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Neil Young tries excusing his return to Spotify by saying Apple Music is now as bad

Neil Young with his failed PonoPlayer

Two years after pulling his music from Spotify in protest over the Joe Rogan podcast, Neil Young claims Apple Music and most streamers are all as bad — so he might as well be on all of them.

Neil Young has a long history with streaming music services, going back to 2012 when he claimed to have been working on a high quality music format with Steve Jobs. Since then he has complained about "Fisher Price" level audio quality in the MacBook Pro, and he briefly pulled his music from almost all streamers for the same reason.

Taking his music off Spotify, Apple Music, and more in 2016 was at least partly his taking a stance against how poor audio quality. But it was also a reaction to how the quality of his own high definition music player, the $400 Pono device, had been beaten by the iPhone in a blind test.

Compared to that commercially-motivated pulling of music and subsequent inevitable return, Young's later removal of his music from Spotify was much more of a genuine protest.

In 2022, Young complained that Spotify was hosting the Joe Rogan podcast, despite it spreading COVID misinformation. He pulled his entire catalog from Spotify because of this.

Notably, for the first time, his move encouraged other artists to leave Spotify too. Most significantly, Joni Mitchell and R&B singer/songwriter India.Arie, removed their music too.

Now according to an announcement on his website, Neil Young says he's returning to Spotify because it's no longer the only streamer spreading this specific disinformation.

"Spotify, the #1 streamer of low res music in the world," he said in a blog post, "Spotify, where you get less quality than we made, will now be home of my music again."

"My decision comes as music services Apple and Amazon have started serving the same disinformation podcast features I had opposed at Spotify," he continued.

This is a reference to how Spotify reportedly paid $250 million to continue the Joe Rogan podcast, but dropped its exclusivity clause on the contract. Free to distribute his podcast now to other services, Rogan has done just that.

There's a difference between it being possible to access the Joe Rogan podcast, and funding it to the tune of $250 million. Young's return is really an admission that musicians can no longer afford to ignore the streaming market.

"I cannot just leave Apple and Amazon, like I did Spotify, because my music would have very little streaming outlet to music lovers at all," continued Young, "so I have returned to Spotify, in sincere hopes that Spotify sound quality will improve and people will be able to hear and feel all the music as we made it."

Rather than continue protesting against Spotify over its Joe Rogan podcast, Young has pivoted back to being critical of its audio quality. Noting that Qobuz and Tidal present his music in high audio quality, he has called on Spotify to improve.

"Hopefully Spotify will turn to Hi Res as the answer and serve all the music to everyone," he wrote. "Spotify, you can do it! Really be #1 in all ways. You have the music and the listeners!!!! Start with a limited Hi res tier and build from there!"

Both India.Arie and Joni Mitchell have already returned to Spotify.