When he was 20 years old, Pete Townshend of The Who
wrote the classic line "hope I die before I get old," as part of the anthem Talkin' 'bout my generation
. As a Townshend fan, I'm certainly happy to know that he didn't die before he got old... but it does seem rather ironic that he's now acting just like the "old folks" that he once mocked. At an event earlier this week, he claimed that the internet is destroying copyright
, and declared that iTunes is a "digital vampire." His complaint there is that it takes an "enormous commission." Um. Ok. So, according to most reports, iTunes' commission on music is approximately $0.30 on the dollar. While some may claim that's high, compare that to how much a record label
takes on each sale, where artists often get perhaps 10 to 15% royalties, with the label taking the rest. Which one seems more like a vampire?
He says that iTunes should employ A&R people, but why is that Apple's business? That's like saying Tower Records should have had A&R people to guide musicians a decade ago. It appears his complaint is that new musicians are allowed into iTunes even if they suck. But that's an issue for filters and mentors to deal with, and the internet seems to be taking care of that. Is there bad music on iTunes? Sure, but you can get around that by not listening to it, and those musicians can get guidance from all sorts of people. He also talks about why Apple should give away computers to 500 musicians they like. But... why? What is focusing on just a few musicians going to do? The power of the internet is that it empowers tons of new musicians. Having Apple give free computers to the musician it likes kinda misses the point of the democratization of the market. It will leave out all sorts of wonderful artists that niche groups in the public might like.
He then goes on to complain that Apple won't stream full albums. Why is that Apple's job? Has no one shown Pete Spotify or any of the many other streaming players out there these days?
Of course, he won't listen to me on this, because he talks about the "vilest" parts of "blogland" where people are "drunk, or just nuts."
And, of course, he goes on a bit of a rant about file sharing. Beyond just the internet "destroying copyright," he compares someone downloading one of his songs to someone coming into his house and stealing his kid's bike (interesting comparison). Of course, as anyone who's ever thought about this for more than a second knows, making a copy doesn't remove anything. Making comparisons to stolen physical goods just makes it look like you're... well... not talking about our generation. So, as a retort, I'll just "infringe" on Mr. Townshend's own words:
People try to put us d-down (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Just because we get around (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
This is my generation
This is my generation, baby
Why don't you all f-fade away (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
And don't try to dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-g-generation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)