Pete Townshend, the legendary frontman behind British rock group The Who, attacked Apple's online iTunes service for bleeding artists "like a digital vampire".

Townshend, speaking in Manchester in northwest England, called on the online giant to do more to help the artists from whom it was making so much money.

"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?" he asked.

Record labels and music publishers had in the past provided a range of services to artists, offering editorial guidance and nurturing them creatively, he said.

He said Apple should hire 20 talent scouts "from the dying record business" to help new acts and provide financial and marketing support to the best of them.

Townshend made his remarks in the inaugural John Peel lecture, an event organised in memory of the legendary BBC disc jockey.

In a career spanning decades, Peel was an early champion of a wide range of performers, including David Bowie, The Sex Pistols, Joy Division and The White Stripes.