Neil Young came to the stage of D: Dive into Media to talk with Walt Mossberg and Peter Kafka about the current distribution and quality of digital music. Young is primarily concerned about whether the MP3 files we're all listening to actually are pretty poor from an audio-quality standpoint. He says that your average MP3 file only contains about five percent of the audio from an original recording and he says Apple Lossless only offers "10.3 percent." The concern is twofold, which Young called the "front and back end" of the donkey. The back end is the devices we're using to listening to audio, and Young hopes that we'll get better devices than what's currently available. For example, on Beats Audio, he says "I think they make it look better, and I think they make it have more bass." Young also wants to see better music recording and high resolution recording, but we're not anywhere near that yet. He hopes that "some rich guy" will solve the problem of creating and distributing "100 percent" of the sound in music.
One rich guy Young knew was Steve Jobs and on that subject, Young had this to say:
Steve Jobs was a pioneer of digital music, his legacy was tremendous. [...] But when he went home, he listened to vinyl.
Young is calling for a new digital ecosystem of high quality music files and he believes that Jobs would have gotten there had he lived long enough. On the distribution side, Young isn't particularly concerned with the effects of piracy on artists, he's more concerned that the files that are being shared are of such low quality:
It doesn't affect me because I look at the internet as the new radio. I look at the radio as gone. [...] Piracy is the new radio. That's how music gets around. [...] That's the radio. If you really want to hear it, let's make it available, let them hear it, let them hear the 95 percent of it.
Despite that attitude, Young is still on the side of record labels because they care about music and about supporting artists — but somehow we doubt those studios take the same attitude towards piracy that Young does.