Pete Townshend

Balls to iTunes

Last time I checked, quite a few folks owned iPod’s or devices that feature iPod functions, I am one of those folks. The very device I am using to write this bit enables me not only to listen to music but purchase it from iTunes should I so fancy. Over a million songs at my fingertips. Only thing stopping me is my bank balance.

iTunes is a very successful music store, just like HMV Amazon or It is not a record label, it does not independently promote artists, albums or songs without record label say so. It is a shop, just as  Waterstones doesn’t pay authors directly for the sale of books iTunes or to be more correct Apple has no such requirement to pay the artists directly for the music it sells.

Thanks to iTunes more digital music now is being paid for than ever before. It along with the iPod was born out of a love for music. Napster the first music sharing application gave free music to the masses with artists and labels not seeing a bean. Steve Jobs and Apple struck a deal with the labels to ensure artists and labels got a fair deal from “new media” so why Pete Townsend once wanted to remove Steve Jobs’ testicles is unclear to me.

Pete Townshend guitarist from the The Who, who’s music is available via iTunes. Gave the inaugural John Peel lecture broadcast on BBC 6 Music. The full transcript of which is here. In it he seems as far as I can see to confuse the iTunes Store with a record company. He would like iTunes (as he calls it, rather than Apple, which again in my opinion is a display of his general ignorance) to do the following things:- (my opinions in green)

Item 1. Editorial guidance. A&R. Employ 20 A&R people from the dying record business. Have them respond to tracks sent in from new artists. If they feel the artists are bad, or aren’t ready, say so. But have them tell the truth, kindly and constructively. Guide them to other helpful resources, don’t just send them to the wolves of Blogland where it seems to me a lot of the vilest bile comes from people who could be drunk, or just nuts. A fledging musician at the start of a career is a delicate thing – even a rapper. (You’ll just have to take my word for that.) (Apple do already have back-room people assessing what’s hot, but they don’t have this kind of power. I’ll bet they’d love it. 20 John Peels inside Apple – imagine it).

Artists as far as I know do not submit music to iTunes. That would be the same as me turning up at my local HMV and asking them to stock it globally. Artists require a  intermediary such as a record label or at the very least a distributer such as CD Baby to provide the connection.

Oh I’m a blogger. I must be drunk.

Item 2. Financial support. Subsequently provide free computers with music software to 500 artists a year who the 20 A&R people feel merit it. Provide some basic training.

Basic Apple training is available for just £79 per year in store. This covers “projects” which would show people how to use Apple’s music products. Provide free computers? Musicians are not charity cases, why doesn’t Mr Townsend give free guitar lessons to 500 guitarists

Item 3. Creative Nurture. Follow the work of these 500 artists very carefully. Help where you can. Keep out of the way if necessary. 

Good idea, for the label, the producers.. the iTunes Store hmmm

Item 4. Manufacturing. (This should be called ‘posting’ today I suppose.) Provide a place on iTunes where these artists can share their music. It should be a like a local radio station. Yes Apple, give artists some streaming bandwidth. It will sting, but do it. You will get even more aluminum solid state LURVE for doing so.

Myspace have re-invented themselves doing this, the place where artists can share. As for streaming iTunes provides access to numerous internet radio stations. Some of which play unsigned bands.

Item 5. Publishing. Help artists protect their copyrights, don’t just exploit the loopholes of Grand Theft. This is a minefield today. The internet is destroying copyright as we know it. So they will lose the battle, but guide them to hang on to what they can. Otherwise they might only ever make one album.

iTunes as I stated has made legal digital music more common place than it ever was before. Since the abolition of DRM sales have sky rocketed benefiting the artists (and yes Apple)

Item 6. Marketing. Select a number of the artists on the free shared space local radio station and sell their work on iTunes with some helpful advertising within the Apple software machine. Show that you get behind them.

The music featured in iPod adverts has often gone on to be big hits. But the iTunes store is not a record label. It’s a shop!

Item 7. Distribution. Go further. License the best selling artists to other organisations (like record companies, bookshops and highstreet and Mall-based retailers for example) who are willing to make packages, goods you can hold in your hands and give for birthdays, Christmas and Diwali. Share revenue with Amazon. I’m not sure why that notion is so repellent to the Aluminums.

So Pete, and forgive me if I’m wrong. You want the biggest retailer of digital music in the world to sell CD’s? If you want CD’s you can go some place else, Apple won’t mind.

Item 8. Payment. Stop insisting on aggregators to deal with small artists (because you can’t be bothered with the expense of accounting for the numerous small amounts of money you’ve collected on their behalf) and pay direct. Why should an artist pay even more commission to an aggregator merely to get paid? (For the uninformed, an aggregator in the iTunes world is a company who stand between the artist and iTunes and thus prevent Apple having to deal with artists directly. Some of these aggregators provide some of the resources I’ve pleaded for above, but they are really just another form of punitive banking).

Pete, Apple is a company. They sell music, computers and electronic goods, they are not nor have they professed to be a music label or a talent scout. They do promote music with the iTunes festival but they are a place to buy music which has been signed.

Apparently if Apple do any one of these 8 things Mr Townshend will cut off a lovenut, whatever floats your boat Pete. Cutting one off will make a change from talking a load of them. But then I’m just a nutty drunk blogger.