Neil Young: Steve Jobs Listened to Vinyl, Piracy is the New Radio

Neil Young says that he and Steve Jobs talked at length about improving digital audio quality, but now his work with Apple is done

Neil Young said Tuesday that he is picking up where Steve Jobs left off, working on a device that can offer digital music without sacrificing quality as iTunes, Amazon and others have done.

“Steve Jobs was a pioneer of digital music, but when he went home he listened to vinyl,” Young told Peter Kafka and Walt Mossberg at AllThingsD’s Dive Into Media Conference. “I have to believe if he lived long enough he would have tried to do what I’m trying to do.”

The legendary rocker is working on a separate device that downloads each song at the highest possible resolution, but that also takes 30 minutes to complete a single download.

Young said he is trying to make legal music as convenient as possible, but some worried that the long download times would be inconvenient.

Young disagreed.

“While you’re sleeping, your device is working for you,” he said.

Young did not invoke Jobs’ name at random. He said that he had been talking with Jobs about the project, but that since the Apple co-founder died in October there is “not much going on now.”

In order for it to hit the market the “rich people out here” –meaning the conference audience– need to help.

Yet just because Young resents digital music and technology companies for reducing the quality of most audio content, that doesn’t mean he takes a backwards approach to illegal music or the Internet.

“I look at Internet as the new radio and radio as gone,” Young said. “Piracy is the new radio; it’s how music gets around."

What does that mean for record companies?

Young hopes they hang around.

“I like Warner Bros. I like my record company,” he told Kafka and Mossberg, the latter of whom asked what record companies can really do for someone of his stature.

“It’s not what’s for me but for other musicians,” Young said. “What I like about record companies is they nurture an artist, they keep encouraging artists to grow. That doesn’t exist on iTunes. That doesn’t exist on Amazon.”

But Young also acknowledged that the record companies make bad business decisions because they are music people who live “in another world form Silicon Valley.”

Acknowledging those that proclaim record companies are obsolete, all Young could say was ”maybe they are.”