Neil Young announced Wednesday that he is pulling his music off streaming services over frustration with the medium’s sound quality. On Facebook, the Harvest singer wrote that while he also has issues with how streaming services compensate artists, it’s how his music sounds when streamed that pushed him to his limit. “Streaming has ended for me. I hope this is ok for my fans,” Young wrote.
“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,” Young continued, addressing the same royalties accusations that artists like Taylor Swift and Thom Yorke have levied against Spotify. “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.”
After telling fans about his plans to abandon streaming, Young then shared a second message further slamming streaming’s sound quality. “AM radio kicked streaming’s ass. Analog cassettes and 8 tracks also kicked streaming’s ass, and absolutely rocked compared to streaming,” Young wrote. “Streaming sucks. Streaming is the worst audio in history. If you want it, you got it. It’s here to stay. Your choice.” Young adds that he doesn’t care if fans “copy” his songs for free as long as it’s with the sound quality that he intended. “All my music, my life’s work, is what I am preserving the way I want it to be,” Young wrote. “It’s already started. My music is being removed from all streaming services. It’s not good enough to sell or rent.”
Young has long championed for better sound in the digital age, and the rocker is one of the driving forces behind Pono, a portable music player that offers digital recordings at a much higher quality than its streaming and MP3 counterparts. While services like Tidal boast high quality audio files, Jay Z’s service also carries a monthly fee that’s twice as much as Spotify and Apple Music to access those files. Spotify streams at a higher quality – 320 kbps – for Premium subscribers, but that’s still significantly lower than the FLAC-level files that Young’s Pono download service offers.
It’s unclear which services will be affected by Young withdrawing his catalog. Representatives for Young, Tidal, Spotify and Apple Music did not immediately return a request for clarification.
“There’s nothing wrong with digital: it’s a tool, it’s a way to do things,” Young told Rolling Stone last year. “In 1982, I first got my 16-bit digital machines with Sony, and I used a lot of the digital master players to create things. But I noticed that if I went to digital, I lost the echo. After that, the ability to play loud went away – it was really loud, but whoa, it hurts. I never had it hurt before. And it went downhill from there, instead of getting better. That was devastating. So I made the records analog for myself, and transferred them to digital. Part of me went backwards: as the resolution went up, I went backwards with the technology.”
Young didn’t close the door on streaming his catalog again in the future, however. “For me, It’s about making and distributing music people can really hear and feel. I stand for that,” he wrote on Facebook. “When the quality is back, I’ll give it another look. Never say never.”