During a Radio Festival lecture on famed English radio personality John Peel for the BBC on Monday, The Who’s Pete Townshend argued that iTunes should take on a more direct role in helping musicians market themselves, as well as seek out emerging artists and provide services like a traditional record label would. Aside from an entertaining diatribe peppered with colorful anti-blogger sentiment (“the wolves of Blogland,” he called us) and the offer to cut off his own balls if Apple would take his suggestions, Townshend laid out a pretty serious, pretty specific plan for Apple to implement.
Townshend’s eight suggestions for iTunes, which you can read in full from the transcript here, run the gamut from editorial guidance and “creative nurture” to manufacturing and the creation of an online iTunes radio station. Here’s a snippet of gold from his first recommendation after the jump. I am also sincerely enjoying—do not read snark here—his description of drunk, crazy, upchucking bloggers below.
Now 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 Northern Rock for its enormous commission?
Let’s talk it through……
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).
Townshend’s description of his inner artist is also a knee-slapper.
Let me introduce you briefly to my inner artist, then I will put him back in his box.
I don’t give a shit about making money. I think rock music is junk. I am a genius. The Who were OK but without me they would have all ended up working in the flower market, or worse – in Led Zeppelin. John Peel played some records that were so bad that I thought he was taking the piss sometimes. The BBC only gave us Pop Radio 1 in the 60s five years after the pirates had proved there was an audience for it. Sadly, unlike the pirates, they didn’t accept payola.
I really should put this inner artist guy back in his box yes? Have we got our newspaper headlines yet?
Which brings us to the part about the balls.
So what does my inner artist think of all that? Doesn’t he give a shit? I can tell you now, he thinks all that sounds really amazing. He wants to cry. If Apple do even one of the things on my wish-list he will offer to cut off his own balls (they’ve only ever been a distraction after all). Etc.
And the stolen bike vs. stolen music analogy.
I once suggested on a forum 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. One woman was so incensed that she tried to argue that she was still supporting me as an artist by ‘sharing’ (my parentheses) music with others who would eventually filter down some cash in some form or other to me, that would pay for my son’s bike — and she was not, in any sense, a thief or a criminal. I think she was in a kind of denial. Cutting the body to fit the cloth rather than the correct way around.
But let’s take a step back from the gags (and, personally, remove my hand from my mouth from the Led Zeppelin comment) and assess. With these suggestions, can you picture the brave new, iTunes record label world? Or could it end like Converse making that recording studio in Brooklyn and smushing together the likes of Matt & Kim, Andrew W.K. and Soulja Boy for that gag-worthy song?
It’s difficult to argue against finding a way to pay musicians more money, but perhaps there is some glory and diversity in that projectile vomiting, niche-riddled blogosphere Townshend mentioned above. Here’s a shout-out to the local music press that alerts you to and covers shows piously: Hey, that’s also a way for musicians to get paid and for people to discover new music. And Townshend did concede this:
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.
Ultimately, Townshend just wants musicians to be able to eat. Don’t we all? But perhaps, in this way, Townshend’s spot on—perhaps it’s time we take into account the true costs of things we need and love, and begin to make sacrifices accordingly.
[via the Guardian]