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Pete Townshend 'wrong about iTunes' - analyst

Mark Mulligan says Apple's iTunes 'is not a digital vampire'

Pete Townshend is wrong in his assertion that Apple that bleeds young artists and bands dry, it has been claimed.

Digital music industry analyst Mark Mulligan, writing on his Music Industry Blog, rejected Townshend's comments that iTunes was a "digital vampire".

Townshend referred to "the artists whose work [iTunes] bleeds like a digital vampire" and accused it of taking an "enormous commission" in BBC 6 Music's inaugural John Peel Lecture.

Mulligan countered: "iTunes and other digital stores might be guilty of many things but 'enormous commission' is not one of them. The simple fact is that Apple is one of the few companies that can actually make digital music pay and even then only at the level of being 'largely break even most quarters'."

He also took issue with Townshend's claims that Apple should provide music scouts and services to new bands and artists in order to help them develop.

"iTunes is a retailer, not a record label. If iTunes should be providing 'financial and marketing support' to artists, then the same should apply to all retailers. And let's not stop with music, Best Buy and Dixons should be helping fund software developers, Carphone Warehouse handset developers," Mulligan said.

"I don't remember anyone arguing that HMV, Tower, Virgin, Fnac, Saturn or El Corte Ingles should be providing record label services to artists nor do I recall them being called Vampires."

However, Mulligan does accept that Apple has a role to play in the future of digital music services. "Apple is one of the few parts of the digital music market that actually works. Apple has achieved what few have: converting a large share of its installed base of customers into digital content buyers," he said.

"The case for revolutionizing how artists, fans, labels and services all interact is incontrovertible, but thrusting a stake through iTunes' heart would be as short sighted as it would be suicidal for the music industry. Compel Apple to shoulder more of the music service innovation burden, yes, but look to the labels (traditional and non-traditional) to help build futures for artists, not Apple."


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