Apple's a 'Digital Vampire': Pete Townshend

SALFORD, U.K. ( TheStreet) - The Who guitarist Pete Townshend has described Apple's ( AAPL) iTunes as a "digital vampire" that "bleeds" new artists instead of helping them build their careers.

Speaking at a lecture organized by the BBC, the iconic musician urged Apple to help nurture emerging artists by providing A&R services, as well as computer hardware and music software.
The Who Guitarist Pete Townshend has labeled Apple a 'digital vampire'

Townshend, however, pulled no punches in his criticism of iTunes, comparing the phenomenally popular music service to both a blood sucker and to controversial British bank Northern Rock.

"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."

Apple, he added, should employ 20 A&R people from the "dying" record industry and have them respond to tracks sent in by new artists. "Guide artists to other helpful resources," he urged. "Don't just send them to the wolves of blog land, where it seems to me a lot of the vilest bile comes from people that could be drunk or just nuts."

"A fledgling musician at the start of a career is a delicate thing, even a rapper," quipped Townshend.

Apple's iTunes store generated record revenue of $1.5 billion during the company's recent fiscal fourth-quarter results. More than 16 billion songs have now been downloaded from iTunes, which revolutionized the music industry when it was launched in early 2001.

Townshend admitted during the lecture that he uses the service himself, describing iTunes as a "fantastic piece of software". The guitarist, though, urged Apple to help foster the next generation of musical talent.

"Apple have a backroom bunch of people assessing what's hot, but I don't think they have this kind of A&R power," he said. "I bet they would love it."

The Who star also proposed that Apple pick out 500 emerging artists a year and provide them with computers, software and training.

Additionally, Townshend suggested that the Cupertino, Calif.-based firm should allocate bandwidth on iTunes for up-and-coming artists to share their work for free.

"It should be like a local radio station," he said, pointing to The Who's rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia. "How would they have been heard if it wasn't for renegade radio stations in America playing it, albeit in the middle of the night, all the way through."

Critics of Townshend's stance, however, will undoubtedly point to the fact that The Who gets money from sales of the group's music on iTunes.

Apple has not yet responded to TheStreet's request for comment on this story.

Shares of Apple fell $10.17, or 2.51%, to $394.78 on Tuesday, mirroring the broader retreat in tech stocks that saw the Nasdaq dip 2.92%.

-- Written by James Rogers in New York.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/jamesjrogers.

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