In a lecture in honor of John Peel, Pete Townshend lamented the loss of the radio format as the primary promoter of music and laid out a system that he thinks would make iTunes a better center for music distribution.
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
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. It’s a fantastic piece of software, I use it all the time and I was honoured once to meet the woman who wrote the software. But iTunes is not like radio.
Radio is less driven by cash flow, a little more driven by secondary income streams (like advertising, subscriptions or in the case of the BBC license fees), and thus needs its pop music to be cool, look hip, cover a wide array of bases and satisfy a broad market.
Townshend places a great deal of weight on the ability of arbiters of musical taste to tease out what’s good and send it to the rest of us. He seems to fundamentally distrust the public’s ability to find and pay for good music.