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Thoughts on the Smashing Pumpkins Suing Virgin and the Changing Music Industry
It seems that the turbulent end of the music industry (as we know it) is coming closer and closer. I mentioned in a previous post how the Smashing Pumpkins were supposedly going independent after breaking from all label contracts, and now it seems that a break from their label is not enough as they are also suing Virgin Records for breach of contract about using their music in unapproved contexts. The debate is over a Pepsi commercial I believe, although I haven't seen it, but really stems from what appears to be a long time relationship of poor treatment of the Pumpkins at the hands of Virgin.
I read a great interview with Billy Corgan on just this subject and the music industry as a whole over at Rolling Stone and it sparked some of my own thoughts on the matter. You can check out that article here: http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/19801847/corgans_fury_exclusive_qa
I won't go into details about what Billy says as you all can read it for yourselves so why rehash, but I will say this: I've always had a lot of respect for Billy Corgan, not only as a songwriter, but as someone who seems to truly believe in the music and not everything else. My respect grew even more by reading the interview. Corgan seems to really understand, not only what's wrong with the industry, but that it's moving in a new direction, a better direction, one where it really is about the music... which it seems to be for him. The whole thing just really renewed my faith in the Smashing Pumpkins and that good bands who believe in music and not money, hype, publicity stunts or anything else will triumph in the end.
Seeing how unhappy the Pumpkins have been with their labels over the years, and especially the comments Billy makes about Warner Brothers...
"I was talking to the label president from Warner Bros., Tom Walley, and we were having a call. They were actually thinking about dropping us, which in retrospect probably would have been good. I was in Arizona, we were starting to write the album, and so I said things are going great. And he said, "What's the difference between Zwan and Smashing Pumpkins?" And I was like, what do you say? What do you say to a brick wall? What's the difference between your side band and the band that was your blood and your sweat and your heart for fourteen years?" -- Billy Corgan from Rolling Stone Interview
... it just leaves me with a sick feeling in my stomach (because of the record labels' greed fueled actions, not because of the Pumpkins). Those people have no respect for music, for art or for the driving force behind those things: passion. It makes me glad that the bands that matter, the ones that really make great music because they love making music, will most likely be the ones that break away from the labels and strike it out on their own. Finally musicians are able to take matters into their own hands and be their own bosses. This is not only a better situation for the "music business", but also a better environment for creativity. The music can only get better when the bands are in control of their own artistic fate.
I think this will be true of the Smashing Pumpkins especially. A band that has so much material over the years in such a wide range of styles, to not have to worry about the approval of anyone but the fans might end up being huge... giving the band a leeway it has not had before. This might just end up being their most creative period ever. The comments Billy made about their last label also has me wondering if maybe their was some meddling in the last album that perhaps the band would have preferred didn't happen. I didn't think it was a bad album at all, it's quite good in fact with a lot of new directions and creativity, but when I heard some of the B-Sides and follow up material, like "Gossamer" and "Superchrist", I though, they showed a band far more hungry for new music... yet they weren't on the album. Course that might have been Billy's choice, which is fine too... just kind of makes you think.
Anyways, I'm excited about where the music industry and the Smashing Pumpkins are going, and I'm glad to see the band having the guts and convictions to stand up for what they believe and go out on their own. Lets hope more bands do the same thing and we can put the age of greed in the music industry behind us, so finally it can actually be about the music.