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Billy Corgan shares advice for upcoming bands: “Going out into the world and playing down the street? Don’t even bother”

Billy Corgan performs live with Smashing Pumpkins
(Image credit: Katja Ogrin/Redferns/Getty)

Best of 2019: Whether it’s an avant-garde signature electric guitar or how the color of a guitar changes its sound, Billy Corgan isn’t one to shy away from baring his soul - and now the Smashing Pumpkins mastermind has shared his advice for upcoming bands: playing live isn’t the answer.

In a video posted to his Facebook account (opens in new tab), taken from his 30 Days video project, Corgan can be seen sharing his thoughts with a couple of Texas fans.

In the clip, Corgan sings deep Pumpkins cut La Dolly Vita with guitarist Jonathan Espeche, who goes on to ask how his band Empty Shells (opens in new tab) could make some traction in today’s musical climate (how’s that for some promo, Jonathan?!).

“If I was gonna give you 60 seconds of advice, I would put your whole focus into reaching people through the internet,” Corgan says.

“The cheapest thing in the world is to create media, and get other people to share it, and then get people to come to you to want XYZ.

“Build your own media, create your own world. Have people go, ‘Hey, check out this band - they make these really cool videos’, or, ‘They do these really cool live broadcasts once a week.’

You have to be better, your songs have to be better, you have to be more interesting and you have to move at the pace of the generation that exists

Corgan goes on to extol the benefits of building that fanbase in terms of physical releases.

“Music’s not enough in the two-dimensional space,” he continues. “Let’s say you stitch together 30,000 people who are willing to talk about you, share. Okay, now, out of 30,000 people, if you press your own vinyl record, are 500 people gonna buy it, 1,000 people gonna buy it? At least that gives you one step forward, and you can start to build and work from the model that exists.

“But going out into the world and playing down the street? I would say don’t even bother.

“So, what does that mean? You have to be better, your songs have to be better, you have to be more interesting and you have to move at the pace of the generation that exists. So, hop to it!”

Who says modern-day musicians have it easy? We have to be great players, video producers and PRs all at once. Yet so much of the joy of playing guitar still comes from performing live - and it remains the best way to hone your craft.

We’d say a combination of both is the best route to success - or perhaps you could give your career a boost by appearing in a video with Billy Corgan?

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Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and has spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar (opens in new tab), Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as the best part of 20 years performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe (opens in new tab).