A year ago, CNN reported that Apple was working on a high-fidelity music service that would have required updates to its iPods and other music playing devices.

“Most of you aren’t hearing it the way it’s supposed to sound,” Dr. Dre said in a Beats Audio promotional video. “And you should — hear it the way I do.”

“What we’re trying to do here is fix the degradation of music that the digital revolution has caused,” he said. “It’s one thing to have music stolen through the ease of digital processing. But it’s another thing to destroy the quality of it. And that’s what’s happening on a massive scale.”

You would be forgiven for thinking that the late Steve Jobs enjoyed digital music on his home stereo through his iPod or MacBook. Quite the contrary, though, despite him single-handedly taking the music industry by storm with the iPod and the online iTunes digital music store a decade ago, Apple’s cofounder preferred listening to vinyl. In an interview with Walt Mossberg and Peter Kafka at the “D: Dive into Media” conference, musician Neil Young said the digital age “degraded our music” quality-wise.

A better techology is needed, Young cried. Conceivably, only one man would have been up to the task:

Steve Jobs as a pioneer of digital music and his legacy is tremendous. But when he went home, he listened to vinyl. And you’ve got to believe that if he’d lived long enough, he would have done what I’m trying to do.

Bloomberg expands on that saying that Jobs was actually working on a high-fidelity music service:

Musician Neil Young said he worked with Steve Jobs on a high-fidelity music service before Apple (AAPL) Inc. shelved the project.

While chief executive officer of Apple, Jobs sought to offer uncompressed music digitally, Young said today at an AllThingsD.com media conference in Dana Point, California. Apple “pretty much” has stopped working on the project, said Young, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who is known for the songs “Harvest Moon” and “Heart of Gold.”

We also love Young’s take on piracy:

Piracy is new radio. That’s how music gets around.

We can imagine Jobs’ reaction to Young’s school of thought, even if he only pointed out the music industry’s Achilles’ Heel. Young also said this of record labels:

What I like about record companies is that they present and nurture artists. That doesn’t exist on iTunes, it doesn’t exist on Amazon. That’s what a record company does and that’s why I like my record company. People look at record companiues like they’re obsolete, but there’s a lot of soul in there — a lot of people who care about music, and that’s very important.

Young’s thinking on the labels much echoes that of Steve Jobs, as laid out in a prophetic 2003 Rolling Stone interview:

There are a lot of smart people at the music companies. The problem is they’re not technology people. The good music companies do an amazing thing. They have people who can pick the person who’s gonna be successful out of 5,000 candidates. It’s an intuitive process. And the best music companies know how to do that with a reasonably high success rate. I think that’s a good thing. The world needs more smart editorial these days.

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2 Responses to “Neil Young: In spite of iPod revolution, Steve Jobs enjoyed vinyl, was working on high-fidelity music service”

  1. Bob Smogango says:

    Reading this is just a bunch of BS. Music is originally tracked using either analog or digital and after it gets mixed into a 2 channel (typically), it then gets mastered and depending on what the record label/producers want, it get dumbed down into 16 Bit Redbook, AAC, MP3 and for the typical pop/rock/hip hop recording, it gets compressed, EQ’d, etc. and then the consumer gets a crappy version of the original master.

    Read this article/interview of Bob Ludwig. http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue58/ludwig.htm


  2. Bob Smogango says:

    Oh, Steve also enjoyed SACD, but there wasn’t as much content available in SACD format.