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Who’s Right?

August 3, 2006

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Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, the surviving members of legendary The Who, can’t seem to agree on the benefits of the internet to their upcoming world tour. 

Recently they had announced that they would make all the shows available to download on their official site for a nominal fee of $10 (about €8). Proceeds were going to charity. But in an interview Daltrey said he felt somewhat exploited and revealed he had a few concerns about the whole deal. 

Pete – an avid internet user – was furious and in his Blog at petetownshen.co.uk complained about his band mate and tried to make him understand that they were making no money from the venture. Pete was also under the fire of publishers that argued he had no right to give away – for free or not – any of the tracks they owned as publishers. In frustration Pete set up an Hotmail address for fans to comments on the subject and try to convince Daltrey to authorise webcasts of the band’s shows. In the meantime all previous plans were dropped. Apparently the Hotmail box filled it’s 250Mb capacity in a short time, but Roger Daltrey is still unmoved. 

Pete’s posts on his Blog are very insightful and a must read if you want to understand the dilemmas of a major Rock icon when facing the internet and digital music.

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Pete wrote in his Blog: 

“This is a scary and very exciting time. No one on the planet seems to understand my webcast plan for the forthcoming tour. And yet it is so simple. 

Every show we play is bootlegged by someone. With Roger‘s OK already given I intend to bootleg Who shows myself and give the proceeds to charity. In the past we have done this in conjunction with http://www.themusic.com with what we have called the Encore Series of CDs, and presentation cases for serious collectors. On this tour we will sell DVDs as well as CDs. We will also sell BitTorrent downloads through http://www.longliverock.org. We will also offer Podcasts through iTunes. In addition we will webcast a Live Stream of 30 minutes featuring at least one LIVE number by the Who from every show for 99c. Proceeds to local health, childrens’ and street charities. (…) Every few weeks the Who will webcast an entire show for a major charity – we are considering some causes at the moment. 

Why are we doing this? BECAUSE WE F***ING WELL CAN. Will it make us look good? WE DON’T GIVE A F**K. (I can still be rather crude in my old age, you will probably have noticed).” 

In a later post Pete added: 

“I have already had quite a few emails from fans expressing various views about the cancellation of Who Live webcasting on my http://www.thewholive.tv website. I’m delighted for the feedback and will share your views with Roger when I get a chance. 

I want to say a few things:  

1. I don’t want Roger to appear to be a completely against webcasting. He has mixed feelings about it, and as a result would be happiest for a major sponsor to take it over. Intel came close to offering us a deal that involved helping to launch their ViiV system, but I was uncertain about it. It seemed to me that I personally would have the bulk of the work helping Intel to set up and run a new website dedicated to the Who. Roger offered to contribute to a website once it was up and running, but he reserved the right not to do so some times. What he will definitely not do is pay for it. I have been willing thus far to pay for a Who website, and webcasting, for a variety of reasons. Not least, I am already the Who’s principal music publisher, and as a producer I believe In The Attic is a powerful tool to get new personalities and music out in a world where traditional radio is still tied too tightly to advertising and demographics. 

2. The Who are well established as a classic rock touring war-horse. Webcasting the Who, whether Live or Pay For View, and donating profits (nor proceeds) to various causes, was entirely my idea. I was unable to share my plan properly with Roger prior to the tour because we were having such trouble meeting our recording deadlines. My feeling, still, is that webcasting allows us new ways to get our new music across that our traditional Live show does not. I have yet to convince Roger of this. Sadly, I announced my grand plans, and put them in action, before Roger really had a chance to digest what I was doing.”

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And adding:

“Why am I backing down on Who webcasting? It is simply that while on tour it is too much to carry on my own. I had hoped that Roger would fall more actively behind me, and we could secure a solid sponsorship deal that would make everything flow smoothly, and repay some of my initial investment. Roger has been recorded in the media several times saying that I benefit from publishing income while the Who are not touring, and that allows me greater personal, creative and financial freedom. This is true. But with no promise of any investment from inside or outside the Who I need to stand back now and review my commitment. 

Some emails starting to come in are focussing on the price of watching $10 webcasts versus the cost of a $30 DVD. This is not relevant – we are selling Live webcasts. If you are happy with a recording, and are willing to wait for it, you can get what you want from http://www.themusic.com. To begin with I settled on 99 cents per song-segment, the iTunes model. Our ‘walk-up’ for this was miserable. The Time Zone was tricky for U.S. fans. So we turned to selling the entire show for $10. This was a little better, but our co-production with Hard Rock at London’s Hyde Park created a massive last minute walk-up that – according to our technical people – caused the Pay To View servers to crash. As a result we were forced to put the show up free, after quite a few people had paid for it. We could have asked for money for Who clips on demand (to avoid Time Zone problems), but in the past I have always put these up on the Who microsite free. Live is Live. Anything could happen when you are Live. An edited, streamed download is just not as exciting, and it is not NEW!!! 

Another problem is that the Who seem to be playing roughly the same song set every night. We are back in harness, walking an old warhorse of classic rock songs around Europe’s Festivals – playing to new and often younger crowds who are getting to know us. They want to hear the old music. I swing my arm, Roger swings his mike, kids hold up signs telling me to smash my guitar. It’s fun all over again. Our web fans may well have heard it all before, they are more interested in something new and risky: it is a dilemma. A rock Festival with 80,000 kids who have never seen The Who is not the place to get arty. 

I feel I have no alternative but to LET GO of my ambitions to see Live webcasting of all or part of every Who show. In The Attic allows me to play new music and old rarities as and when I want to, and to meet new people while on the road with the Who. This does and will continue to keep me interested and revitalised and – as long as she is willing – has the added bonus of bringing my partner Rachel along on the tour with me. 

I will continue to discuss with Roger what we might be able to do on the Who stage to take advantage of the immense webcast experience I have. However, I do not want to bully anyone. Roger is my partner in the Who. He is not my partner in anything else. We love each other but we are not regular social buddies like Bono and Edge, we do not discuss or share ideas, and we have no unified joint vision or strategy for the Who or for creative projects in general.”

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