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Billy Corgan on Tidal, MTV & the ‘Feckless Idiots’ Running the Music Business

A suited-up and freshly shaved Billy Corgan dropped a suplex on the music business, MTV and others during a recent visit to CNBC.

A suited-up and freshly shaved Billy Corgan dropped a suplex on the music business, MTV and others during a recent visit to CNBC. The Smashing Pumpkins frontman and newly minted wrestling executive wandered into the cable net’s Squawk Alley to call out what he believes is an outdated business model that continues to exploit and undervalue artists.

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“The music business is mostly run by feckless idiots who do not subscribe to the normal [tenets of] capitalism which when they do, the business tends to work out well and stars tend to rise to the top, everybody benefits,” he said. “But it is still a parochial business. It is run by thiefdoms way behind the times technologically.”

And that was just the first few seconds of the interview (watch here), which also touched on tech, Jay Z’s Tidal efforts, MTV’s negative impact on the biz and why the real money is not in touring, but in branding.

ON ARTISTS UNDERVALUING THEMSELVES // “The tech world is just blowing music out of the water, but music and artists remain incredibly valuable to launching things. Hence tech companies keep cycling back to music artists. Music artists need to figure out their true value in a free market which they have been slow to do because you have that old model of telling artists they are not worth anything, that they are disposable. Similar to the things you’ve seen in the sports leagues and you are going to see that evolution happen in the music business.”

ON JAY Z’S TIDAL // “Although I celebrate the idea of him creating his own model it leaves a lot of people out. At some point you have to have winners and losers because that’s the way it works. To try and sell it as an altruistic thing is disingenuous because it’s not. He is taking his slice of the pie, which he has every right to do — he is a powerful man and he works with powerful people. But by the way, I’m a powerful artist and I don’t recall getting a phone call from him. But I get phone calls from other people and I have to make similar decisions. To sell it as altruistic — I don’t buy it.”

ON THE OLD MUSIC BUSINESS // “Wild West. You’re gonna see a complete disintegration of the business model. And a reforming. The problem is because artists are generally manipulated, it’s an old business model, you’re told ‘you have no value, you have no value.’ They’re slow on the uptake on how much value they have in this market place. Because when it comes to athletes and rock stars, those are two people who can sell a level of independence that works with marketers that no one else can sell… But music’s been slow on that because the old music business continues to control its diminishing share of the market.”

ON MTV // “Music at one point had it whole world cinched up. They had the manufacturing, they had the distribution, they held the conversation. If you really wanted to look back it’s when they ceded their power to MTV. When they let MTV build a network on their [juice?] for free and eventually kick music off the channel and still call it MTV. That’s the tipping point and so tech is basically coming in in the wake of what was the MTV version.”

ON DEALS WITH THE DEVIL // “The problem is there’s not enough money in music as a business model. Where in television and movies, there’s so much money that the controlling forces still circle around the stars. Stars are better taken care of in those industries. In the music industry it’s still this exploitative thing. People signing their life away — you know, the old deal with the devil stuff. That is STILL going on. It’s unbelievable in this day and age.”

ON TOURING VS HEADPHONES // “Who just made $3 billion for selling headphones. The future for music artists is in brand identification. Music will only be the lubricant to make the bigger deal. Once you saw that [Apple/Beats] deal made, it’s over. The old model of selling plastic is over.  By the way I don’t remember getting a lot of checks for selling computers and telephones. I’ve helped sell a lot of computers and telephones, as have a lot of other music artists. At some point the market is gonna have to come around and pay those artists what they’re worth or do what Jay Z’s trying to do and break off their own deal.”