"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Sounds
February 2, 2012

Neil Young On The Quality Of Digitial Music

The following clip, of Neil Young being interviewed at the D: Dive Into Media conference, is doing the rounds of the internet. It’s not long, about ten minutes, so if you love music, I’d encourage you to take a listen. At the end of the clip, Neil Young makes an extraordinary comment, “Steve Jobs was […]

The following clip, of Neil Young being interviewed at the D: Dive Into Media conference, is doing the rounds of the internet. It’s not long, about ten minutes, so if you love music, I’d encourage you to take a listen.

At the end of the clip, Neil Young makes an extraordinary comment,

“Steve Jobs was a pioneer of digital music… but when he went home, he listened to vinyl”

There have been rumours floating around that Apple were working on bringing very high quality files to the iTunes store. Whether that will happen now is anyone’s guess.

I’ve already nailed my colours to the mast on this issue, we need a high quality format for the sale and distribution of music. I thought that last year wearing my music business hat and I believe even more-so now I’m totally in a music making mood.

It’s easy to dismiss the resurgence of vinyl as a fad. To some extent it might be misplaced nostalgia (I’ll admit that’s partially true for me). But, if you grew up listening to music on full-throated Hi-Fi systems, mp3s and cheap ear-bud headphones will never satisfy you.

Nor should they.

These are lowest common denominator solutions. I think the analogy between music ripped to an iPod and music on AM radio is a valid one. What we don’t have is a counterweight, the equivalent to what vinyl was; the immersive and profound listening experience.

My hunch is we will never see it from the major labels – they are committed to chocking innovation, narrowing the bandwidth, lobbying for restrictive laws like SOPA and suing anyone they can. Then again, with fewer and fewer new acts being developed each year, the template for music as brand-driven marketing is set in stone.

However, we may see it from smaller players. In fact, I’m hopeful because the independent music artist today has unprecedented freedom to choose the format for their music. Be it music embedded in high quality apps, music shipped on small hard-drives, or simple downloadable at higher resolution it all comes down to one thing.

Respect.

In particular, respect for the person who wants to listen to your music. That’s where the language of fans gets it old wrong. It’s a throwback to the era of scarcity, where the poor fan needed the artist/label to supply them with music that was in controlled supply.

But, now there is a surplus of music. It’s never been easier to find amazing new music. The real challenge is finding the music that is worth listening to. Highly compressed mp3 just flattens the experience, dulls the differences between good and mediocre artistry.

I believe the future will reward musicians who can respect the fact that their listeners have a broader relationship with music than just what they offer. It’s analogous to what it means to be an adult, realising that that your friends also have other friends and that supporting your friends means helping them build a life where they can honour all their commitments, not just the ones they have to you.

And, in terms of music, that means building great listening experiences and supporting the technology that will allow that to happen – be it faster internet connections, better apps and devices and also formats that preserve more of the detail that we worked so hard to bring to our musical performances and recordings.

Responses
Tom James 9 years ago

Adored the article. Thanks

Tom Gearheart 9 years ago

WoW! Thank you Fernando. . .

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