Pete Townshend calls Apple 'a vampire'

edited November 2011 in General
The Who guitarist Pete Townshend gave the first John Peel lecture yesterday on UK radio. John Peel was a DJ who promoted any kind of new, different music, young artists etc on his nightly radio show, but sadly died prematurely five years ago.

I've copied below the commentary on this lecture, as it may promote some interest
The Who guitarist Pete Townshend has urged Apple's iTunes to use its power to help new bands instead of "bleeding" artists like a "digital vampire".Townshend made the comments in BBC 6 Music's inaugural John Peel Lecture, named in honour of the legendary DJ. He also argued against unauthorised file-sharing, saying the internet was "destroying copyright as we know it".

"The word 'sharing' surely means giving away something you have earned, or made, or paid for?" he said.

The rock legend listed eight services that record labels and music publishers have traditionally provided to artists, such as editorial guidance and "creative nurture".

"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, like a digital Northern Rock, for its enormous commission?" he asked.

Apple should employ 20 talent scouts "from the dying record business" to give guidance to new acts and provide financial and marketing support to the best ones, he added. ITunes accounts for more than 75% of all legal downloads. An Apple spokesman declined to comment on Townshend's remarks. The guitarist also said that people who downloaded his music without paying for it "may as well come and steal my son's bike while they're at it".

If someone "pretends that something I have created should be available to them free... I wonder what has gone wrong with human morality and social justice", he said. But he also told listeners: "It's tricky to argue for the innate value of copyright from a position of good fortune, as I do. I've done all right."

And he added: "A creative person would prefer their music to be stolen and enjoyed than ignored. This is the dilemma for every creative soul: he or she would prefer to starve and be heard than to eat well and be ignored."

The guitarist praised John Peel, who died in 2004, for his dedication to listening to the music he was sent by up-and-coming acts.

"Sometimes he played some records that no-one else would ever have played, and that would never be played on radio again," he said. "But he listened, and he played a selection of records in the course of each week that his listeners knew - partly because the selection was sometimes so insane - proved he was genuinely engaged in his work as an almost unconditional conduit between creative musicians like me to the radio audience."
Source -
I'll find the URL for the lecture itself and add later


  • Yeah, the full lecture text would be useful because what's presented up there is incoherent. His argument appears to be that file sharing is fundamentally immoral but still preferable to not being promoted by iTunes.
  • Yes I admit I did not follow his logic, either. I'm catching up on work emails and then it will be the next thing to do (and listen to)
  • Go to where you have a choice of audio or video. It will be available until 6th November. Nerefidd, you ought to be OK listening to it, but I am not sure whether they will work OK outside Europe - if it doesn't try to find the link on BBC America. I'll see if I can frind a full script somewhere
  • I have just listened to the lecture in full. It is a bit rambling in places, but he does make some good points about how Apple/itunes could do things to promote new music to make it available to all. In a way he is suggesting that Apple should promote something like Bandcamp to bring new music available to all and to nurture musicians in early stages of their career.
  • edited November 2011

    Oh. I thought you said "Pete Townshend calls apple a vampire."
  • Nice one!!
  • Pete has paid the dues necessary to be heard on this issue, IMO, without being regarded as an old grandpa/dinosaur. I think he draws an appropriate distinction between the iTunes function as a retailer and the stuff labels do to support artists (or used to do, and in some cases still do). This is actually a place where eMusic deserves some credit for promoting new artists, at least on a small scale.
  • It's hard not to consider the coiner of "don't trust anyone over thirty" as more than a dinosaur, but I more or less agree with the idea too, and had the same thought about emu. The thing that Apple doesn't seem to realize is that they are missing out on a lot of business, ironically to people mostly over thirty.
  • I actually wondered if he'd ever heard of either emusic or Bandcamp, because both do make the kind of music Johm Peel would play available to a wider audience. Ironically, as Pete Townshend said in the follow-up discussion, there is more possibility of itunes actually doing something creative now without Steve Jobs at the helm
  • Townshend's off his rocker. Apple is a retailer who happens to sell music tracks. They already feature up-and-coming artists in the weekly free picks and staff picks. Kind of like Tower records or the local record shop would have weekly staff picks. Gah. The mind boggles.

    Why should Apple employ 20 talent scouts "from the dying record business" to give guidance to new acts and provide financial and marketing support to the best ones ? Those jackasses couldn't do it right over at the record company, so shift them over to Apple?

    iTunes lets people try a track or two for low cost, something the record industry wouldn't let happen for over 2 decades with CD music. They forced people to buy an expensive full-length CD with one or two decent tracks on them.
  • I'm with Katrina. Apple deserve mad props for saving the music industry from its self-induced death spiral. Apple have no need to hire any more talent scouts. They've got millions of people telling them what the cool kids are listening to right now. I'd love to have that dataset to play with.
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