November 1, 2011
With his trademark windmilling strumming arm, penchant for smashing up expensive guitars on stage and pioneering love of rock opera, Pete Townshend has had little regard for the conventions of the music industry during his 50-year career.
Last night the Who veteran broke ranks to take on the business’s most powerful player, accusing Apple’s iTunes of being a “digital vampire” that is “bleeding” musicians for commission rather than nurturing new talent.
Giving the inaugural BBC 6 Music John Peel Lecture, the guitarist drew parallels between the industry and banks and urged Apple to act more like a traditional publishing and record company in its support of emerging artists. He said: “Now is there really any good reason why, just because iTunes exists in the wild west internet land of Facebook and Twitter, it can’t provide some aspect of these services to the artists whose work it bleeds like a digital vampire Northern Rock for its enormous commission?”
The musician urged Apple, whose products he said he admired, to employ 20 talent scouts to spot future stars from the “dying record business”. He called for iTunes to provide free computers, music software and training to 500 artists a year and give them bandwidth to showcase their talent. “It will sting, but do it,” he told an audience of radio executives in Salford.