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Pete Townshend condemns Apple as 'digital vampire'

The Who's windmiller barters own bollocks for musicians' aid

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Pete Townshend, noted windmill guitarist and child pornography investigator, has called Apple's iTunes a "digital vampire", likened it to big-bucks bailout beneficiary Northern Rock, and admitted that yes, he did once want to cut Steve Jobs' balls off.

Townsend managed that invective triptych while delivering the inaugural John Peel lecture, sponsored by The Radio Academy and BBC 6 Music, and held at the Radio Festival 2011 Monday evening in Salford Quays, Manchester.

This festive event will be held annually in honor of Britain's beloved broadcaster – and after Townshend's marvelous kickoff, we can only assume that it is sure to become a stirring tradition.

The Who's 66-year-old patriarch, The Guardian reports, excoriated Apple's iTunes, saying it should do more to support musicians "whose work it bleeds like a digital vampire Northern Rock."

Apple should, in Townshend's view, set up an artist-and-repertoire effort as do – did? – music labels to nurture artists, rather than simply taking their tunes, selling them, and pocketing 30 per cent of the take.

iTunes, he said, should support artists by giving them free computers, and help guide them through the rocky shoals of marketing, copyright, and distribution. Additional ideas from the man who apparently decided that he'd prefer not to die before he got old include an iTunes area that allows bands to stream music "like a local radio station", and a program in which iTunes A&R men scout and support new talent.

Townshend also took a swipe at musical freeloaders – those who steal music rather than pay for it. "I once suggested that people who download my music without paying for it may as well come and steal my son's bike while they're at it," he said.

"It would be better if music lovers treated music like food," he added, "and paid for every helping, rather than only when it suited them."

And although he did admit that once in an interview he had said that he "wanted to cut Jobs' balls off," nonetheless his "inner artist" thought that Jobs was "one of the coolest guys on the planet."

And he suggested a deal – albeit one that Tim Cook and his Cupertinian band may be loath to accept. "If Apple do even one of the things on my wish-list, [my inner artist] will offer to cut off his own balls," he offered.

Which may not be that big of a concession for Townshend. "They've only ever been a distraction after all," he admitted. ®

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