Pete Townshend says iTunes is 'a digital vampire'


With his trademark windmilling strumming arm, penchant for smashing up expensive guitars live 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 talent.

Giving the inaugural BBC 6Music John Peel Lecture, the guitarist drew parallels between the industry and banks and urged Apple to act more like a traditional publishing or record company in its support of artists.

Speaking to a radio industry audience in Salford, 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; a digital 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 claimed.

Townshend, 66, also called on the company to help artists protect copyright; provide marketing support and assistance in creating physical products. In the UK, physical formats have seen a remorseless decline in sales – with CD sales falling a further 12.4 per cent last year. Meanwhile digital downloads now account for 98 per cent of the UK singles market.