Neil Young’s Attack on Streaming – A Response

Neil Young made the decision today to pull all of his music from streaming services. No more Harvest Moon on Spotify, no more Rust Never Sleeps on TIDAL, no more Trans on Apple Music (thank god). Here’s what he had to say about it:

Streaming has ended for me. I hope this is ok for my fans.

It’s not because of the money, although my share (like all other artists) was dramatically reduced by bad deals made without my consent.

It’s about sound quality. I don’t need music to be devalued by the worst quality in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution. I don’t feel right allowing this to be sold to my fans. It’s bad for my music.

For me, it’s about making and distributing music people can really hear and feel. I stand for that.

When the quality is back, I’ll give it another look. Never say never.

Wowzers. Let’s unpack this special little note, shall we?

“Streaming has ended for me. I hope this is ok for my fans.”

It’s actually not, Neil. I mean, we’re all used to you being a curmudgeon but this is something else. Your older fans maybe aren’t great with technology in the first place, but even they see the advantages in using streaming services. I know a senior citizen that thinks Twitter is a pyramid scheme but who uses Spotify so that he doesn’t need to keep giant boxes of compact discs around for the sole purpose of burning them to his iPod.

“It’s not because of the money, although my share (like all other artists) was dramatically reduced by bad deals made without my consent.”

It’s not about the money, but let me tell you about the money. Neil, those bad deals aren’t strictly the fault of streaming services and they’re especially not the fault of your fans. As per usual, you might want to talk to your record label about those “bad deals”, because I’m sure they had their fingers in it at some point the entire time.

“It’s about sound quality.”

You’re kidding, right?

“I don’t need music to be devalued by the worst quality in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution.”

Oh god, you’re not kidding. You know that the paid version of Spotify streams your stuff in 320 kbps, right? That’s hardly “the worst quality in the history of broadcasting” Neil. Actually, it’s not even close. We’ve heard older recordings, Neil. The younger set has YouTube to show them how lo-fi recordings used to be. 320 kbps is indistinguishable from CDs. You know, those things you’ve been perfectly fine selling to your fans for two decades? Maybe if you said “Gosh, I really wish that these services would allow people to stream them in a lossless format like FLAC, because the sound quality there is the bees knees,” I might believe you. I mean, no one in their right mind will stream in FLAC because it’s just too expensive thanks to bandwidth-limiting ISPs and data plans. Yet it might have actually pegged you as a crusader for better sound quality. As it stands, though, calling CD quality sound “the worst quality in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution” is just disingenuous nonsense. Do you remember that album you did last year, A Letter Home? That one you did in a 1947 Voice-o-Graph recording booth? You’re complaining about sound quality? Neil, please.

“I don’t feel right allowing this to be sold to my fans.”

Trans?

“It’s bad for my music.”

The Monsanto Years?

“For me, it’s about making and distributing music people can really hear and feel. I stand for that.”

Actually, I can attest to that. I saw the unveiling of Le Noise at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto as part of the all-night-art-exhibition of Nuit Blanche. I was very, very stoned, and I could definitely hear it and feel it.

“When the quality is back, I’ll give it another look. Never say never.”

Translation: “I want money. Justin Beiber money.”

Trevor James Zaple, Chief Music Critic

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