It’s becoming increasingly popular for musical artists to blast Apple’s iTunes Store. The most recent example of someone too busy worrying about Apple and not devoting enough time to his craft is Pete Townshend, vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist for The Who.
Last Monday, Townshead called Apple’s iTunes a “digital vampire” in that it sucks the profits out of the music industry and doesn’t put enough of it into the hands of the artists who create it.
Townshend said that faced with the Internet’s demolition of established copyright protections, iTunes should offer some of the services to artists that record labels and music publishers used to provide. These include employing talents scouts, giving space to allow bands to stream their music and paying smaller artists directly rather than through a third party aggregator.
What Townshead fails to grasp is that iTunes saved the music industry from rampant piracy by offering users an easy, and more importantly, legal way for them to download music. I remember being in college when Napster first came on the scene and, let me tell you, it was like the Wild West back then. Everyone quickly amassed music libraries filled with thousands upon thousands of songs they didn’t pay for. It was easy, cheap, and as glib as it sounds, everyone was doing it.
The advent of the iTunes Music Store changed the dynamics of the music industry. For the first time, users could easily search for and download their favorite songs for an affordable $0.99. That said, iTunes, more than any other online music venture, has operated to help resurrect the legal walls surrounding copyrighted music online.
As for Apple employing talent scouts and the like, well, that’s just not Apple’s forte. Apple isn’t and will never be in the business of discovering new talent. Now it may highlight a new talent it deems worthy enough of its iTunes Music splash page, but Apple works to showcase musical talent, not discover it.
“It would be better if music lovers treated music like food, and paid for every helping, rather than only when it suited them,” Townshead said. “Why can’t music lovers just pay for music rather than steal it?”
And yes, it’s not as if iTunes is and or ever was a cure-all. P2P sites may not be as popular as they once were, but finding songs online is still doable. Hell, you can go to YouTube and listen to nearly every copyrighted song ever released.
If Townshead thinks things are bad now, I can only imagine what he’d say in a world without the iTunes Music Store.