Neil Young tries excusing his return to Spotify by saying Apple Music is now as bad

in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV

Two years after pulling his music from Spotify in protest over the Joe Rogan podcast, Neil Young claims Apple Music and most streamers are all as bad -- so he might as well be on all of them.

Neil Young with his failed PonoPlayer
Neil Young with his failed PonoPlayer

Neil Young has a long history with streaming music services, going back to 2012 when he claimed to have been working on a high quality music format with Steve Jobs. Since then he has complained about "Fisher Price" level audio quality in the MacBook Pro, and he briefly pulled his music from almost all streamers for the same reason.

Taking his music off Spotify, Apple Music, and more in 2016 was at least partly his taking a stance against how poor audio quality. But it was also a reaction to how the quality of his own high definition music player, the $400 Pono device, had been beaten by the iPhone in a blind test.

Compared to that commercially-motivated pulling of music and subsequent inevitable return, Young's later removal of his music from Spotify was much more of a genuine protest.

In 2022, Young complained that Spotify was hosting the Joe Rogan podcast, despite it spreading COVID misinformation. He pulled his entire catalog from Spotify because of this.

Notably, for the first time, his move encouraged other artists to leave Spotify too. Most significantly, Joni Mitchell and R&B singer/songwriter India.Arie, removed their music too.

Now according to an announcement on his website, Neil Young says he's returning to Spotify because it's no longer the only streamer spreading this specific disinformation.

"Spotify, the #1 streamer of low res music in the world," he said in a blog post, "Spotify, where you get less quality than we made, will now be home of my music again."

"My decision comes as music services Apple and Amazon have started serving the same disinformation podcast features I had opposed at Spotify," he continued.

This is a reference to how Spotify reportedly paid $250 million to continue the Joe Rogan podcast, but dropped its exclusivity clause on the contract. Free to distribute his podcast now to other services, Rogan has done just that.

There's a difference between it being possible to access the Joe Rogan podcast, and funding it to the tune of $250 million. Young's return is really an admission that musicians can no longer afford to ignore the streaming market.

"I cannot just leave Apple and Amazon, like I did Spotify, because my music would have very little streaming outlet to music lovers at all," continued Young, "so I have returned to Spotify, in sincere hopes that Spotify sound quality will improve and people will be able to hear and feel all the music as we made it."

Rather than continue protesting against Spotify over its Joe Rogan podcast, Young has pivoted back to being critical of its audio quality. Noting that Qobuz and Tidal present his music in high audio quality, he has called on Spotify to improve.

"Hopefully Spotify will turn to Hi Res as the answer and serve all the music to everyone," he wrote. "Spotify, you can do it! Really be #1 in all ways. You have the music and the listeners!!!! Start with a limited Hi res tier and build from there!"

Both India.Arie and Joni Mitchell have already returned to Spotify.

Read on AppleInsider


  • Reply 1 of 12
    I don’t see Joni Mitchell back on Spotify. Just the few odd live and collaboration tracks. 
  • Reply 2 of 12
    I read the article, looking for something to support the headline’s claim that Young “tries excusing his return to Spotify by saying Apple Music is now as bad” — but nothing in the article supports that assertion. Young explained why he was returning, his “excuse” being that Rogan’s disinformation is now available everywhere, so his rationale of not wanting his music on the same platform is no longer valid.

    I get that Apple isn’t the same as Spotify in terms of supporting Rogan’s disinformation, but Young didn’t say anything about that, at least according to this article.

    I gather Young thinks Apple is “now as bad” as Spotify in terms of technical sound quality, his personal white whale, but that has nothing to do with why he left Spotify, or why he returned. The headline seems to conflate the two issues (disinformation and sound).
  • Reply 3 of 12
    I have Apple Music.  The quality of the streams in general are very good, and I question whether I (60 years old) or Neil (even older) can hear any difference between what Apple offers over a "High Res" stream.   
    edited March 13 tenthousandthingsMacProjas999secondkox2appleinsideruserlolliverravnorodommagman1979watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 4 of 12
    mjpbuymjpbuy Posts: 19member
    I am guessing he has not tried to Apple Lossless options (FLAC) or Spatial music
  • Reply 5 of 12
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,745member
    I'd love to see the results of a hearing test on this guy; I am a few years younger than him and a one-time Hi-Fi nut, and believe me, bitching on about hi-fidelity is a joke when you lose high frequencies with age.
    edited March 13 jas999secondkox2kiltedgreenlolliverravnorodomroundaboutnowJapheymagman1979watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 6 of 12
    sirdirsirdir Posts: 188member
    Apple currently only does the right thing when they are forced to do so by the government. So yeah they are just as bad.
  • Reply 7 of 12
    jimh2jimh2 Posts: 631member
    Highest quality on Spotify: Maximum bitrate is 320kbps using the Ogg Vorbis codec on desktop and mobile apps. Web player streams at 256kbps using AAC. Keep in mind you have to pay for this for if you are a free-rider you are limited to 128kbps on web player and 160kbps on mobile and desktop apps.

    Apple Music: Lossless

    Young is dead wrong on this one. If you wanted the highest quality stream Apple Music wins by a long shot. He is the one who created his own streamer called Pono that offered high-res. A noble attempt but in never gained any traction and they are now out of business. Reality is he is on out of touch old guy with music not a lot of people care for and who has made an arbitrary decision to go with Spotify. No loss.
  • Reply 8 of 12
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 2,029member
    "Hopefully Spotify will turn to Hi Res as the answer and serve all the music to everyone," [Young] wrote. "Spotify, you can do it! Really be #1 in all ways. You have the music and the listeners!!!! Start with a limited Hi res tier and build from there!"

    Neil Young's quixotic crusade for audio sound quality has always unintentionally been kind of entertaining. I had a good laugh reading a profile interview when he was promoting his Pono player, and he said his favorite place to listen to music was in his '59 Lincoln Continental convertible. Even with its engine replaced by an electric motor, there's little chance even the most discerning audiophile would be able to distinguish lossless audio from anything but the most highly compressed, low-bitrate sources.

    I do get and support his protest against Spotify's choice to bankroll a sloppy disinformation vector like Joe Rogan, so with that exclusive contract ending and availability of Rogan's nonsense going wide again, I'd agree with Young that this renders his Spotify boycott moot.

    But then, in this quote above, Young misses the boat on achieving his dream for the spread of lossless audio. He says, "Start with a limited Hi res tier and build from there!" This strategy is exactly why lossless and spatial audio formats were going nowhere until Apple Music got into it. Making people pay extra to access the better-quality format dooms it to niche market fringes. (Adding to that the requirement for specialized hardware like Young's Pono player narrows the market even further.) This creates a negative-feedback death-spiral. It limits demand, which in turn limits incentives for producers artists and labels to make content available in those formats, which in turn frustrates the people who are paying extra for very limited content, etc. For instance, I tried and soon cancelled Tidal when they embraced Dolby Atmos before Apple did. There was very limited content available (with no sign of much more than a sparing trickle to come) and their interface for finding it was even worse. 

    Inexplicably, this self-defeating approach remained, well, self-defeating until Apple Music made lossless and spatial audio formats available to its subscribers at no extra charge and available on hardware they already owned. There is definitely still a high-end audiophile market where people pay top-dollar for gear that produces real and often imagined next-level acoustically pristine audio content, but Apple is largely responsible for making better audio widely available to the rest of us.

    Since Apple embraced lossless and spatial formats at no extra charge, available content has boomed. This surely benefits Spotify doing more, but it would still be dumb for them to charge a premium to access it. Why pay Spotify more, when you can get it from Apple for less? Why would Spotify invest in their own back-end hardware, software and bandwidth to accommodate it, when a premium tier limits their market for it? 

    I guess you can lead a crazy horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
  • Reply 9 of 12
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 2,766member

    as if that wasn’t inevitable. 
  • Reply 10 of 12
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,912member
    sirdir said:
    Apple currently only does the right thing when they are forced to do so by the government. So yeah they are just as bad.
    Citation needed. 

    Here’s my counter claim citation — they will do the right thing and fight the government to do so:
  • Reply 11 of 12
    Didn't read much of the article since Neil Young is one of my least favorite artists and couldn't care less where he hocks his "music". His voice makes my ears bleed!
  • Reply 12 of 12
    arcsarcs Posts: 6member
    I am a subscriber of both Spotify and Youtube Music. I dropped Apple Music sometime ago because I had these two streaming services already, and I also thought that the UI of Spotify was more to my liking. However, if I play one song in Spotify, and then the same one in Youtube music, I can hear better quality in Youtube Music. No, I am not planning to drop any of those, I am just saying that Youtube sounds better than Spotify. Plus, I have so many liked songs in Spotify that I am not about to go one-by-one and add those Youtube music. And again, I feel that the Spotify interface is better. I just wish that they would increase the quality sound. ( I have the settings on Very High Quality for Spotify, and  for Youtube Music on Always High. )
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