Cannes Lions: Usher Still Values Radio for "Genuine" Fan Connections

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The artist joked with Ryan Seacrest at the annual advertising fest on Tuesday.

In the mix of social media, radio is still the strongest outlet for an artist, said Usher during an onstage interview with Ryan Seacrest in Cannes on Tuesday.

“It’s the only tool that still matters with making a genuine connection to a consumer,” he said of the medium some might consider old-fashioned in a world full of apps.

“At the fast rate that tangible assets are becoming less and less valuable or obtainable, especially in America…radio and radio program directors have the ability and the responsibility to curate the story of the artists in the right way,” Usher said.

“I love to be able to sit in the studio, especially with the relationships that I have been able to build throughout the years,” he said of visiting stations around the country.

He added that countries outside of the U.S. seem to still value copyright and being able to hold something in your hand.

Forget Facebook and ignore Instagram? Not exactly, said the singer, who said he has a presence on those outlets as well as Snapchat. He clarified that while the connections you can forge with fans over social media are “your most valuable asset,” being on many different media diffuses an artist’s message and reach.

“There is no way to aggregate and get people to move in one direction anymore. Radio is the only thing that does it,” he said.

Usher and Seacrest good-naturedly traded barbs about the current success of Usher’s The Voice and the cancellation of Seacrest’s long-running American Idol. “Good luck getting to 15 years, man,” joked Seacrest.

The singer said he’s looking for “success” in the release of Hands of Stone, his upcoming turn as the legendary boxer Sugar Ray Leonard in the biopic co-starring Robert DeNiro and Edgar Ramirez. The film received good reviews when it premiered out of competition in Cannes last month. Usher admitted that when he pours his heart into a project and it is not as successful as he’d hoped, “it hurts, man, it hurts.”

But for the moment he’s still riding high on last night’s championship win of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA finals. Usher is part owner of the team, andhe  chalked the win up to “adversity.”

“I truly do believe this, if the odds were a bit different and earlier we were even, I think that there is a possibility that we might have lost,” he said, citing problems the team has had throughout the year, including a mid-season coach change. “All of these very complicated tumultuous things that took place built a team and built an alliance where they were unbreakable. And in those moments, that’s when they used their chutzpah and they pulled it together.”

He added that while both bookies and history were against the odds, “Cleveland had the spirit.”