There are many things I could post about in this incredibly interesting USA Today piece, and I will return to it, but I’ll start with this paragraph:
Neil Young recently announced that the first volume of his long-awaited archives project would arrive this fall on 10 Blu-ray Discs. The rocker, who has long decried the sound of CD and digital recording as brittle, says, “Previous technology required unacceptable quality compromises.” In addition to HD video, Blu-ray Disc players support the playback of high-resolution music beyond a CD’s dynamic range.
I am a huge Neil Young fan. I own about thirty Neil Young albums and hope to eventually have all of his studio records. This archives project was first announced in 1997 or 1998–I’ve been waiting for it that long. So when I started hearing buzz that this might come out in the near future, I was stoked.
Neil has been bitching about CD sound pretty much since the format came out. He likes current popular digital formats even less. This is understandable, to an extent. MP3s don’t sound as good as CDs, even when ripped with care, and there are a lot of people out there who want something better (I’ll be posting on that soon). I can certainly understand an artist wanting his music to sound as good as it possibly can.
But this screws me over pretty good. I’m assuming the box set will cost, at a minimum, $200, and possibly much more. Add to that the cost of a Blu-ray player, which I don’t yet own as I don’t have an HDTV–much of my money has been going into absolutely necessary home renovations, so I’ve had to put off purchasing an HDTV until I recover from that large expense.
But even buying a Blu-ray player would restrict me to listening to it in my living room. I spend the majority of my time at home (when not asleep) in my study. So, in order to listen to it there, I also need to buy a Blu-ray drive for my computer, something I don’t have much use for other than listening to this particular box set, unless Blu-ray takes off as the next hot musical format, something I’ve seen no sign of.
That’s a pretty hefty price tag, even for something I’ve been lusting after for ten years.
And there’s still no portability! If I want to listen to this in my car, I can’t. My head unit certainly doesn’t play Blu-ray, and I’m sure as hell not playing something that costs this much in my car anyway–too much risk of damage. The only way I could hear this in my car or anywhere else is to rip it to MP3 and stick it on my iPod–I know Neil would disapprove, but what else am I supposed to do? But wait! Can you even rip MP3s from Blu-ray? I have no idea. Would I have to buy software and spend even more money?
The consequence of this decision is that, for the most part, only rich people will be able to buy this set, and even they will only be able to listen to it while chained to a Blu-ray player. Is this what you want, Neil? The best sound quality in the world doesn’t mean a thing if no one will ever hear it.
The solution is simple, although Neil won’t like it.
I hit the vinyl section at Waterloo Records to pick up the Mudcrutch LP (with CD) and noticed that some vinyl releases now include vouchers, so that you can download MP3s of the album–that way you get higher sound quality when you’re at home, but you can still take it on the road with you. It’s an eminently sensible arrangement, as it doesn’t punish consumers who prefer vinyl to CD when the option is available. (In case you were curious, the new Madonna album was the one that was offering this.)
The Neil Young archives box set should include this option. It should also allow you to download lossless files for listening to on your computer and for portability at some time in the future when our iPods will be a jillion gigs and play lossless formats.
This would be a compromise, but life is about compromises. We don’t live in a perfect world. Please, Neil, do the right thing.