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Pete Townshend  (Source:

  (Source: Spill)
Townshend said iTunes profits from music without giving back to the artists that work to create it

Remember when Metallica launched a legal battle against Napster back in 2000, then criticized the iTunes Music Store a few years later for destroying the album format and refused to allow their songs to be sold individually in the online store? Well, Metallica may have gotten over its spat with iTunes by releasing its songs in the store in 2006, but that doesn't mean iTunes now holds a loving relationship with all of its artists.

Pete Townshend, the guitarist and songwriter for rock band The Who, called Apple's iTunes a "digital vampire" while delivering the first John Peel Lecture, which was named in honor of the late British radio broadcaster.

Townshend said iTunes profits from music without giving back to the artists that work to create it. He offered some suggestions for iTunes, such as offering artists services that music publishers and record labels once provided since the Internet has eliminated many copyright protections. Some services Townshend mentioned were space for bands to stream music, employing talent scouts, and paying smaller artists directly without the use of a third party.

Townshend said iTunes bleeds artists like a digital vampire, and offering these services is the least it could do.

"It would be better if music lovers treated music like food, and paid for every helping, rather than only when it suited them," said Townshend. "Why can't music lovers just pay for music rather than steal it?"

Back in May of this year, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) scored $105 million in a lawsuit against Limewire, which was a free peer-to-peer file sharing program similar to Napster, and was accused of giving none of the money to artists. It was later discovered that the RIAA planned to set an unknown amount aside for artists.

Source: MSNBC

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confused much?
By kattanna on 11/1/2011 12:34:46 PM , Rating: 5
he goes on and on about how itunes is making all this money and not giving back, yet clearly he has forgotten that itunes must license said music from the record companies, where is that licensing money going??

"It would be better if music lovers treated music like food, and paid for every helping, rather than only when it suited them," said Townshend. "Why can't music lovers just pay for music rather than steal it?"

then he says this.. um hello mcfly.. people buying music on itunes is people paying for music. if itunes wasnt as widespread and easy to use as it is, piracy would be much more rampant.

RE: confused much?
By smackababy on 11/1/2011 12:42:31 PM , Rating: 4
The money most likely goes to whoever owns the rights to the music, which in most cases, is the record companies. Unless someone is super rich or has a hell of a contract lawyer when they sign with a label, isn't getting much.

Also, I believe he was talking about a pay per listen type of system, rather than a buy once own forever. If that is how he really thinks music should work, I wish he hadn't ever made any.

The best part of this is you have this huge rock star complaining people are stealing his music now when 50 years ago he was probably begging people to listen to it. You've made millions doing something you love, get over it, you don't need more.

RE: confused much?
By MrBlastman on 11/1/2011 2:32:17 PM , Rating: 3
Also, I believe he was talking about a pay per listen type of system, rather than a buy once own forever. If that is how he really thinks music should work, I wish he hadn't ever made any.

The best part of this is you have this huge rock star complaining people are stealing his music now when 50 years ago he was probably begging people to listen to it. You've made millions doing something you love, get over it, you don't need more.

It does come off as rather greedy, doesn't it?

If a writer writes a book (with copyright etc. of course) and then sells copies of it, does a reader have to pay the writer each time he reads it? No, of course not. As long as the reader has in their possession that copy of the book, they can read it as many times as they like.

The reader can even... share that copy of book with a friend or two which might lead to them buying more of that writers works in the future. However, when the copy is lent out, only one friend can read it at a time, not all of his friends.

So, in one large way I really feel he does come off as sounding greedy. Then, in another way, I think to myself about that analogy and how it applies to a book and then a lightbulb goes off--with a song, at least, a digital copy of a song, you can easily replicate that copy many times over and share it with thousands of people simultaneously. So, in a way, it is a little different and might lead to artists being a little crabby about the situation.

We're in a tight spot. Because of this, I can see where he's coming from with the pay per "eat" or listen of the song. He wants to avoid the whole copy and share dilemma which like it or not, is possibly a problem depending on which artist you talk about.

As you said, if you've made millions (or billions) off your music already, get over it(as it doesn't really matter to them at that point), but on the flipside, if you're small, sharing your music might actually help you become known and eventually lead to being lucrative... maybe not with _that_ song or album, but future ones.

It is a slippery slope. I don't think a blanket law saying "Punish all who shalt share music made by others" quite solves it but... can be solved more simply (at least from the enforcement perspective)--allow the copyright holder to say whether or not they want their works shared.

Even with a system like this (a system we've had ever since copyright was implemented) it doesn't mean people will care or listen to these wishes.

This I chalk up to being a paradox with no true easy way to solve it (unless you make the files self-killing somehow) or, as Pete suggests, pay per meal. None of these make the RIAA right though--they're scum regardless as they do little to help the true "creator" of works, they only serve themselves.

RE: confused much?
By vol7ron on 11/1/2011 4:39:55 PM , Rating: 4
The artists I call programmers don't make nearly as much as these musicians, which make more $$ than painters or photographers. Why should the art of music be so much more handsomely rewarded than these other forms of art? You might argue popularity, which I would also argue that many of these programmers that contribute to very popular/useful applications will only hope to make a million of their life, in a way they produce work that is much more popular.

True artists aren't in it for the money. Sure you want credit for your work, but you're never gonna have 100% of the control. I stream stuff I like until I get to the point that I feel like I should pay the artist and then I buy the whole album (not just the song). The business model should be putting albums out for cheap and raising box/office prices to shows.

RE: confused much?
By wordsworm on 11/1/2011 5:54:40 PM , Rating: 2
Picasso did as well in his life time as any of the Beetles. Damien Hurst is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and he's enjoying the lifestyle that kind of money affords, I'm sure. There's a kid in Britain, Kieron Williamson, who's making more money than most of us here from selling his paintings. Fortunately for painters, the original copy is the most valuable copy. You can't entirely replicate that original copy. You can get an image of Van Gogh's paintings easily enough, but those images are known for failing to capture the power and three dimensionality of the original. I don't know the world of photography very well, so you might be right about them.

It's dumb to say that artists aren't in it for the money. There is certainly the love there for the art as well. That would be like saying that doctors are in the profession to heal people, not to make money. Or engineers are in it for the fun of making bridges, not money. But, you know what? It's true for many people, doctors do want to help people. But they also want to make a living. Bridges do look like fun to make, but engineers want money. The problem with music is that it's so easy to copy and distribute.

In any case, bands like The Who are dinosaurs. No one that I know of makes a real album, and there hasn't been one for decades that could make a cohesive album. They've never been plentiful anyhow. We have Pink Floyd's The Wall and The Who's Tommy. Real rock operas are a rarity and always have been.

RE: confused much?
By vol7ron on 11/1/2011 6:27:09 PM , Rating: 3
Side Note: I thought Picasso, one of the most well known of the recent painters, was a pauper throughout most of his life, like most painters - and like most artists, his work didn't gain the appreciation (stylistic and monetary) until post mortem.

Honestly, you can pick apart what I said and find special cases even for programmers, but visual arts are harder to make an argument for because there are less customers. I don't deny that you could debate that a programmer is an artist, but you can't deny there are many useful works that are created that are often open-sourced, or undervalued. Combine that with the fact that you may reuse the same application/script over and over amplifying its use, but not the programmers profits.

There are many artists that are/were about the art and not the business side of it, but I don't think those artists are the ones that have financial/drug problems. Don't confuse what I'm saying with my own feelings/beliefs, as if I were a talented musician, I would very much like to make as much money as possible. But it's the point that I publicly say that, "We're not getting enough", or, "we used to be making more", that I'd accept I wasn't just a musician anymore.

RE: confused much?
By MrBlastman on 11/1/2011 11:30:02 PM , Rating: 2
But the true "artistic" programmers do make a lot of money. Look at Richard Garriot... he was able to blow 20 million on going into space. John Carmack is privately funding his own space exploration program. Then there is Sid Meier who has done extremely well. I could go on.

The thing is, most programmers aren't "artists" at all in the sense they work as part of a team to program a segment of a larger application. The programmers that are artists possess a talent far and beyond that of a regular programmer--they have an imagination and creativity that allow them to design something amazing full of story and life that people want to play in droves.

Note, I used PC games as an example but you get the idea.

RE: confused much?
By Steve1981 on 11/2/2011 3:15:51 PM , Rating: 2
In any case, bands like The Who are dinosaurs. No one that I know of makes a real album, and there hasn't been one for decades that could make a cohesive album.

In the pop/rock scene, I'd certainly agree that singles are the name of the game vs albums.

On the other hand, there are still some reasonably popular, yet fairly cohesive albums in other music scenes. Songs From An Old Blue Chair by Kenny Chesney comes to mind as being a very cohesive album in country music.

If you broaden your musical horizons a little further and get into more orchestral music, you can also find some well composed and cohesive work. Some reasonably popular and modern examples would be many of the movie soundtracks composed by the likes of Hans Zimmer or Alan Silvestri.

RE: confused much?
By vol7ron on 12/7/2011 4:30:41 PM , Rating: 2
I would say if you enjoy Rock/Indie, listen to Brand New - The Devil and Jesus are Raging Inside Me

Today's great bands are overlooked by "pop" bands.

RE: confused much?
By wise2u on 11/2/2011 8:31:01 PM , Rating: 2
This put me to thinking. How much would I be willing to pay on a "per listen" basis, and would this be economically feasable if the money went straight to the performer?

I decided I would be willing to pay 1 cent. That's 26 cents to listen to Pink Floyd: The Wall from beginning to end.

A very high quality stream of these 26 tracks would be aroung 1 gigabyte of data. This would be much less with a .m4a file.

Streaming cost is currently around $.05 per gigabyte or less on an industrial scale. This will drop as time passes.

Digital Jukeboxes could still charge 25 cents to play to an average crowd size of 25 people in a bar.

So, in a perfect world where there are no licensing fees and there exists a large scale digital distribution system with micro billing, it appears reasonable.

Bands still promote themselves via YouTube. Some go viral and get a million hits/plays.

Bands still make money playing live.

Bands still make money selling their songs to advertisers.

Please excuse me while I go dream of my musical utopia.

RE: confused much?
By TSS on 11/3/2011 9:21:11 AM , Rating: 2
He is greedy. Because his analogy overlooks 1 thing: We can copy that music, but he can copy that music as well. He can sell it again and again while re-making it at no cost at all. If i want another piece of the exact same food, it still has to be grown and transported to my mouth which costs money and effort.

The problem here is a much deeper one: how we humans define value. Currently we consider anything that's scarce as valueble. Quite logical since that is the world we where born and live in. But anything digital isn't scarce. Anything digital can be copied again and again and again at almost 0 cost. When you buy an song on itunes and you download it, you're not taking Apple's file, you're making a copy of your own. (i do say own but it's even debatable if something that has no worth is ownable at all. Technically it doesn't exist)

It's easy to forget that because it's so obvious, but when you replace "song" with "tomato" it suddenly becomes ridicolous. While if you travel back 200 years in time and start explaining downloading to people, the concept of having music anywhere at anytime will seem ridicolous. Yet we haven't evolved in that time, we are still wired to work in the same way.

Same thing with money. 97% of all money is digital. As we know, everything digital is worthless. Thus, money is worthless by definition. Yet everybody still accepts it as payment. It's idiocy, but it works because we are wired to belive it actually holds some value.

These issues will not be resolved until society as a whole can move on and recognise digital stuff for what it is: worthless. It wouldn't automatically mean the breakdown of society. Some industies will get smaller temporarely, sure. But in this case, ironically, music is a shining example of how it can be done in the new world. Record a song and spread it around for free, get known, then do concerts for money. Cut out the record labels and producers entirely, more money for the actual artist. The artist gets paid compared to the quality of his work (better artists can ask more money) and everybody will have more, and better, music.

RE: confused much?
By Samus on 11/2/2011 11:07:58 AM , Rating: 2
This guy is just another clear example of the aging population not understanding "technology"

RE: confused much?
By mcnabney on 11/2/2011 12:22:41 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know about that.

Pete has been known to spend considerable time online "doing research" on delicious cake.

RE: confused much?
By Samus on 11/4/2011 9:39:38 AM , Rating: 2
I heard that....

RE: confused much?
By Steve1981 on 11/2/2011 2:13:00 PM , Rating: 2
Also, I believe he was talking about a pay per listen type of system, rather than a buy once own forever. If that is how he really thinks music should work, I wish he hadn't ever made any.

That's not how I read it, but unless you ask the man himself for clarification, anything else is pure speculation.

RE: confused much?
By Flunk on 11/1/2011 12:50:35 PM , Rating: 3
Well, you're half right. His anger is misplaced, he needs to direct it towards the record companies which no longer really serve any purpose. Artists would gain a much larger piece of the action if iTunes allowed them to market their wares directly. Of course, this won't happen because the record companies wouldn't all it. iTunes couldn't survive without the licensing, at least not right now.

RE: confused much?
By messele on 11/1/2011 1:30:35 PM , Rating: 3
This is where it becomes tricky, and new young artists only have themselves to blame here.

These days it's commonplace for the record companies to find new talent and sometimes they will take a gamble on them based on their A&R expertise, which is more about marketing an image than the music itself but bear with me.

The artist cannot leave a meagre lifestyle waiting for their music sales to snowball so the studios draw up deals whereby the artist is contracted to supply X number of albums or Y number of singles in exchange for an advance.

This allows the artist to hit up their dream lifestyle with money that's not been earned. The record companies in turn have an immediate benefit that the artist is living the improved lifestyle, getting out there, getting noticed, getting into trouble, whatever it's all good PR.

The label has taken gamble, sometimes it pays off, sometimes they lose big time and the artist amounts to nothing but they are no fools, in general they are always up on the deal. However the if the artist sells well they will not get as much as if they'd waiting for the money as the advance has to be financed and nobody is going to do that for free right?

None of this has anything to do with the retailers (hello iTunes) who traditionally purchased stocks for their physical stores, sat on that stock for however long it took to shift it and made their profits. Retail margins (GROSS margins) are generally more than 30% since they needed to finance physical distributions and retail stores have BIG overheads.

iTunes has simply replaced everything from the CD pressing plants, through warehousing, distribution and retail. All of their money travels back up the chain, none of it goes direct to the artists. That's the label's contract. It's known from Apple's earnings reports that 30% gross profit equates to a slither of nett profit, so presumably offering a high quality service is not cheap since they do shift a lot of music.

We all know that Apple do not care about this as they are in it for the hardware sales that inevitably result. So far everybody is happy, I think.

You'd think Pete Townshend would know this and also the fact that he wrote most of The Who's music himself and therefore takes the all of the cash for that himself (often the lion's share) means he continues to do very well. The money he gets for selling a album on Amazon digital is EXACTLY the same as Amazon selling a physical CD.

In mind of these generally new artists these days, certainly those in certain genre's do not write their own music, often do little other than perform the vocals. They will not be nearly as richly rewarded for this.

Finally, the contradiction regarding the illegal and legal aspects are bazaar. Can't even get my head round what he's on about there.

RE: confused much?
By someguy123 on 11/1/2011 6:22:55 PM , Rating: 3
I'm sure this is what happened.

Townshend: How much did we make off itunes?
Record label executives: uhh...only a few dollars. everyone just buys once and copies it!
Townshend: This is an outrage!

Then when he leaves to rant at the lecture the executives go back to swimming in itunes profits.

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton

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