Smashing Pumpkins: iTunes Killed the Album

Smashing Pumpkins: iTunes Killed the Album

Fans don’t listen to our albums, said Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, because
iTunes favors the single and the shuffle mentality.

In a Q&A with the Chicago Tribune, Corgan said the tepid reception of last year’s comeback album “Zeitgeist,” makes it the last effort the band will produce in album format.

Chicago Trib: So “Zeitgeist” was the last album?

Corgan: “We’re done with that. There is no point. People don’t even listen to it all. They put it on their iPod, they drag over the two singles and skip over the rest,” said Corgan.

“The listening patterns have changed, so why are we killing ourselves to do albums, to create balance and do the arty track to set up the single? It’s done.”

With “Zeitgeist,” the Smashing Pumpkins did try to adapt to new musical habits, releasing a pre-sale version with bonus tracks and covers especially on iTunes — to the outrage of some fans who felt obliged to buy more than one copy of the album to get the title track.

Much like Metallica’s rage against the iPod, this probably won’t win the Smashing Pumpkins any new fans.

Via Mac World UK

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  • Martijn

    I think Billy Corgan just won the ‘Baloney of the Year’ award. I bet he mixed his own cassette tapes with favourites when he was a teen. Who didn’t? Did the cassette tape kill the album?

  • owen-b

    While he has a point about how iTunes has changed the way people acquire music and iPods (and digital music players in general) have changed the way people are ABLE to listen to it, this does all sound an awful lot like sour grapes.

    Trent Reznor and his band Nine Inch Nails have departed from the band/label dynamic and now support themselves by releasing their albums entirely digitally themselves, from their own site. Their first venture was a huge album, a sizeable fraction of which they released completely for free for download from their site. If you wanted the rest of it you had to pay them, a grand total of £5 (or the equivalent in $) for MP3s. If you wanted a proper disc, that was available too, as was a $300 limited edition boxed set – which sold out in hours. They’ve since launched yet another complete album online and continue to embrace digital culture by licensing their music to a NIN-themed iPhone game (which is doing very well).

    They reap 100% of the rewards after overheads and I’m fairly certain their fans and customers listen to all of the album. And even if they don’t, so what? You can’t go around dictating to your fans how they listen to the music. That’s like a chef standing over you in a restaurant:

    “Eat some of the potatoes next, with a bit of the sauce. Make sure you get some meat with the relish, don’t leave that on the side! No, you’re eating it wrong! What are you doing?”

    So, it sounds to me that what Mr Corgan is just angry that his album ‘sank without trace’ and is looking for something to blame it on, and the digital distribution culture that’s arising is the scapegoat. He needs to let go of the past, keep making the songs and albums he wants to make, and find a way to embrace the future. If the album is as good and as personal as he says it is then people will buy it and listen to it and continue to support the band, as NIN have proved.

  • arnabio

    That and this album as straight and away *AWFUL*

  • Ben

    Looks like Smashing Pumpkins diss iTunes just to attract attention? Maybe in a way. Also, I did listen to their tracks and didn’t find it as good sounding as their older albums when all the original members of the band were still around. That goes the same with Guns n Roses, to a certain extend, losing their original members is directly proportional to the magic they lose in their music.

  • Johnson

    Buuhuhu “Fans don’t listen to our music like we want them to”. Get over it! Or publish all tracks in 1 big file. There! Problem solved.

  • Scott.

    If it makes Corgan feel any better, I didn’t listen to *any* of the new Smashing Pumpkins album.

  • Anonymouse

    Sorry smashing pumpkins, but that happened back when people had to buy the entire CDs anyways; only difference is that with the CDs people were forced to buy the entire album to get the few songs they want.

  • phoenix

    Sadly, this is another example of artists winding up informed only through the information provided by their labels and/or their own misconceptions.

    If iTunes killed the album, it was in a life-support-sustained coma long before that. People were scrambling for ways to get a hold of only the songs they liked from an album long before the days of iTunes, long before the days of Napster even – the average music buyer was completely through with paying exorbitant prices for an album “experience” when in reality there were maybe one or two diamonds in a 15 track field of rough.

    The album died when many, especially pop, artists stopped putting their hearts and souls into producing quality albums and instead focused on a few singles they could get on the radio and some trash to fill up the rest of a CD. There are exceptions to this, naturally – back then and today – but the album was dead long before iTunes was a thought in Steve Jobs’ mind – or before Jobs was even back at Apple, imho.

  • Doug

    Yeah…..couldn’t have ANYTHING to do with the fact that the album sucked. I use to love SP and still listen to the older albums, every song, in succession.

    Yes, there is a rising generation that is more geared toward listening in only the shuffle style, but lest we forget, MANY ipod owners are the risen generation of 30-40 somethings who like to listen to full albums, in order….like myself.

    I saw Tarantula on iTunes, gave each song a listen, and bowed my head as I mourned the death of a once great band.

    Get over yourself Billy. You don’t crap gold.

  • Derek

    That’s becuase their album wasn’t any good! Corgan’s description of music listening patterns is no different that it was in the 50′s and 60′s. Singles were key back then as well. Remember 45′s? They were singles too. The trouble is the music publishing model hasn’t changed since then and that is why the music business (and Smashing Pumpkins) is in such dire straights. The consumer is bored with it. Even so, there are bands out there who are trying to do things in a different way and who are, as a resullt, putting out quality music from top to bottom. Tool, or Nine Inch Nails comes to mind. Both of these bands have rebuilt their music model and are thriving because of it. Corgan should look to those bands as examples and quit using the iPod as a crutch for his lack of popularity.

  • firesign

    guess what, billy, people were doing that when they WERE buying albums. it’s not the listener’s fault that you and metallica (and others) pad out albums with filler. that, and (like metallica) your last album sucked hard. quit whining.

  • Tice

    Funny – they didn’t seem to know that there is an “Album-only” option in the iTunes Store. : /

    And what about the CDs? Most music is still sold via CD! So they only produce Singles? Who wants that?

    Maybe Mr. Corgan was a bit tired from a party the day before. ; )

  • Gareth

    I hate it when artists don’t give their fans any credit.

  • Boardopboy

    Is it just me, or are all the bands that complain about iTunes, old and washed up?

    Here’s an idea Billy, maybe write a few songs that people want to hear, and maybe more people will listen to them.

    Don’t blame iTunes for your garbage. iTunes is a convenient excuse because you can’t handle the truth about your relevancy fading. Not that you had much to begin with.

  • allan

    To be perfectly fair, many bands (or realistically the record companies) did their fair share by consistently packaging 2 good tracks with a mix of 10 lousy and/or retread tracks while charging full rate for the CD. Chicken or egg?

  • Dann

    I love it when artists think that they have a right to make money from their work.

    Sorry, Billy, you don’t.

    You have a right to TRY to make money from your work.

  • Peter

    Wow, plenty of negative energy going around about this. I think you’re all being a little bit silly – we have to remember – opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and everyone thinks yours stinks.

    I have a few points to bring up…

    1. Billy Corgan has never written music with the thought process of “ok, what are people going to buy, what do they want to hear? What music do I need to make in order to sell records?” From day one, he has written the music that he feels compelled to write and record. Yes, his sales have suffered for it, but at the same time, he’s never sold out to anyone thus keeping his integrity as an artist intact.

    2. The original members of the band have nothing to do with the current incarnation. Simultaneously, they didn’t have much to do with the original band, either. It has always been at least 90% billy corgan and jimmy chamberlin on every track for the last 20 years (with the exceptions of the terrible songs that james iha wrote – believe being a prime example). So to say that the “new” band isn’t as good as the “old” band, is a moot point.

    3. Lastly, if anyone has a reason to be disgruntled over fan reaction, it’s billy corgan. The interview was done at the conclusion of their 20th anniversary tour. In that tour, they played two shows in every city – each night have a different theme and a different set of songs. In two nights, they played 48 songs total, half new, half old. The fans at every show were dying to hear old material – a greatest hits set. So when the new songs were played, they were met with apathy. So why is it that when they played hit singles like “Today,” “Tonight, Tonight” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” the crowd responded with little more than a “oh yeah, this is a good song.”

    In other words – damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Billy Corgan has been given, by his fans, the right to do whatever the hell he wants regardless of what the fans want, because the fans simply don’t know what they want.

  • DBL

    Billy Corgan is an idiot. And if you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t with the fans, there is a name for that: it’s called, WASHED UP.

  • Deocliciano Okssipin Vieira

    Most stupid thing I read about any portable music player!

    Actually people still buy CDs or vinyl btw.
    Underground noise bands are pressing vinyls and CDRs.
    It sells because they sell GOOD music.

    Shuffle mentality?
    Dork!

    As with Metallica, smashing Pumpkins lags behind.
    Irrelevant they are.

  • Sky

    The generational preference for storytelling over multitasking ended with personal computers, cell phones and the internet. iTunes is just one more symptom of this and not the cause of today’s singles mentality.

    Really good stories still sell, and I believe really good album concepts will sell too.

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Nicole MartinelliNicole Martinelli heads up Cult of Mac Magazine, our weekly publication available on iTunes. You can find her on Twitter and Google+. If you're doing something new, cool and Apple-related, email her.

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