Pete Townshend Calls iTunes a ‘Digital Vampire’ that Hurts Musicians

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Apple’s iTunes may have ushered in a digital revolution to the music industry, making music more affordable and—in tandem with the iPod and other MP3 players—more of a feature in people’s day-to-day lives, but according to Pete Townshend, iTunes is a “digital vampire” that’s bleeding musicians by taking a commission for each download sold.

That was just one of the eyebrow-raising comments made by Townshend during the inaugural John Peel speech at Britain’s 2011 Radio Festival yesterday, in which he freewheeled through a number of topics, including digital piracy, the role of radio in a new musical landscape, and whether or not Steve Jobs was cool.

(MORE: The iPod Turns 10; How It Shaped Music History)

On the latter topic, Townshend was especially erratic, admitting that he’d once said during an interview that he’d “wanted to cut Jobs’ balls off,” but admitting that he “really thinks the late Steve Jobs was one of the coolest guys on the planet,” in part because of “his black outfits”.

The thrust of Townshend’s speech centered around the need for musicians to feel that their work is being appreciated, in both financial and critical terms.

“Whether the public listen or not, creative writers and musicians should get paid if their work generates money by virtue of its mere existence on radio, television, YouTube, Facebook or SoundCloud,” he said, adding, “One woman was so incensed that she tried to argue that she was still supporting me as an artist by ‘sharing’ (my parentheses) music with others who would eventually filter down some cash in some form or other to me, that would pay for my son’s bike – and she was not, in any sense, a thief or a criminal. I think she was in a kind of denial.”

The key, he seemed to be suggesting, is constructive curation of what’s available online, pointing to the “dozens of amazing music blogs, sharing websites and video sites” continuing the work of legendary DJ Peel today by introducing good music to people that might never have found it otherwise.

Through that, musicians will find an audience willing to support them, perhaps even to the point where iTunes becomes an optional service to be discarded if musicians get sick of being bled of commission money. Well, assuming that the rest of the internet doesn’t decide to do those same musicians the favor of sharing the music for free instead of actually paying for it, of course.

MORE: The Digital Media Revolution: Analog Strikes Back

[via The Guardian]

Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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