Neil Young pulls his albums from Apple Music ’cause they sound soooo bad

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Neil Young hates your silly music stream services
Neil Young hates your silly music streaming services
Photo: Kris Krüg/Flickr

Canadian singer-songwriter and musician turned high-fidelity music spokesman, Neil Young, announced that he’s fed up with music streaming service. Sure, there’s a lot less money in streaming than selling albums, but Young revealed to fans that he’s pulling his albums from Apple Music and other services today because the music just sounds too horrible for him to tolerate.

The Pono Player creator told fans this morning that the sound quality was dramatically reduced by ‘bad deals’ made without his consent so he has no choice but to pull his entire catalog from Apple Music, Spotify, and Tidal so that you, the fan, aren’t harmed by hearing his music in the worst quality in the history of broadcasting — which is probably the way you’ve been listening to his music the past five years.

Here is Young’s full explanation:

Streaming has ended for me. I hope this is ok for my fans.

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.

For me, It’s about making and distributing music people can really hear and feel. I stand for that.

When the quality is back, I’ll give it another look. Never say never.

Neil Young

Young’s albums are still available on Apple Music, Spotify, and Tidal but you better stream them now while you still have a chance.

Via: Pitchfork

  • He should prove it. Blind A/B test, he has to say 20 times correctly which is Apple Music or Spotify and which is the HD audio version of his track. If its so obvious he should easily be able to say which is the diabolically poor quality track 20 times in a row shouldn’t he?

    • AeroSatan

      He’s just trying to peddle his Pono Player.

      • you should hear one, might make you want to peddle it too.

    • It’s very easy to prove – can you disprove it yourself? You need to hear a ponoplayer rendering 24bit files to try the disprove.

      Newsflash – 24bit audio and everything in the ponoplayer is tried and true technology from the production world. Much of this stuff has been in recording studios for over 20 years.

      • I’ve been a mix engineer for 15 years, I’ve forgotten more about audio than most know. By its mere definition 24 bit audio does not and cannot sound “better” – all it providers is more headroom to record, not a richer or higher quality sound.

        Newsflash, you don’t know what you’re talking about and you’re believing marketing hype. For a recording engineer 24 bit is essential and a long term, since about 2002 audio recording standard – its essential for dynamic range, not for audio quality.

        If you wanted to discuss the quality and depth of a sound this would be related instead to the sample rate, but the human ear can’t ear past 20,000khz, so even the 44.1khz of an audio CD is over kill, 96khz audio etc has been proven to be nothing more than a marketing and audiophone nonsense.

        And yes, id give you £10,000 if you could blindly point out to me which was a 24 bit audio file and which was a 16bit audio file considering the two would null out against each other (revese the polarity of two identical audio signals and you achieve silence…)

      • Send that 10k over the ocean asap because I can easily pick out higher resolution versions, in fact I do it every time I do mix downs, and my mastering engineer usually provides me with un-labelled files to pick from. If you can’t I suggest educating yourself and training your ears. What have you been doing for 15 years, making pop MP3’s?

        Why do you think sound is only frequency? What a huge mistake. That’s but just one measurement, but it has nothing to do with much of what makes music great. If you’ve ever played around with a reverb decay, with delays, with the mic placement and space and air in the room, guess what, none of that has to do with frequency range. All of it is critical to making, recording, and listening to music.

        Do you pan and mix of a piece of music? Notice the total number of voices able to rendered audibly at the same time? Fine resolution of the EQ, the pan, the depth, and each instrument’s interplay with the others all relies on high resolution overall. Resolution involves all measurements, not just frequency range.

        You are wrong to think that “headroom” is all thats being removed from high resolution recordings. Detail, depth, accuracy, and total rendered resolution is very easy to imagine, and not that hard to hear – just sit in front of a mix desk and really work up an intricate mix at 24bit. Then downsample and dither to 16bit and see how much of your mix translates. I peg it at about 50% of content that gets removed (masked,blended) when you throw out the data on the way to 16bit.

      • I’ve listened to your music – I’m not sure your ears work at all – never mind mix and EQ levels (Which are amateur at best) it sounds like its made on a Casio keyboard….You can google me and find my projects.

      • oh ouch, that hurts! you have no idea what recording projects I’ve been a part of, google won’t help you here.

        some of it was made on a casio keyboard! i like bandwidth limitations when used artistically. i use live instruments, digital instruments, samples of different resolutions, and various voices and fx in my work.

        i don’t need to listen to your work dan if you can’t hear a difference between mp3 and full formats. you must be in the biz of masking and faking, maybe you are great at it. i probably don’t bother using quite as many plugins or drawing quite as many automation paths as you, and I’m sure my own music doesn’t sell well.

        this isn’t about my music, it’s about your ears and you claiming to be a recording engineer that can’t hear a difference between versions at 5800k and reduced to 256k. that’s a 95.6% reduction, dan. if you can’t hear that you can’t hear jack, and you can’t hear what i’m doing in my music.

      • You’re baffled by your own science if you really think there’s a 95.6% reduction in quality between an AAC file and a Wav file…I mean…really, you are so far from understanding whats happening its un true. Perhaps you should spend less time typing rhetoric on the internet and more time reading about science and facts because your interpretations and mythologies are all wrong, plus you can’t mix or choose decent sounds without the help of somebody else, so this is a totally moot argument. Its like an amateur footballer telling Messi the original Adidas predator boot makes him better are curling the ball.

      • I understand it quite well, on a level that the average internet jockey doesn’t. It isn’t math, it’s sound. There’s math behind it, but to think they have it all figured out is your folly.

        I use my math to fight back against the crap in these debates, on the side you sit. Of course there’s a difference between 1400k (CD-wav) and 256k AAC! Why is this argued? It’s easily heard in width and centerpoint of soundstage, crispness of high-hats, decay and splashiness of cymbals, tone in acoustic instruments, and especially in reverb tails, extended delays from the room.

        If you start with crap samples and mix/compress/sidechain them to high-hell, autotune and replace everything, and layer plug in after plug in of digital fakeness on it, guess what, maybe you can’t hear a difference at 256k.

        But if you listen to Sam Cooke, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, Beatles, Cars, The Clash to just name a few that dropped magic in recording studios that is now available @ 24bit quality, it’s easy to hear.

        It really is. Let’s not fight, I’m already having a crappy summer. Just listen, work with your own mixes, or ask your mentor to show you the way. You can hear it, you really can, perhaps it’s just been hidden from you.

  • I’d wager that most people using the service and listening to his music aren’t able to tell the difference in quality due to using inferior ear-buds. It would be pointless streaming super-high bitrate files just for a lot of data to never even by discernible.

    • Grunt_at_the_Point

      Absolutely………if the consumer is happy with the way his music sounds where is the complaint.

      • the consumer is clueless and takes whatever they are fed, primarily based on convenience and what their friend is doing.

        consumer audio has been downgraded several times since the 1970’s. it is always sold in the form of convenience, and then the bad science shows up to claim that no one can tell they’ve been downgraded.

        stereo music is recorded at over 4Mbs/second bandwidth. this used to be reduced to 1.4Mbs/second to fit on an optical disc in the 80’s. it was then reduced further to fit through dial up modems in the 90’s. these were called consumer formats based on marketplace convenience.

        those restrictions are gone. no optical disc, no bandwidth or storage cost issues = no reason to reduce the quality of your music anymore. you can hear the studio masters just like me. and you will be happier than listening to mp3’s through a phone, believe me.

  • Matt Winegar

    In other news, Neil Young has fans… J/K, but seriously though “I don’t need my music to be devalued by the worst quality in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution.” So Apple Music and other streaming services are worse the AM/FM radio, 8 track, and cassette tape?

    • timothyhood

      Exactly what I was going to post. Neil, Yiung began in the days of AM radio, not even stereo. Sure, streaming may not be as good as digital download, but it’s far from as bad as any analog medium. This feels more about his expensive digital niche player and selling his far-higher-than-necessary encodes.

  • Adam Harris

    But they’re still in the iTunes store. They’re the same files. This has nothing to do with sound quality and everything to do with the business.

  • Mark Izen

    Pfft. By that logic, he should have banned FM radio from ever making him a notable musician in the first place. Get over it, Neil–make it available in the highest quality you like for those who want it, and give it to the rest, too. It’s about the music and how it makes you feel. I can tell you, your stuff sounded like a ton of wet pickles on my brother’s 8-track player, but I still thought it was some of the greatest stuff to listen to on the way to beach. Old man, take a look at your life, it’s looking a lot like a cash grab.

    • BillBob

      FM? … back when Harvest was released, the only stations playing it in my area were AM … not to mention the superior quality of 45 rpm platters on a vintage RCA turntable … wish poor Neil was as concerned about sound reproduction back then … I would have to say my iTunes library offers a much better experience than I had available to me in my youth. So if Neil doesn’t want to play … I don’t have to pay … him at least ;-)

  • groberts1980

    What a joke. If it’s about money, be honest. People will accept that. But the human ear cannot tell the difference between lossless and lossy music.

    • ColorWerx

      You’ve got to be kidding me.

      • marcintosh

        Under the conditions most people listen to streaming music you really can’t tell the difference.

      • yes you really can, at least I can, and just about everyone else who’s tried it.

        it’s called source quality – and it drives everything else in the chain.

        Great source + Great DAC + great analog amplification = great sound playback, regardless of where you are or what kind of speakers are used.

        where you are and what is going on around you all comes *after* the sound is rendered. better quality is better quality, even when it mixes with other room noise.

      • marcintosh

        I guess you’re not most people.

      • why thank you marcintosh! are you most people?

      • marcintosh

        No, but I include myself in the group of people who can’t tell the difference.

      • perpetuallearner

        I’m most people!

    • please. everyone can tell the difference. if your player and speakers are garbage enough, maybe not, but then that’s just garbage. grandparents can tell the difference, stop trying to rewrite history and shove another downgrade down our throats.

      24bit audio (2Mbs+) has been around since the 90’s. it sounds amazing when played on a proper device.

      and don’t say we don’t have the bandwidth – netflix HD streams at over 6Mbs.

      • groberts1980

        No. No, they can’t. I’ve heard from audio engineers who agree with me. You must have perfect hearing and $10k in equipment if you think you can tell a difference. I would imagine Neil Young’s hearing is too damaged at this point to tell a difference, anyway.

      • Bingo, exactly – he will never ever be able to consistently point out a 24bit 96khz file over an Apple Music stream…and neither could I even with my £1000 Sennheiser HD800’s and £600 head phone amp! (and i’m 30 with very sensitive hearing and a mix engineer!)

      • groberts1980

        And the vast majorty of people listening are using cheap earbuds or sub $100 headphones and no external DAC. I have $150 headphones and a $130 DAC and I can’t tell the difference. For Neil Young to pull his music from Apple claiming it sounds terrible is just ridiculous.

      • again – too bad for you . stop putting your inability to detect quality on other people. either you had something wrong with your gear, your material, or your ability to hear. all not my problem.

        you can keep all the mp3’s in the world, they are yours forever! enjoy your 10%. the rest of us deserve better and have been calling for it for years (decades now, in my case).

      • sad ears and total lack of listening skills. or bad gear.

        either way, 24bit audio played properly is clearly better than the same material down sampled and dithered.

        if you are sticking up for lossy – good bye. that’s designed for dial up modems in the 90’s – defending it now is like defending VHS.

      • groberts1980

        I have a $130 DAC and $160 headphones, and I’m betting I have better gear than 80-90% of streaming music listeners. Most people have iPhone’s and cheap earbuds. If I can’t tell the difference, the vast majority definitely cannot. I’m not comparing Tidal’s HD offerings to 128kb MP3’s. But Apple Music’s AAC format is definitely high enough quality to completely invalidate what this asshat Neil Young is saying.

      • “definitely high enough quality” = 256k, or < 10% of the original? Sure it does. This is willingly accepting less for no good reason. I love music too much to play that game.

        You were probably claiming 192k was "good enough" 5 years ago, and you were probably claiming 128k "sounded fine" before that.

        My music quality in 2015 starts at 1400k. That's called redbook, and that's a digital standard FROM 35 YEARS AGO.

        The music that I have that's over 1400k sounds amazing. It sounds amazing on almost every speaker set because I have a proper player.

        I have about 20 albums now @ 24bit, and when you hear 5600k audio you will never want to hear a paper-bag thin mp3 again.

        FWIW: AAC = MP4, rebranded by Apple

      • groberts1980

        And even if you’re telling the truth, you’re one out millions who can tell a difference in 256k and 1400k. Scientists have argued that the human ear cannot tell a difference. It’s like saying it makes sense to buy a 32″ 1080p TV at a viewing distance of 10 feet. At that rate, 720p would look exactly the same to the human eye.

      • well i’ve played 24bit audio through my ponoplayer to about 50 people now, and not a single one of them missed the obvious changes in quality as i switched between mp3, 16/44 and 24bit.

        1 guy preferred the mp3 version, he said he kind of likes the crackly sound, it sounds more current and modern, makes him happy.

        that’s about 98% hearing it, actually 100% heard it, just 1 preferred the smaller file. this is on a great playback system that can really render the files properly.

        this is on any kind of speaker system except maybe the worst earbuds. but even cheap computer desk speakers and standard car stereo stuff shows a marked improvement when being fed pure clean source.

      • groberts1980

        Ah, it all makes sense now. You wasted way too much money on a Pono player and now crusade across the internet justifying your purchase. Thanks for letting me know!

      • I don’t really get into debates about whether 4% or 8% is good enough when 100% is available and easily enjoyed.

        He probably won’t pull his catalog from Tidal, if he’s able to split it like that, since Tidal is CD quality, and pono store sells cd quality.

        This is about informing people that lossless music is 1000k-6000k per second, and capping it at 256k is a serious compromise to the signal. No one that hears full quality audio wants to go back, they just aren’t aware of the choices, or even that they’ve been given another downgrade.

  • AAPL.To.Break.$130.Soon>:-)

    What a fool. If the people who are listening to his streaming music don’t complain, why should he? My hearing isn’t all that good and I’m just happy to listen to a lot of music. I grew up listening to vinyl, eight-track and cassettes, so why would I complain about hearing streamed music. Anyway, it’s his loss. People will go listen to someone else’s music.

  • Frans Albertus Hanekom

    BS! This is TOTALLY a publicity stunt! He just wants to get more listeners, he is not in it for the quality! This is a money making scheme… Not falling for it old man! Go upgrade your sound system or get a new hearing aid if the sound quality is bad. I’ve been more than satisfied with the sound quality.

    • more listeners for what? he doesn’t have a streaming service, he sells a device that can play files from anyone and a store that sells master quality with no DRM. what are you hating on?

  • TimsDominion

    “I don’t need my music to be devalued by the worst quality in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution.”

    Someone should remind him of a little thing called radio.

  • Lee McLean

    This from the guy who released by far the worst sounding album in living memory (“A Letter Home”) – yes I know it was deliberate, but if he really was so concerned about quality… He even claims AM sounds better than streaming, which is just utter bollocks.

    I say all this as a (former) huge fan of his music (not liking the music or anti-GMO BS in his recent output either).

  • perpetuallearner

    I like most of Neil Young’s music, even his latest albums, I’m a fan. However, it’s not Pink Floyd or Philip Glass; it’s Neil Young. It’s going to sound the same in 320 kbps and 192 kbps. This is obviously a publicity stunt.

    • Wow. what about at 1400k? Have you ever even heard a CD? hard to tell these days.
      Who cares if 5% and 8% sound the same. Don’t you want 100%?

      • perpetuallearner

        Best sound I’ve heard is on vinyl, but that’s not the point I was making. I was expressing the opinion that certain bands, e.g. Pink Floyd or Porcupine Tree, require a certain sound quality. But other ones, e.g. Neil Young or The Rolling Stones are recording just ‘guitar’ songs, not investing so much on sound effects, which (in my humble opinion) makes Neil’s sound quality argument rather invalid.
        Furthermore, he allowed his music to be published in cassettes, and I had many of his albums on cassettes. They didn’t sound as good as on vinyl, but you could still hear and enjoy the music just fine.

  • michael shaffer

    While I am able to hear the difference between 24bit and 16bit audio, it requires technology that isn’t available or typical of users who stream Neil’s music. I have to agree, Neil is simply plugging his Pono service. GET REAL NEIL!! Please allow us to stream your music until the technology and its expense is available for all!!

    • ponoplayer is available to everyone in the US for $400, or less than an iPhone. it renders 24bit audio amazingly well. it also renders 16bit lossless and even MP3 better than anything else i’ve heard.

      pono isn’t a service, it’s a device that can play anything and a store that sells master-quality material with no DRM. no need to hate, nothing to hate there.

      • michael shaffer

        I know what a Pono is! This thread is about Neil removing his music from streaming services!!

  • marcintosh

    “When the quality is back, I’ll give it another look. Never say never.” Translation: When I launch Pono Streaming it will be the only place to stream my music.

    • real translation — when they stop selling 10% files as 100%, he’ll be back.

      • marcintosh

        He says “When the quality is back” immediately after saying it was never there to begin with. You’re saying that 90% of the fidelity has been removed from streaming music. Neither one of you have any credibility.

  • While I understand this is mostly a transparent play for his Pono device, I applaud him for taking a stand against the meager streaming revenue artists receive. If more major artists pulled their music from streaming services, maybe they’d force the hand of labels to give them the larger share that they deserve.

  • Emil Uhlin

    The problem right now is mainly the varying sound quality. A lot of old rock songs have horribly distorted top ends, a kind of “whirling” sound. I don’t know if this is strictly related to bit rate or just bad file conversion…?

    • that’s the result of taking what was 1000k or more per second and reducing it to 256k, then lying to people about the loss.
      it’s like a fax of fine art. of course it will make you crazy after awhile.
      all quality reductions are for bandwidth restrictions. there aren’t many anymore, just buy the full master and own it forever.

  • Boo Radley

    Is it possible that he has a wicked case of tinnitis?

  • Nick

    Neil Young must’ve been exposed to some gamma radiation or something to gain the superhearing required to detect the loss in sound quality. Or maybe he’s Kryptonian?

    • anyone can hear it, it’s laughable obvious when played on proper equipment. which he happens to sell for $400, so snark all you want.

      but if you care about sound quality at all, you are seeking this stuff out, not taking it down in comments sections.

  • “cult of mac” needs to address the lack of quality from the mothership – apple.

    even steve jobs was amazed as many people accepted MP3’s as it happened. seduced by the convenience, the quantity over quality. ADD music for ADD times.

    i bet all of you watch HD TV, have HD monitors, play HD games, use HD phone screens, HD phone cameras, even HD displays on your various other devices.

    but when it comes to audio? you all back a 1991 lossy compression format built on top of a 1980 lossy resolution reduction. that’s 30 years of lowering standards, something apple isn’t known for.

    the second Beats by Apple puts a 24bit DAC in headphones watch all of you flock to the quality.