Neil Young has seen the needle and the damage done. The classic rocker has written extensively about the impact of drugs in the music industry. Now he’s taking on a new drug scourge — the MP3 file.
MP3s were recently likened to methamphetamine by Steve Silberman of AudioQuest, maker of hifi interconnects for audio and video. Said Silberman at the recent Music Biz 2014 conference in Los Angeles, “Music is a recreational drug, and MP3s are methamphetamines. It’s bad, crack drugs.” Neil Young seems to agree, and would have us experience a better, pharmaceutical-grade high.
A press release issued last September by Neil Young’s publicist stated, “Young is personally spearheading the development of Pono, a revolutionary new audio music system presenting the highest digital resolution possible, the studio-quality sound that artists and producers heard when they created their original recordings.”
The Pono service and player would allow music fans to download hi-rez audio files offering a listening experience much closer to recording artists’ intent than the super-compressed song files that are currently available from iTunes, Amazon and others.
Young has a rich, notable audiophile history, and was in fact an early critic of digital music in the 80s at the dawn of the CD era. He has since made peace with digital technology and has become increasingly vocal about his desire to hear it reach its full potential.
During a recent appearance at the “D: Dive into Media” conference in California, Young mused about the concept of “an iPod for the 21st Century” that would feature studio-quality resolution. “When I started making records, we had 100% of the sound. And then you listen to it as an MP3 at the same volume –- people leave the room. It hurts. It’s not that digital is bad or inferior; it’s that the way it’s being used is not sufficient to transfer the depth of the art.”
In a recent Rolling Stone article, Young also claims that he met with Apple CEO Steve Jobs before Jobs’s death, and that they discussed a hi-rez device that could store roughly 30 studio-quality albums. “We were working on it. Steve Jobs was a pioneer of digital music, but when he went home he listened to vinyl. And you’ve gotta believe that if he’d lived long enough, he would eventually have done what I’m trying to do.”
So Neil Young hung out with our favorite pusher-man and talked about the “good shit.” I applaud his efforts and wish Pono lots of success. But I think Neil needs to get Keith Richards involved — I’m sure Keith is using even higher rez files…