‘Apple is a digital vampire,’ says rock legend Pete Townshend

Legendary lead guitarist for rock icons The Who, Pete Townshend, has attacked Apple’s iTunes music store accusing it of bleeding musicians like a “digital vampire”.

“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… for its enormous commission?”

The 66-year old rocker made the startling statements at the inaugural John Peel lecture in Manchester, England.

Townshend berated iTunes, which he also recognised as a “fantastic piece of software,” saying that in the past, record labels had provided a range of eight services to artists including offering editorial guidance and nurturing them creatively, whereas Apple only cared about the two financial aspects “distribution and banking”. He then called on Apple to hire 20 talent scouts “from the dying record business” to help new acts and provide financial and marketing support to the best of them.

Townshend’s lecture had been billed as a discussion on the future of the music industry and the impact of free downloads and whether the kind of music Peel championed can survive in the internet age.

One of the accolades Apple’s iTunes Store is often showered with is that upon in its launch in 2003, it provided the first truly viable option for people to purchase, rather than pirate music online. Under the hand of Steve Jobs, leading record labels agreed to make much of their music available for download — song by individual song — for US$0.99.

While the music industry still faces falling revenues as a result of online piracy, the iTunes store has also been widely recognised as showing the first steps toward a possible future for the music business in a digital world.

Townshend, whose career with The Who spans more than 40-years has been recognised as a legend of rock in a number of ways, most notably being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. The Who are widely regarded as having been one of the most influential bands of the 1960s and 1970s. One of their songs which has endured in pop cultural memory was My Generation.

Most recently they are most probably best known for having their song “Who Are You,” used as the opening theme for the television series CSI.

In 2005 Townshend — saying he had learnt from personal experience — also had a few choice words about Apple, warning that the wildly popular iPod could lead to an entire generation suffering from hearing loss.


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