Neil Young is the latest artist to remove his back catalogue from streaming services, although for once this isn’t about low royalties or an exclusive deal with one player in the market. For Young, the issue is audio quality. “Streaming has ended for me. I hope this is ok for my fans,” wrote Young in a Facebook post last night.
“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. 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.”
Has streaming really ended for Young? Well, perhaps not: “When the quality is back, I’ll give it another look. Never say never,” he wrote. We’ll make a confident bet now that Young’s music will be back on at least some streaming services by the end of 2016, perhaps when one of the higher-profile services like Spotify or Apple Music announces a bump in the quality of their streams.
Still, for now Young is pretty firm about his distaste for streaming. “AM radio kicked streaming’s ass. Analog Cassettes and 8 tracks also kicked streaming’s ass, and absolutely rocked compared to streaming. Streaming sucks. Streaming is the worst audio in history… My music is being removed from all streaming services. It’s not good enough to sell or rent. Make streaming sound good and I will be back.”
There are a few more questions around Young’s decision. What about Tidal HiFi and Deezer Elite, with their higher audio quality? And what about Young’s own PonoMusic service: isn’t there scope for that to move from its downloads-focused model into streaming at a quality that its CEO would approve of?
We can’t help feeling that if Young wants streaming’s quality to improve, he has other options beyond a blanket withdrawal. And that’s without getting into the argument about why, if people can learn to love music heard through a crackly AM car-radio, they can’t also learn to love it through streaming.