Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pete Townshend's Lecture to the BBC

Pete Townshend was asked to give a lecture in honor of the legendary radio DJ John Peel. Townshend touched on a lot of topics, most of them about the world of music as it exists today. He had some very provocative things to say, such as calling iTunes a Vampire, thoughts about fans "sharing" music and that artist should be paid when people listen to their work. Payments to artists was a constant thread in his talk. He also gave a glimpse of the "Inner" Pete Townshend.

Here are some of the take-away quotes:

"Music publishing has always been a form of banking in many ways, but – in cooperation with record labels – active artists have always received from the music industry banking system more than banking. They’ve gotten: 1. editorial guidance; 2. financial support; 3. creative nurture; 4. manufacturing; 5. publishing; 6. marketing; 7. distribution; 8. payment of royalties – the banking.

Today, if we look solely at iTunes, we see a publishing model that offers only the last two items as a guarantee – distribution and banking – with some marketing thrown in sometimes at the whim of the folks at Apple."

He asks why iTunes, like records labels, can't provide some of the the "services to the artists whose work it bleeds like a digital vampire Northern Rock for its enormous commission?"

He then goes on to list 8 things that Apple should to to improve iTunes, number 8 being
"Payment. Stop insisting on aggregators to deal with small artists – because you can’t be bothered with the expense of accounting for the numerous small amounts of money you’ve collected on their behalf – and pay direct. Why should an artist pay even more commission to an aggregator merely to get paid? For the uninformed, an aggregator in the iTunes world is a company who stands between the artist and iTunes and thus prevents Apple having to deal with artists directly. Some of these aggregators provide some of the resources I’ve pleaded for above, but they are really just another form of punitive banking."

Regarding that euphemism of euphemisms "sharing" he says
"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."

Townshend then gets into talking about being paid as a creative musician:
"We now live in a digital world in which the only absolute is work by the hour. Lawyers, accountants, doctors, nurses, plumbers, painters, truck drivers, farmers, pilots, cleaners, actors, musicians – they all get paid for work done as a clock ticks.

Creative work is not like that."

"However, if someone pretends to be me, or pretends that something I have created should be available to them free – because creativity has less value than an hour’s work by me as a musician in a pub – I wonder what has gone wrong with human morality and social justice."

Asking the same question most musicians do, Townshend says
"...it would be better if music lovers treated music like food, and paid for every helping, rather than only when it suited them. Why can’t music lovers just pay for music rather than steal it?"

In an compelling look at radio verses streaming and how artists get paid, Townshend makes the logical point that:
"Radio is not like Internet radio, or torrent sites. Radio pays musicians a fee when music is aired. Radio does not take the position that the public has a right to decide after hearing the music played whether to pay for it or not. Radio stations pay, and the public pay directly or indirectly in order to listen and make the judgment.

Suppose you asked a painter to paint your house on condition that if you didn’t like the color you had chosen, thinking it would work, you wouldn’t pay him?"

Townshend claims to like streaming but ends his lecture speaking directly to the unsustainably low payments to artists by streaming companies,
"If the BBC were to start a website like Spotify, one thing would be certain – the musicians who were featured would get paid."

If you would like to read the full lecture you can do so here.

No comments:

Post a Comment