Why Neil Young Wants an Alternative to MP3s

Dennis Faas's picture

Legendary rock musician Neil Young intends to release a digital music player and service, claiming to offer better-quality music than Apple's iTunes or Amazon.com's digital download platform.

Young, widely known for hits like "Old Man," "Rockin' in the Free World," and "Heart of Gold," says he originally worked on a similar project with Steve Jobs, former Apple chairman, but the experiment was sidetracked and shelved by the Cupertino, California firm.

Compression Reduces Quality of Music

Young says his goal is to offer a device that plays music of the highest quality.

For those who aren't aware, many songs found on Apple's iTunes and Amazon.com's download service are compressed to make downloading them faster and more convenient. But in order to download a song in seconds rather than minutes, the file must be significantly compressed in recording, thus reducing its playback quality. (Source: cnn.com)

By contrast, songs of the audio quality that would satisfy Neil Young would take about half an hour to download. Another problem is finding storage devices to accommodate such premium music, since each song also represents a much larger file than those from iTunes or Amazon.

It's a sad trade-off, according to Young. "The convenience of the digital age has forced people to choose between quality and convenience," the 66-year-old musician said. "They shouldn't have to make that choice." (Source: businessweek.com)

Young: Longer Download Times Worth It

While some think that long download times could present a major drawback to such a service, Young thinks folks won't mind.

"While you're sleeping, your device is working for you," he explained, suggesting consumers who care about the fidelity of their music will wait long enough to acquire premium digital copies of their favorite songs and albums. (Source: reuters.com)

Young says that he and Steve Jobs spent some time discussing this kind of a project, but since Jobs' death in October there is "not much going on now." Apple has experimented with higher-quality audio in the past, even releasing premium versions of albums by bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Wilco. But these projects appear to be the exception rather than the norm.

It's not yet known when Young's device, or the service that would accompany it, might be available to consumers.

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