An open letter to Neil Young

Posted on Posted in Music Marketing
To Mr. Young (or may I call you Neil?),

I have been a big fan of your music for years. I listen to you at home, at work, walking the streets of London, at friends’ houses and on my daily commute. But you recently removed all of your work from music streaming services and I wanted to point out why I think that was a bad move.

I’m aware your main issue with Spotify, Apple Music and other popular streaming services is that the quality in which the audio is broadcast is not of a standard that you feel represents your music fairly. As your music is available on MP3, CD and vinyl I’m going to presume that you consider these formats of a suitable standard. The majority of platforms available may not yet present audio to this quality, but I would argue that the average consumer generally does not care or simply can’t tell the difference. To demonstrate this I have included a video below in which some of the most popular streaming services were tested.


The test above actually includes Jay Z’s Tidal service that offers a premium lossless streaming tier, which is the same quality as a CD (at 1411 kbps). As you have seen in the video, nobody in the test can tell the difference.

What slightly upsets me about why you removed your music from streaming services is that your career to date has largely been about pushing boundaries. Your music was always very forward-thinking and ahead of its time. Your digital service Pono was a very interesting idea, even if it only spoke to a very select number of audiophiles. That’s what I love about you and your music, you have always been about evolution, and that’s why I think removing your music from streaming services was a bad move.

If you look back over the course of time and formats that have succeeded within music, the only thing that has remained true is convenience to the fan/consumer. Think about it, vinyl < cassette < CD < download < stream. As much as we would like to believe the mass consumer wants high quality audio, they don’t. I myself often find this hard to believe, but then again, I’m also not an average music consumer.

I buy almost all of my music on vinyl. I have three copies of your album Harvest — one on CD and two copies on vinyl. I think it’s that good! Up until recently I was also streaming that album (among others you have released) at work via my Spotify account. But since you removed it from the streaming service I have not been able to enjoy it at work. You have aggravated me as a fan but have also cannibalised a means of income for yourself.

But like I said, I’m not a typical music consumer and it can be hard to separate yourself from that mindset. The average music consumer simply won’t listen to any artist’s music via three different means of consumption and typically only has one preferred format. You have therefore alienated a specific type of listener, and future listeners, of your music.

What’s great about streaming platforms is that sharing is very much encouraged. The need to communicate is ingrained in human existence. If I find some music I love, I want to share it with friends. I can’t help myself! Streaming services help me achieve this with relative ease. So by not being on these services, you are also losing the ability for your music to reach new ears by the most organic means possible, word-of-mouth.

I respect your right as an artist to do whatever you like with your music; it’s your art. But the fact of the matter is that it’s my right as a paying consumer to listen to your music however I like! You can’t stop me from compressing an MP3 that I have paid for to a low bitrate and adding it to my phone (because I’m running short of space on the device and want to listen to more of your records), so why would you get protective about the audio quality of streaming services when very few can tell the difference?

You can’t change human intuition and you can’t stop evolution so why not come and ride the wave with me?

Thanks for listening and I hope to catch you when you are next on tour again in the UK (who knows, by then I may own my 4th copy of Harvest).

Dan Griffiths

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