Neil Young hates what the internet has done to music

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Spotify may not be literally damaging our brains, but he’s not entirely wrong, either.


He sounds butthurt about Old Town Road topping the charts for months.

Or maybe he’s upset that his Toblerone shaped music player failed to take off.


More barn!


Neil Young grew up in the time when most people listened to music on AM radio on transistor radios. I listened to music on cassette in a Walkman or my crappy boombox in the 80s. Streaming music on the phone with high fidelity earbuds is absolutely a better experience than either of the former scenarios. Sure, nothing beats vinyl on a high-end system, but even back in the “golden days,” most people didn’t have that either. Neil Young is a fucking genius songwriter, easily top 5 ever, but he’s basically a cranky old man on this topic.

Plus, the whole “audiophile” scene is more about fetishizing gear than it is about the music.


I know that I’m 96.3% less capable of detecting predators sneaking through heavy brush thanks to lack of exposure to vinyl crackle.

I can also remember how, in the good old days, the lack of inexpensive and high performance DACs and amps in no way prevented people from widely enjoying audio so vivid that only the ‘high resolution’ 24bit/192KHz audio offered by Niel young’s Pono service can adequately capture it in digital form.

It is 100% not the case that the kids these days listening to 64kb/s free-tier pandora streams on shit headphones would have been listening to AM(maybe FM) on some battery powered radio with a single tinny speaker in the before times.

All snark aside; there is some nasty digital compression(like the stuff they use on most cellular voice channels and whatever VOIP link is always in the chain between me and tech ‘support’ in Hyderabad; but waxing nostalgic for the past, or fearmongering about the future, seems like something that requires you to both ignore the capabilities of contemporary digital formats(even at 64Kb/s we aren’t in the days of early-revision MP3s anymore) and also to largely ignore the state of what people, on average, were actually using in the before times; not just what successful musicians were mastering onto in the before times.

Throw enough tape and some gorgeous analog circuit design at a problem and it will sound really good; but equipment like that is deeply noncheap and not always man-portable; and certainly wasn’t what the unwashed were listening to music on.


Being able to listen to / download any song (except apparently Artefacts by Liquorice off of their Stalls EP off of the Simple Machines label – internet nudge) is a golden age of musical capacity type thing. And I can’t imagine the person that would want to change giving people access to music … except maybe a rich person with too much rich.


He’s a crank.


I was going to say the same exact thing but from an xenial/older millennial viewpoint.

Technology has given artists a lot more tools to utilize. It’s not so much the tech that is broken but the way labels, producers and even established artists have dropped the ball lately.

If Young wanted to truly improve the quality of online music, he would have made his company’s tech open source and even funded in investment of streaming tech to give away. If every phone in the world was capable of doing everything he set out to do with PonoPlayer with no added cost to manufacturers, i’m sure every company would be using it. Oh wait, they can all play FLAC files anyways lololol.


I was just listening to old Neil Young


Honestly I never liked Neil Young’s music. Just doesn’t do anything for me.

He does sound like a completely angry old man yelling at clouds, but I’m going to agree with his complaint of sound quality 1000%.

Vinyl is not the best thing to compare to because there is even on brand new vinyl minor hissing even with good needles. CD is the best comparison. If you listen to a digital version of something where you can hear a wide range of subtle sounds, such as with classical, jazz, or some electronic stuff well recorded to begin with- like Aphex Twin- in either CD form or lossless audio formats (like .flac or .ogg), and then take even them and convert them to even a high bitrate MP3, there is noticeable loss.

When you consider a lot of stuff is just found on YouTube and released as MP3 to begin with, he’s right, there’s an entire range of sounds often missing to begin with before any of the crafty audio tricks and producing details are messed with.

For the majority of modern music honestly I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, but for some things, I do still buy the CDs or even vinyl (because I like the sound of a record, not saying that’s rational).

Now the actual harming of the body with bad music, not true Neil, unless its mumble rap :wink:


This just comes off like a pretentious chef proud of their refined palette bitching about normies enjoying a danger dog.

I’ll take the instant on-demand access to nearly everything over tedious bin-sleuthing and regretted purchases any day! It’s post-scarcity audio bliss and I’m not giving it up! That being said, I do have a tube amp and vinyl set up that is reserved for Very Special Music that I would be loathe to part with.


as an (apparently) fellow Gen-Xer, hear hear. i was just gonna say “meh,” but you were better at explaining it. i love Neil Young’s 60s and 70s work, but he just doesn’t get it.


Sounds like you acknowledge his argument the same way I do but also feel the need to throw the audiophile crowd under the bus, because its trendy for normies to think audiophiles are full of shit.

I will grant you there are definitely some of them that are, but the general argument that Neil makes is actually pretty easy to prove quickly to somebody doing the exact test I described above.

For me the special stuff that I want to hear the whole range of is Boards Of Canada, Caspian’s Waking Season album, some Joan Gilberto, Aphex Twin, and some classical. I understand the general hate of audiophiles, but I would hope people generally understand you don’t need special handmade wooden speakers and other such bullshit to be able to hear this difference he’s speaking of


Somewhat. I think it comes off as a classhole argument. Most people aren’t audiophiles, aren’t paying close professional attention to composition or production, or shelling out for high-end equipment. The same argument he is making can be applied to any other kind of cultural activity, ranging from food (e.g., organic and/or expensive ingredients are hard to get) to clothing and from art to furniture and it just comes off as an elitist being elitist and out-of-touch. If most people gave a crap about fidelity, maybe his products would have been commercially successful; blaming all consumers for being stupid is a shitty cop-out for failing to understand the customers you wanted to win.


The guy knows more about how sound and humans interact than all of us put together. I defer to the genius.


No, he’s older than that. By the time portable transistor radios were commodity items he was in his 20s. He grew up on tube radios and vinyl.

I’m half a generation behind him, so I grew up on transistor radios (which my father sold in his record store). However, we all understood that the sound was thin and suitable only for the beach or schoolyard, and when we listened at home it was on something better.


Vinyl is an objectively and demonstrably inferior format for the accurate reproduction of sound compared to e.g. a CD or many other digital formats. So while complaints about the current trend of dynamic range compression are spot-on, the argument that the old ways of reproducing music are somehow better for the music qua music (rather than folding the ritual of playing a record into the enjoyment of it) are simply nonsense. And I say this as a lover of Young’s music.


I get where you’re coming from and kind of agree,
and I hate pretentiousness as well, but then a lot of my own career and background relies on specialist tools and application of them in obscure ways, so I am probably more receptive to his argument, because I have literally made money because of the subtle differences between what I do and what people in China do to make things.

Basically I don’t think it matters to most people, but I do think the distinctive difference he opines about do exist. There are people it makes sad but they are not the majority so it just comes across as elitist even if he is right


I think we’re mostly in agreement here. I’m not denying that there’s a discernible difference in audio qualities, I just think moralistic hang-wringing about it destroying human aesthetic nous is overwrought and extremely silly. There’s a time and place for extreme precision and ear buds on the train sure aren’t it. I do, however, fondly recall every all-vinyl bass music show on a Funktion One system-----it produces so much more texture and whump depth than flacs on a CDJ.


Not even remotely. He knows nothing about how humans perceive sound.