Alongside our Best Advice episodes with Jeezy, Charli XCX, and Russ, this week we’ve got Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins. As one of the most played alternative bands on the radio in the ‘90s, The Pumpkins’ influence is significant, with a vision and innovation that has always been driven by the Chicago quartet’s divisive and magnetic frontman. In November 2020, the band released their eleventh album CYR — their first in 20 years with original guitarist James Iha (D’arcy left in 1999) — and this September they headline Riot Fest in their hometown.
This episode of Best Advice offers something a little different than previous installments, primarily because navigating the music industry and creating records in a solo capacity is one thing, but it’s a whole other beast when you factor in band dynamics. So, of course, we dig into that, and ego, an artist’s ability to brand, the comparative nature of the industry, the advice he’d give his 20-year-old self, and so much more.
Billy is refreshingly forthright: he really believes that knowledge-share, like our conversation, can help artists. And he’s generous with what he’s learned because even after 30 plus years in the game — he’s still engaged, still hungry to create, and keenly observant of what’s going on around him, in the industry and beyond.
Listen to Billy’s episode, plus some of his key takeaways below.
Highlights from Billy Corgan’s Best Advice episode
Got writer’s block? Let yourself write a bad song.
I always say just let yourself write a bad song. I think the preeminent thing in dealing with writer’s block is to not suppress whatever your inner self is trying to say so if it's a bad poem, it's a bad chapter, it's a bad song, that's great. It's better to keep the tap flowing, and sometimes you might have to write two bad songs to get to a good song. I found a lot of the songs that I wrote that were good was when I wasn't really thinking about it and it just kind of happened because I was in the flow.
Retain ownership and build your brand.
[The] advice I would give to any artist is: do whatever you can to retain ownership of your songs. It doesn't mean you can't do deals where you lease or license, but you must always retain ownership of your songs. The real value in the future of the music business is brand. It is not going to be your ability to sell records; it will be your ability to brand.
Be wary when it comes to comparing yourself and your numbers with other artists.
At the end of the day you have to have faith in yourself. There are often times where the numbers just don't really indicate where you are on your own journey. If you sit there and compare yourself to somebody else and say “Well, they've got ten times more interest than I do,” it might just because they're more trendy. If you're an alternative artist like I am, you can't really compare yourself to those numbers.