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The reason why Neil Young told fans to illegally download his music


Neil Young has made no secret of his disdain for major streaming platforms. The musician’s very public spat with Spotify led to his music being removed from the platform, and years before the dispute with the streaming service, Young had even encouraged his fans to illegally download his material as a realistic alternative.

While the finances surrounding the medium of modern music has always been an issue for Young, the ethical problems surrounding Spotify and the spreading of misinformation about the pandemic through podcasts ultimately proved to be the final straw. Also, in 2015, Young removed all of his music from the services, which he said was due to their poor sound quality. He explained: “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.”

Earth was initially only available on physical formats, however, he did agree to it being aired on Tidal because the service had an appropriate sound quality.

Around the time of its release, Young appeared on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast and actively encouraged his fans to make an illegal recording of the broadcast rather than buying it from his store.” We want everybody to have it. I don’t give a shit. Yeah, it’s like, I can’t sell that crap. Go make it yourself and take it home,” he told the host.

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Young continued: “If you wanna get it, I think they play the whole album on Tidal in a couple of weeks. Go onto Tidal and just record it off of Tidal! It’s gonna be 44.1 [kHz]. So that way everybody can get it, ’cause I’m not selling them. I’m not selling the MP3. When I start talking like that, my manager shows up.”

While Young did eventually make his return to streaming services later in 2016, he still was outspoken against the corporations and resentful about the gatekeeping power they hold. He told Wired in 2019: “There aren’t really music streaming services so much as there are tech streaming services. It’s not the same thing from what I see, or they’d be complaining themselves about the technology they have to use. They don’t seem to understand what the music’s about or care about who’s making it”.

Adding: “Besides sounding really terrible, there’s no credit given for anything. You can’t find the information, and it doesn’t seem to matter to them. Yet we’re in the information age and they’re tech companies, so that’s very confusing”.

Money is not the primary concern for Young, and that’s why he doesn’t care if fans listen to his music illegally. The only thing that matters to him is that his art remains undiluted, and people can hear it in the way he intended.

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