Rock veteran Neil Young: 'Digital is degrading our music'

Rock veteran Neil Young: 'Digital is degrading our music'


norman lebrecht

February 02, 2012

Neil is the latest recruit in the back-to-vinyl campaign.

Here’s his clincher argument: ‘Steve Jobs was a pioneer of digital music… but when he went home he listened to vinyl. And you’ve got to believed that if he’d lived long enough, he would have done what I’m trying to do.’

Discuss among yourselves. Quietly, please.


  • Steve says:

    In the 80s Jobs had a turntable in his minimalist house. Only a stereo & a light in his living room. Sat on the floor.

    An sure he listened to & enjoyed his iPod. At times you’d even hear what were on his playlists. iPods are perfectly capable of storing lossless music (Apple Lossless – ALAC – what I use on mine. The iTunes store doesn’t even sell “MP3” files (they have higher quality AAC format) yet seemed to be called “MP3” players generically.

  • Well, it certainly is a double-edged sword. Given my preferences, I’m a vinyl man, too. But vinyl isn’t a practical medium. You can’t take it with you. The best thing to me about digital is its portability. And digital is here, you can’t just make a technology disappear so I suspect this is nothing but nostalgia and wishful thinking.

    Neil, I love you, man, but how about some rational thought about how we might improve on the current digital world instead of pretending we can make it all just go away?

    I think what Steve Jobs did or didn’t listen to is all very interesting at some level but I don’t see how it’s relevant to the situation.

  • Young is pushing for hi-rez music (more than apple lossless at CD quality) because he believes (and said so since the 80’s) that digital music “as it is” is robbing life from music. He gives as example the huge difference between the record master and what ends on CD.

    So this is not about getting back to vinyl and this is not a new crusade

    • Garth Winter says:

      Yes, that’s right. There’s nothing wrong with “digital” (pace the perennial discussions about vinyl v cd, etc.), it’s the attenuation of the material due to compression that’s the problem, and you can see why recording musicians don’t like it. Neil Young may be a bit of a dinosaur, but it’s obviously going to be annoying if you attend lovingly to every detail of your sound, but with a sinking feeling because no one will ever hear it all. I’m not a hi-fi buff by any means, but I recently heard DTS versions of the Beatles’ original studio tapes, and that was quite a revelation. Nor am I a Steve Jobs worshipper, and don’t care what he listened to, but I suppose Neil thought it was a good idea to adduce him to the argument!

  • Roger says:

    Let me say first of all, that I agree, in principle, with Mr. Young.

    But, my experience has been that the people who buy iPods and similar devices are more interested in portability, rather than “hi-fi”.The music industry more than a decade ago tried to introduce some new hi-rez formats like SACD and DVD-A. Not to argue the virtues/pitfalls of either, neither caught on with the music buying public. Apart from a few small independent “audiophile” labels, both formats are essentially dead in the water. I’m all in favor of hi-rez downloadable media, but only people with high-end HOME playback equipment can truly benefit from these, and most people (except us audiophiles) aren’t willing to spend that kind of money on the necessary hardware. Furthermore, I seriously question whether any difference between these and “lossy” formats currently in vogue can be genuinely appreciated on pair of earbuds. I too am happy to see vinyl enjoying something of a renaissance, but it remains to be seen whether this will remain a “niche” format as well.

    My two shekels’ worth.

    • Mark Sebastian Jordan says:

      The SACD and DVD-A formats died because the idiot corporations couldn’t get over themselves in order to unite and offer the public a single coherent high-resolution format. So now we’re stuck with crap MP3s, slightly better but still not good CD-level digital, and Neil Young sticking his head in a hole in the ground because he misses rolling a doob on album sleeves.