Speaking at the All Things D Dive Into Media conference yesterday, Neil Young let loose his thoughts on the record industry, piracy, and the abysmal sound quality of music today. Young thinks we’re missing out on about 95 percent of the sounds that come out of the studio, after songs get compressed and turned into different digital formats.
From the Wall Street Journal: “The sound quality of CDs, he said, is little better than downloads, arguing that vinyl records offered the richest playback experience. ‘This is the 21st century,’ he said. ‘We have five percent of what we had in 1978’.” His solution? Use a format that can extract all the nuanced sounds of the studio - a format, by the way, that Young estimates would take about 30 minutes per download, per song. Sure this sounds like a long time, but this is coming from a guy who indulges in 15 minute guitar solos, so it kinda makes sense. And since there’s really no mp3 player that can hold songs with that much data, Young also wants “some rich guy” to build the device. Young reportedly met with Steve Jobs, also a fan of vinyl, and says he was interested in the idea before he died.
Young wasn’t satisfied with being dissatisfied by music’s sound quality. He went on to take a stand for record companies, a view not too widely shared in these times of SOPA/PIPA struggles. Young is from the age of record companies nurturing artists, so he’s got a soft spot for that aspect of the business. To prove he’s not just an old codger, he also praised piracy as a tool artists can use to promote their music. Again from the Journal: “He proposed to reconcile the seemingly contradictory points of view by proposing a world in which consumers use piracy or free services like Spotify to sample music, then buy high-quality files of music they value.”