Neil Young. Photo: Diana Streak
DANA POINT, California – Legendary rocker Neil Young has taken his campaign for higher-fidelity digital sound to the stage of a technology conference, saying a giant of the industry was on his side: the late Steve Jobs.
Young said the Apple co-founder was such a fan of music that he didn't use his iPod and its digitally compressed files at home. Instead, he used a physical format well-known to have better sound.
"Steve Jobs was a pioneer of digital music. His legacy is tremendous," Young said on Tuesday in the US. "But when he went home, he listened to vinyl [albums]."
Young told the "D: Dive Into Media" conference that he spoke with Jobs about creating a format that has 20 times the fidelity of files in the most current digital formats, including MP3.
Such a format, he said, would contain 100 per cent of the data of music as it is created in a studio, as opposed to 5 per cent in compressed formats including Apple's AAC. Each song would be huge, and a new storage and playback device might only hold 30 albums. Each song would take about 30 minutes to download, which is fine if you leave your device on overnight, he said.
"Sleep well. Wake up in the morning. Play some real music and listen to the joy of 100 per cent of the sound of music," he said.
Although Young didn't have a practical plan for developing such a format — saying it's for "rich people" to decide — he said Jobs was on board with the idea before he died from cancer at age 56 in October.
"I talked to Steve about it. We were working on it," Young said. "You've got to believe if he lived long enough he would eventually try to do what I'm trying to do."
Young's opinion of Jobs was confirmed by interviewer Walt Mossberg, a journalist with News Corp's All Things D website, which has hosted Jobs at its conferences before.
Mossberg said Jobs in the past expressed surprise that "people traded quality, to the extent they had, for convenience or price".
Young, a 66-year-old singer and songwriter, was full of other surprising opinions, including his defence of recording labels such as his own Reprise Records, a unit of Warner Music Group, as being a nurturer of artists, even as he said recording companies had botched the transition to digital music.
Young also said that "piracy is the new radio", suggesting that illegally copying low-quality songs was an acceptable way for fans to sample music before buying higher-quality versions.