As guitarist and co-founder of the Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan was at the forefront of one of the most important music movements in recent history. And he’s not finished. The Pumpkins have a new album coming out in June, and Corgan is splitting time between music and helping artists take back control from labels. He wants talented musicians to have more lucrative careers and engage their fans. At the same time, he’s calling on fans — who play a more critical role in artist success than ever before — to invest in the artists they love.
Corgan, who’s no stranger to controversy, believes that the music industry is currently structured to prevent artists from achieving the type of success his band enjoyed. In fact, Corgan doesn’t believe the Pumpkins could achieve the success they have, or anything close to it, if they debuted now.
In March, Billy and I took the stage together at SXSW Interactive and for a discussion that sent a series of shockwaves throughout the music industry. As he said in Austin, artists are becoming much like sex workers — once you’ve scored a record deal, “you’re just the fresh stripper.”
Sensationalism aside, his point is that both artists and fans must assume responsibility for the future of music if it is to mean something more than viral videos and hit singles. This is about engagement. This is about sustained relevance.