The Who guitarist Pete Townshend has urged Apple’s iTunes to use its power to help new bands instead of “bleeding” artists like a “digital vampire”.
Townshend made the comments in BBC 6 Music’s inaugural John Peel Lecture, named in honour of the legendary DJ.
He also argued against unauthorised file-sharing, saying the internet was “destroying copyright as we know it”.
“The word ‘sharing’ surely means giving away something you have earned, or made, or paid for?” he said.
The rock legend listed eight services that record labels and music publishers have traditionally provided to artists, such as editorial guidance and “creative nurture”.
“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?” he asked.
Apple should employ 20 talent scouts “from the dying record business” to give guidance to new acts and provide financial and marketing support to the best ones, he added.
ITunes accounts for more than 75% of all legal downloads. An Apple spokesman declined to comment on Townshend’s remarks.
The guitarist also said that people who downloaded his music without paying for it “may as well come and steal my son’s bike while they’re at it”.
If someone “pretends that something I have created should be available to them free… I wonder what has gone wrong with human morality and social justice”, he said.
But he also told listeners: “It’s tricky to argue for the innate value of copyright from a position of good fortune, as I do. I’ve done all right.”
And he added: “A creative person would prefer their music to be stolen and enjoyed than ignored. This is the dilemma for every creative soul: he or she would prefer to starve and be heard than to eat well and be ignored.”
The guitarist praised John Peel, who died in 2004, for his dedication to listening to the music he was sent by up-and-coming acts.
“Sometimes he played some records that no-one else would ever have played, and that would never be played on radio again,” he said.
“But he listened, and he played a selection of records in the course of each week that his listeners knew – partly because the selection was sometimes so insane – proved he was genuinely engaged in his work as an almost unconditional conduit between creative musicians like me to the radio audience.”
The talk, held as part of the Radio Festival, will become an annual event given by a different music figure every year.
Held at The Lowry theatre in Salford, it is intended to be the music industry’s equivalent of the annual MacTaggart Lecture, which is given by a leading media executive at the Edinburgh International Television Festival every August.