Neil Young’s debut solo single in 1968 wasn’t called ‘The Loner’ by accident. He has defiantly ploughed his own furrow for over half a century – and that relates as much to his attitude to the industry around him as it does to the music he creates. He has now announced, in a brief posting on his Neil Young Archives site, that he is done with Facebook – in part because of its backing of organisations he is opposed to as well as its role in circulating and amplifying erroneous information.
“Facebook is facing criticism for sponsoring the annual gala dinner of the Federalist Society, the powerful right wing organization behind the nomination of the conservative supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh,” he writes. “This turn of events, in addition to the false information regularly supplied to the public on Facebook, with its knowledge, has caused us to re-evaluate and change our use policy.” He goes on to say that the believes social platforms should be politically neutral and, as such, he is “discontinuing” his account on Facebook.
In many ways, this is a “very Neil Young” move. He has long called for better audio in digital services where few musicians seemed to care and tried to get his Pono startup off the ground to achieve that (eventually replacing it with Xstream). He then launched his own subscription service where he gives fans access to pretty much every note he’s ever recorded (charging $1.99 a month and gathering up 25,000 subscribers at the last count). Young has also been highly critical of the handful of tech companies that dominate our lives at the moment.
Understanding all of this together might give some clues as to what could be bubbling behind his decision to can Facebook – beyond the ideological issues, that is. Perhaps he wants to build up his own online community on his own platform and no longer be at the mercy of a third-party organisation for access to his own fans and data about them. Cutting out or standing up to the middleman has been a constant in his career and this move with Facebook really is no different.