Neil Young: ‘Digital Is Degrading Our Music, Not Improving It…’

Neil Young
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Is digital simply degrading the quality of music, and wrongly conditioning an entire generation of listeners?

Yes, according to Neil Young, who shared a plan to improve sound quality during an interview at the D: Dive Into Media conference on Tuesday.  “My goal is to try and rescue the art form that I’ve been practicing for the past 50 years,” Young said.  “We live in the digital age and, unfortunately, it’s degrading our music, not improving it.”

Turns out Young has goals that are aligned with those of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, but are they aligned with most consumers?  Or, even Apple, whose iPod (and now iPhone) effectively set the standard for acceptable (ie, ‘good enough’) digital fidelity among music fans?  “Steve Jobs was a pioneer of digital music, and his legacy is tremendous,” Young praised. “But when he went home, he listened to vinyl. And you’ve got to believe that if he’d lived long enough, he would have done what I’m trying to do.”

Iovine has talked about delivering super high-end (and large) music files from iTunes, and Young called for the creation of hardware players capable of reading files that are far better (and bigger) than MP3s.  Apparently created by ‘some rich guy,’ though the challenge seems complex and the target audience suspect.  Still, Young noted that MP3s pick up just a fraction of the original recording.

“It’s not that digital is bad or inferior, it’s that the way it’s being used isn’t doing justice to the art. The MP3 only has 5 percent of the data present in the original recording… The convenience of the digital age has forced people to choose between quality and convenience, but they shouldn’t have to make that choice.”