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Pete Townshend delivers The John Peel Lecture

The Who legend asks "Can John Peelism survive the Internet?"

  • 01/11/2011
  • Sarah Jane Griffiths

Pete Townshend launched 6 Music's first ever John Peel Lecture by questioning how musicians can earn a living in an age of free downloads and file-sharing and whether "less polished music" can reach a large audience without someone like John Peel around.

The new annual lecture is named in honour of Radio 1's Legendary DJ and The Who guitarist chose to kick things off by paying tribute to Peel.

"Sometimes he played some records that no one else would ever have played, and that would never be played on radio again," he told the audience at the Lowry Theatre in Salford.

"But he listened, and he played a selection of records that his listeners knew proved he was genuinely engaged in his work, as an almost unconditional conduit between creative musicians to the radio audience."

Townshend credits Peel with introducing him to artists including The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Proclaimers and The Undertones. But he says these days he often finds new artists searching on the internet.

"This is the dilemma for every creative soul. He or she would prefer to starve and be heard, than to eat well and be ignored."

Pete Townshend

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The guitarist and songwriter also took on download giant iTunes, suggesting an eight point plan for Apple to help nurture artists rather than acting like a "digital vampire".

And Townshend criticised file-sharing, saying that artists deserve to be paid for their work, especially when it is making money for others.

"The word 'sharing' surely means giving away something you have earned, or made, or paid for?" he said, likening downloading his music illegally to stealing his son's bike.

But he admitted there is a true dilemma for every "creative soul": "A creative person would prefer their music to be stolen and enjoyed than ignored," he acknowledged. "He or she would prefer to starve and be heard than to eat well and be ignored."

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