Billy Corgan and the remains of the Smashing Pumpkins are turning to what may be the only consistent way for rock stars of a previous generation to continue to make money: a subscription service for rare/deluxe material. Pumpkins founder Billy Corgan announced that for $40, fans can get a 12-week cycle of multimedia files, lyrics sheets, and previously unreleased behind-the-scenes footage of the recording process.
Watch your snark, Billy Corgan haters. Yes, the Smashing Pumpkins’ sole remaining original member has had his fair share of embarrasments this past year (month? week?), but harping on Corgan for turning to a subscription fee service is hardly the worst thing he’s done.
In fact, his price tag is a downright bargain compared to some other peers from his generation. Prince released a similar package of bonus material for $77. Granted, that was for one year, not 12 weeks, but Prince is really banking on his 37.5 lbs, $2100 box set to feed his family. In terms of alternative rock icons not named Billy Corgan, lest we remind you that even bands still generally considered not to have jumped the artistic shark, such as anti-music industry warrior Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, former anti-Ticketmaster crusaders Pearl Jam, and supposed music industry pioneers/generational spokespeople Radiohead have all released elaborate, high priced boxed sets containing similar content in the past year or two.
As Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot pointed out on Sound Opinions this weekend, this model has a history of successfully bringing in revenue, even though it would seem ludicrous to expect fans to dish out that kind of money for what they can also get for free on the internet, with or without the approval of the band. In this case, some of the footage is unreleased, so it would be worth buying for those Smashing Pumpkins fans still out there. Of course, that footage will probably be made readily available illegally once it is purchased, and the typical cat-and-mouse game chase will ensue. Billy being Billy, he is insisting on the band’s website that this isn’t a cash grabbing move. But compared to the news coming from Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins lately, this is rather benign. In fact, it’s downright practical.