Pete Townshend tells the BBC that he feels Apple is a digital vampire, bleeding artists dry as the company destroys copyright as we know it. He then attacked music fans he accuses of “stealing” music online, saying we might as well steal his son’s bike while we’re at it. He really goes off the deep end, however, arguing that Apple, a software and technology company, somehow needs to get into A&R, by “employing 20 talent scouts from the dying record business” to guide new acts and provide marketing support to the best ones.
Let me say this: Pete Townshend is out of his depth for several reasons.
1. Apple does not inherently owe anyone in the music industry anything, for having innovated in ways the dying record industry failed.
2. Digital music is not going anywhere. Selling music online doesn’t stop record company A&R folks from going out and finding new talent and then giving them room to develop. But wait!
3. A&R doesn’t exist anymore in the way Townshend envisions it. The days of giving bands years to find their artistic way are dead and gone. You either have yourself a big-assed hit right now or you find your way to the door and walk through. And if you can’t match that hit double or nothing, you can go just as easily.
4. We’re supposed to force a tech innovator to go back to what DOESN’T work in order to prop up an industry built on ideas which are mired in the past? Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
Bob Lefsetz does a good job taking apart the idea that bands will benefit by being signed by these so-called “Industry Experts” in his column from yesterday. The true inefficiency in the music industry is in the artists themselves … who’s going to stand up and fight for good music if the bands aren’t willing to work, expecting some big benefactor from on high to step down and hand them a career from the top of the music industry mountain? If Townshend wants to step off his high horse and do something productive, let HIM be the A&R man. Let HIM sign a few artists he believes in and then put his money where his mouth is! Teach these kids what it means to work your ass off for years before you get a big break … how to tour like mad, work music like a job until maybe, just maybe, some success comes around.
Or he can sit around and blame Apple. And blame the music fans who put him in the perfectly comfortable situation he’s in right now where he can mouth off and call us all virtual bike thieves.
The success of music-based technology, and Apple’s success in particular, proves that you can do things on your own, taking full control of your artistic destiny by bypassing the gatekeepers and putting your music out on your own terms. It’s music democracy … no one’s going to hand it to you, you’ve got to earn it. And if your music isn’t good enough, you’ll sink to the bottom.
Don’t blame that on Apple. And don’t blame that on music fans. Blame that on a fundamental unwillingness to adapt and rebuild.
We’re never going to save the music industry by rebuilding the failed system.