Pete Townshend has blasted Apple’s iTunes service for bleeding artists “like a digital vampire”.

The Who guitarist thinks the digital download service – which accounts for more than 75 per cent of all legal downloads – should employ 20 talent scouts from the “dying record business” to provide financial and marketing guidance for bands starting out in the music industry.

He said: “Is there really any good reason why, just because iTunes exists in the Wild West Internet land of Facebook and twitter, it can’t provide some aspect of these services to the artists whose work it bleeds like a digital vampire, for its enormous commission?”

The 66-year-old rocker also has a grievance with unauthorised file-sharing, and thinks the internet is “destroying copyright as we know it”.

He added: “The word ‘sharing’ surely means giving away something you have earned, or made, or paid for?”

He explained if someone “pretends that something I have created should be available to them free – I wonder what has gone wrong with human morality and social justice.

“It’s tricky to argue for the innate value of copyright from a position of good fortune, as I do. I’ve done all right.

“A creative person would prefer their music to be stolen and enjoyed than ignored. 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.”

During his speech in Manchester at the inaugural John Peel Lecture – an event organised by radio station BBC6 in memory of the late disc jockey – he also paid tribute to the radio DJ.

He explained: “Sometimes he played some records that no-one else would ever have played, and that would never be played on radio again.

“But he listened, and he played a selection of records in the course of each week that his listeners knew – partly because the selection was sometimes so insane – proved he was genuinely engaged in his work as an almost unconditional conduit between creative musicians like me to the radio audience.”