If at first you don't succeed...

"I'm going to make this disappear."

Neil Young is back!, touting high-res again, but this time things are going to be different. Better...

As you might imagine, I found it difficult to raise more money for this model: delivering quality music at a premium price to a limited audience that felt they were being taken advantage of with the high costs.

So now, sadly with Pono gone, for more than eight months I’ve been working with our small team to look for alternatives. Finding a way to deliver the quality music without the expense and to bring it to a larger audience has been our goal.

The alternative? High-res streaming!

As earlier hinted at, Young has been working with OraStream and will employ their adaptive bitrate streaming technology for Xstream, his thusly named upcoming streaming service. In essence, OraStream tech has the smarts to know what your current connection to the net can handle so it throttles the bitrate up or down as dictated by your the size of your pipe (don't take it personal), as Young explained, "Xstream plays at the highest quality your network condition allows at that moment and adapts as the network conditions change."

But there's a catch (there always is with a Young plan, isn't there).

Good sounding music is not a premium. All songs should cost the same, regardless of digital resolution. Let the people decide what they want to listen to without charging them more for true quality.
Now that's a catch I can get behind (I also got behind Pono so there's that).

To my mind, the bigger (potential) news embedded in Xtreme is this—if (that's a big "if") Young's new streaming service gets buy-in from the big three major labels, the big three will making high-res versions of their catalogs available. Read, non-MQA versions.

Jumping into the streaming service market today is a sure way to not make money. The real question will be—present company included? And if that's the case, who will be Xtreme enough to cover all the red ink and for how long?

reruam's picture

So there's a software update for the Microrendu.... it will now support Spotify!

notung's picture

Can't this be also applied to Tidal, Deezer and the likes? Spotify's lossless is around the corner and if Apple joins them later, game over. There is no way the 3 majors will offer all their catalog in hi-res for a market of <1% of buyers, besides only a tiny fraction of their catalog has been recorded in native hi-res,+90% of labeled hi-res today is remastered from CD or tapes.

Fetuso's picture

Maybe this is dumb question, but why don't the labels establish their own streaming service(s)? Why, in this age of the internet, do they still deal with middle-men?

DH's picture

The labels are part owners of several of the streaming services. Good model for them. They get all the royalties (screwing performers and songwriters) and take much less of the risk.

I admire what NY is trying to do, but can't imagine that the labels will go along with it. Long term health of the industry vs. short term profit? Which do you think will win?

Fetuso's picture

You're right, I forgot that. I think they own some of Tidal, maybe others.

achristilaw's picture

I have Tidal and Amazon Unlimited and won't take on anything else. The higher-rez Tidal isn't bad at all actually. Amazon's offering is cheap for a years worth for prime members. I'm securing an MQA dac to play with that. Streaming is so damn convenient, good luck Neil.

orastream's picture

With Neil Young's announcement of Xstream, there's been a number of questions to what OraStream's technology is about. To this end, we put up some technical resources about MPEG-4 SLS and how it's used in adaptive bit-rate streaming here:


Anton's picture

The Pono is gone
but it's not forgotten
This is the story
of a thing I've boughten
It's better to burn out
than it is to rust
The Pono is gone
but it's not forgotten.

Well, It will look good on the shelf next to my laser disc player, elcassette, 8-track, cassette, etc...

Anybody recall the triangular column device Jerry garcia tried to invent for music playback back in the 70's?

Illbay's picture

Not even Young can defy the laws of economics.

The fact is that, unlike when he first entered the market as a musician (and I as a listener), the following things are now true:

1. The vast majority of the market buys SONGS (tracks) not albums
2. The vast majority of the market listens on portable devices via streaming
3. The vast majority of devices over which the music is heard, have no way to distinguish between hi-fidelity and "medium fidelity" (for want of a better term) music insofar as playback is concerned (this i analogous to when I was a kid, and we listened MOSTLY to transistor radios)

Therefore, Young's (and anyone else's) proposed high bitrate streaming service will only benefit a very few customers relative to the entire market for sound. For the great majority of the market, they just do not care if it's 128kbps or 1012. It will make no different to them - only the price will.

I realize he's saying that if you have a low bitrate stream available, that's what you'll get, and that you'll pay the same as someone who has an audiophile rig.

But I don't believe it.