The legendary songwriter and guitarist called on the company, who run digital music retailing giant iTunes, to take more responsibility for developing artists, referring to the computer giants as ‘digital vampires’.

The speech came as part of the first John Peel Lectures session, in honour of the influential British radio DJ who died in 2004. The lecture was introduced by Peel’s son, Tom Ravenscroft.

“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 Northern Rock for its enormous commission?” said Townsend, who is due to appear this month at The Prince’s Trust Rock Gala 2011 at the Royal Albert Hall.

Townshend suggested that Apple get involved in developing musicians by assisting in financial support, development, publishing, marketing and getting involved with A&R.

He also spoke about his dismay at people downloading music illegally “I once suggested that people who download my music without paying for it may as well come and steal my son’s bike while they’re at it,” he joked.

The Who’s chief songwriter also made comments on behalf of what he called his ‘inner songwriter’, saying “I don’t give a shit about making money. I think rock music is junk. I am a genius. The Who were OK but without me they would have all ended up working in the flower market, or worse – in Led Zeppelin.”