AUSTIN -- If anyone expected Billy Corgan to hold himself back during a one-on-one conversation with author Brian Solis during their talk at SXSW today - which was titled "The End of Business As Usual" after Solis's recent book -- well, they haven't been paying attention much to the Smashing Pumpkins' frontman's contrarian take on the music business. He compared new artists to strippers and said, "I was part of a generation that changed the world - and it was taken over by poseurs."
Corgan - who's still mid-cycle of his self-released opus Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, eventually planned to be a 44-track record released in installments - was a veritable quote machine, waxing poetic (and occasionally blue) about his disdain for the current state of Alternative rock, his distrust of YouTube, and the very real struggles todays emerging artists go through just to get heard.
The event started with a song from up-and-comer Jake Dilly, singer-songwriter for Minneapolis's The Color Pharmacy, who played a tongue-in-cheek acoustic ditty he claimed to have written specifically for the event, only hours earlier. "The world wide web has changed the speed of sound," he sung. "MySpace is dead but Timberlake is giving it mouth to mouth!"
Later, Corgan would use Dilly and artists like him as an example, saying that to gain mainstream attention for his talent these days, he'd have to set himself on fire on YouTube. Even that, Corgan claimed, would likely not be enough. "[Artists that break through now] have grown up thinking that being famous is the goal," he said. "Not to be respected - not to be dangerous." He compared breakthrough artists to prostitutes, saying, "[once you make that deal] you're just the fresh stripper."
That said, Corgan acknowledged that even when he was coming up, the system wasn't perfect. "I knew I was being exploited," he said, "but there was a Faustian bargain to be made." He discussed watching Lana Del Rey's Saturday Night Live performance ("It doesn't surprise me that she crashed and burned, because she wasn't ready for it," he said. "I didn't think it was that bad.")
If there was an overarching theme, though, it's that both musicians and technology are feeding the mentality that fame is what should be hoped for, leaving artistry in its wake.
"Don't call it rock and roll," Corgan said. "I was part of a generation that changed the world - and it was taken over by poseurs."