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Neil Young says he ‘felt better’ after leaving Spotify and its ‘shitty’ sound quality

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‘Spotify plays the artist’s music at 5 percent of its quality and charges you like it was the real thing’

South By Southwest Interactive Festival - Day 5 Photo by Gary Miller/FilmMagic

Even after departing the platform, Neil Young isn’t done criticizing Spotify yet. Today, the rock legend has published another letter on his website, describing Spotify as a purveyor of “more songs and less sound.” Young says that he “felt better” after pulling his music catalog from the leading streaming music service earlier this week while noting that he’s strongly opposed to censorship and that “private companies have the right to choose what they profit from, just as I can choose not to have my music support a platform that disseminates harmful information.”

Throughout the latest post, Young — a longtime advocate of hi-fi sound — heavily criticizes Spotify for its lossy audio quality. “Amazon, Apple Music, and Qobuz deliver up to 100 percent of the music [quality] today and it sounds a lot better [than] the shitty degraded and neutered sound of Spotify,” he says, adding that “if you support Spotify, you are destroying an art form.” Young implores his fans to “go to a new place that truly cares about music quality.” Convincing consumers to care about music streaming fidelity can be tricky, with many people unable to tell a difference between something like Spotify’s “high quality” tier and true lossless — especially with the prevalence of Bluetooth headphones, earbuds, and speakers. (Bluetooth is something Young has also touched on.)

Since his exit from Spotify, competing services like Apple Music have seized the opportunity to advertise Young’s catalog. Apple went so far as to call itself “the home of Neil Young,” though it seems Young is also rooting for the much smaller Qobuz, which has pushed hi-fi sound since its launch. Young continues to completely ignore Tidal, which is frankly brutal since Tidal led the lossless streaming wave before Amazon and Apple joined in.

Spotify’s failure to roll out the lossless streaming tier that it first announced a year ago has left the door open for Young to continue denouncing the service’s audio quality. The company initially said HiFi would be available by the end of 2021, but that deadline came and went, and Spotify has since declined to give a new timeframe on when HiFi might be available.

In his note, Young directly mentions Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, explaining that he met Ek back in the service’s early days. “It sounded to me like he was really going to be getting into it. I wonder what happened.” Young closes by saying he’s happy and proud about the decision he’s made, which he says is meant to show solidarity with health care workers and others working to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. “As an unexpected bonus, I sound better everywhere else.”