Dear Neil, Streaming Is Just Fine [Charts]

I love Neil Young, but he really made a mess of things yesterday by taking to Facebook to complain about, of all things, streaming music.

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"Old Man", indeed.  This is coming from the guy who recorded an album in a early 20th century phone booth.

I don't deny artists the ability to take a principled stand on something, but this is clearly just denying the inevitable -- people want the convenience and experience of streaming.  And frankly, this move is really only hurting fans who actually love (and pay for) these services already.

Plus, his observation is just not true.

I was recently shown this audio quality survey conducted by and summarized succinctly with a couple of great charts.

The goal was to get its recipients to distinguish between lossless audio and compressed mp3s in a "blind" test.  To be comprehensive, a variety of tunes across multiple genres were used as test subjects.

We picked six songs from different eras and genres: an early digital recording of a Mozart piano concerto, an a cappella version of a pop song, the billionth song ever sold on iTunes, the most-streamed song of 2014 and two songs from musicians who happen to own digital music services. We cut a short clip from each song and then offered that clip three ways: as a 128 kbps MP3 file, a 320 kbps MP3 file and a higher-quality lossless WAV file.

That's it.  Those taking the survey had a 1 in 3 chance of selecting the highest quality file.    The result?  Monkeys hitting buttons at random could correctly guess nearly as good as humans listening and making an "educated" guess.

Here is a graph showing the percent of survey participants answering correctly for each of the six songs.  Remember:  a random number generator would respond at 33.3%.

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Here's another view.  If there is a super-listener out there that can correctly identify all 6 lossless streams, they represent about 1.6% of the people surveyed.  If fact, about 55% of respondents either got 0, 1 or 2 of the clips correct -- the same (or worse) than guessing outright.

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And in the end, what does it matter?  If people enjoy listening to this stuff in streaming format, they will.  Isn't better than not having the opportunity to listen to the music at all?

I'm not telling Neil what to think about this... but sorry that PONO is a failure.  Maybe he should stick with picking on Monsanto?

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