The Quality of Streaming: Was Neil Young Right?

The Quality of Streaming: Was Neil Young Right?

Back in July, Neil Young announced he was pulling his music from streaming services not for financial reasons, but because he didn’t feel the quality was up to snuff.

“It’s not because of the money, although my share (like all the other artists) was dramatically reduced by bad deals made without my consent,” Young wrote in a post on Facebook at the time. “It’s about sound quality. I don’t need my 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.”

As a recent convert to streaming, wowed by the ease of use and the depth of musical choices the services provided, I initially dismissed the “Old Man” singer’s complaints as nothing more than the rock ’n’ roll version of Clint Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino, basically telling the streaming services and the consumers who embraced them to “get off my lawn.”

It’s worth noting, too, that Young has his own dog in this fight. In early 2015, he introduced Pono, his own “high-resolution” portable digital player and download service. It’s not a streaming service, but at least theoretically, Pono is fighting it up for some of the same consumer dollars and listeners.

Singer-songwriter and musician Neil Young said on Wednesday he won't allow his music to be streamed any more, not because of disputes over royalties, but rather over poor sound quality. The Canadian rocker said in a post on his Facebook page, "I don't need my 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." Young, 69, was one of the biggest rock stars of the 1960s and 1970s with bands like Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and a successful solo career that has included albums like "Harvest" and "Rust Never Sleeps." He has long complained about digital audio and, as a result, has developed Pono, a portable player that aims to lend a higher quality than streaming or MP3.

Shortly after Young’s announcement, I saw an alarming post on Facebook by former Gang of Four drummer Hugo Burnham, who also had stints as an A&R executive at Imago, Qwest, and EMI Music in the ’90s. “Good God … does ANYBODY know how to EQ ? I know it’s just a laptop, but my speakers are powered and good — yet Led Zeppelin III sounds like it’s fkn underwater. I’m almost ready to buy the re-mastered vinyl. Which I just cannot afford.”

I caught up with Burnham, and it turns out he was listening to Led Zeppelin via Spotify. After some helpful suggestions from his Facebook friends, he was able to adjust the EQ on his Mac for better sound. “I like so much about streaming, though … don’t get me wrong,” he added later. “But I also like the sound of the Led Zeppelin vinyl … as much for what it evokes in my memory, which is more than just sound. On this, like most things… I abhor the absolutists!”

While Burnham was OK with the sound of Spotify after making some adjustments, we thought we’d consult some other industry experts to ask them for their take on streaming.

Read More: Yahoo
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