80s Rocker Greg Kihn was counting on his lucrative licensing deal with Microsoft® to pull his career out of the doldrums. But the Redmond giant’s whiplash inducing kill off of their brand new Kin® line of cell phones put the hapless Kihn’s big plans on ice. The affable San Jose rocker, who had a number two hit with “Jeopardy” in 1983, first surfaced on the indie Berserkely label in 1976 and managed to release an album per year for a number of years before jumping ship to the MCA/Backstreet label. His eighth album proved the charm and its hit single was so popular, it spawned the ultimate popular culture accolade, a Weird Al Yankovic spoof version. By that time, he had already begun his pattern of releasing albums whose titles played on his name. “Next of Kihn” was followed by “Rockihnroll,” “Kihntinued,” “Kihnspiracy” and, well… you get the idea.
Unfortunately, his smash hit single brought with it, a level of heightened expectations, and when he failed to follow up that success with a steady stream of further hits, he was dropped by Backstreet records after just three more albums. His recording career was effectively belly up only three years following his greatest success. It was a steady flow of festival dates and state fairs in the lean years that followed, and lately, his morning DJ gig at the KUFX-FM classic rock station in San Jose has proven to be his steady gig.
When the IT giant released their new Kin® series of phones just six weeks ago, Kihn was anticipating a phone call from the manufacturer. Given that the touchscreen smartphones were specially designed to foster teen’s love of social media, who better to lend his name and image to the marketing effort than a rock star with the exactly appropriate name?
“I was really bummed out,” the rocker admits. He was all ready to rekihndle his career with a brand new album that tied into a multi-million dollar advertising campaign that would see the tunesmith’s new recordings released under the title “Kihnnected.” Unfortunately, the grim reality of dismal sales of the line of phones saw the software colossus knife the product line after an unbelievably scant six weeks. Making onlookers wonder what was in the Redmond water supply and setting a new record for business failure in the process.
“I was advised that Microsoft® had the largest pile of money in the world, and that their normal business strategy was to simply outspend and outlast any competitors they had until they won out in the marketplace. After all, it’s well known that their X-Box and Zune product lines had never been profitable for the company,” Kihn stated in an e-mail interview.
Kihn thought “why should it be any different for their smartphone?” Instead, the sanguine singer got burned by the insanely brief shelf-life of the line the Kin®. Kihn was prepared to dazzle the crowds at trade shows this Summer, but during the last few days of the device’s brief lifespan, he found the software leviathan’s presence at a recent Poughkeepsie trade show had been severely downscaled, leaving him to play the role of booth-monkey instead of rock star.
“I look at it this way,” Kihn says. “At least they didn’t make me set the booth up. But right now, I’m back on the Greyhound to Palookaville.”