Porter Novelli

A new media leader and a rock star come together to talk about The End of Business As Usual – Brian Solis and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins.

We are in a new age of music consumption. Napster was a watershed moment for the music business, and Corgan says record labels attacked instead of recognising need, and suffered for it. The net worth of the music industry has plummeted by tens of billions in the last ten years.

So how can artists make money now?

“You can no longer think of the thing you make as your main source of income!”  Billy says. “The greatest artists are adaptable. Picasso did movies and plays. What’s wrong with that?”

We are used to seeing movies stars and pop stars selling perfume and coffee and cars. Maybe we need to start accepting that rock bands and other musicians need something “commercial” to keep producing the music we love as well.

Corgan is calling for fans to be more sophisticated, and go on a journey with the artist. Let them try new things, and sometimes mess up. The current culture of condemnation kills this; musicians would rather be picked on for lip syncing than suffer the embarrassment of being a YouTube laughingstock.

And while it might be easier to rise quickly to celebrity status via the “Bieber route,” if you don’t have the talent to back it up, you’re not going to go to the next level. Or even worse, “If your inspiration is fame, then you’re not invested in culture at all.”

Corgan is passionate and clear in his thinking, but one point he made I really disagree with. He says you can’t get people interested who aren’t interested already, and they are going to follow the herd so just let them. He’s not interested in pandering, thanking people for listening to or buying his music, which is fair enough. But I think to completely ignore a section of society because they haven’t heard of you or don’t listen to stations that would play your music is really underestimating people.

We love to be acknowledged, our time is precious, and if you go to the effort of reaching out to us on a personal level, we will give you a lot more attention than someone who doesn’t. There are so many channels and duties and marketing messages flying at us on a daily basis, we need to shut some of it out, don’t judge us. And hey, maybe we’ll like it.

We are Generation Connected, so why not take advantage? Just no spamming. We hate that.

What is the solution?

Corgan is clear – the solution is to create content that goes behind the recording, but this is not the Behind the Scenes video. Five thousand people care about that, but a million don’t. That’s not going to cut it against cat videos.

Spotify is a step in the right direction but it is a “transitional technology,” says Corgan. “Artists need to create their own worlds,” and it needs to be visual and self-sustaining.

The only thing that endures is quality.