded as one of the most influential rock bands of all time. They have had a rocky road and their ups and downs - just like all of the great rock bands throughout history - but their music has lasted for over 30 years and will continue to be a top favourite among rock fans both old and new.

This year, Kiss is celebrating their 40th anniversary.

Last updated on February 13, 2014.

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One Response to “How Kiss became Merchandise Kings”

  1. Chris says:

    I love KISS, nice article. They truly are masters of merchandise and advertising. I still remember the day they announced the KISS Casket. They can market ANYthing.

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