Benjamin's KISS: A Perspective on Music, Spectacle and Aura

Rob Ahlers

Abstract


This article explores the ontological significance of spectacle and imagery in rock music. The examination illuminates how the construct of a larger-than-life fantasy and a live performance spectacle creates a sense of auratic presence; in other words, how live performance creates a present-moment experience and a sense of being in the here and now with an authentic and original work of art. Such characteristics, as encapsulated in Walter Benjamin’s concept of “aura”, have been considered problematic or even no longer relevant. However, I will argue here that in our age of digital reproduction the aura persists and is not irrevocably lost in reproduction. Moreover, the aura is transportable and present in the 21st century live music economy, as the case of the American rock group KISS will illustrate. By analysing KISS’ marketing strategy in the 1970s and how it evolved from there into the branding, licensing, and merchandising franchise that it became during the late 1990s, this article will show what a music group can do to auratically appeal to an audience by using (and leveraging) media strategy, mysticism, and the appearance of success.
Keywords: KISS, Benjamin, aura, liveness, spectacle, live performance

Keywords


KISS; Aura; Liveness; Performance; Spectacle

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References


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