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To Feel the Music: A Songwriter's Mission to Save High-Quality Audio

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Neil Young took on the music industry so that fans could hear his music—all music—the way it was meant to be heard. Today, most of the music fans listen to is streamed via online services and highly compressed. It’s convenient, but, frustratingly, this comes at the cost of quality. Gone are the days when it was technologically necessary to compress music into the smallest Neil Young took on the music industry so that fans could hear his music—all music—the way it was meant to be heard. Today, most of the music fans listen to is streamed via online services and highly compressed. It’s convenient, but, frustratingly, this comes at the cost of quality. Gone are the days when it was technologically necessary to compress music into the smallest possible file size, yet this remains the industry standard. The result is music that is robbed of its original quality—muddy and flat in sound compared to the rich, warm sound artists hear in the studio. It doesn’t have to be this way, but the record and technology companies have incorrectly assumed that most listeners are satisfied with these low-quality tracks. Neil Young is challenging the assault on audio quality—and working to free music lovers from the flat and lifeless status quo. To Feel the Music is the true story of Neil’s quest to bring high-quality audio back to music lovers—which he considers the most important undertaking of his career. Inside, follow Neil as he discovers the step by step deterioration of recorded sound as analog is methodically replaced by digital CDs, MP3s, and low-price, low-quality streaming; gathers others committed to his goal of delivering music the way artists intend for it to sound; and eventually develops the Neil Young Archives, a high-res streaming site that gives users unprecedented access to all of Neil’s music—in the best quality their devices can handle—videos, photos, and more. Neil’s efforts to bring quality audio to his fans garnered media attention when his Kickstarter campaign for his Pono player—a revolutionary music player that would combine the highest quality possible with the portability, simplicity and affordability modern listeners crave—became the third-most successful Kickstarter campaign in the website’s history. It had raised more than $6M in pledges in 40 days. Encouraged by the enthusiastic response, Neil still had a long road ahead, and his Pono music player would not have the commercial success he’d imagined. But he remained committed to his mission, and faced with the rise of streaming services that used even lower quality audio, he was determined to rise to the challenge. An eye-opening read for all fans of Neil Young and all fans of great music, as well as readers interesting in going behind the scenes of product creation, To Feel the Music has an inspiring story at its heart: One determined artist with a groundbreaking vision and the absolute refusal to give up, despite setbacks, naysayers, and skeptics.


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Neil Young took on the music industry so that fans could hear his music—all music—the way it was meant to be heard. Today, most of the music fans listen to is streamed via online services and highly compressed. It’s convenient, but, frustratingly, this comes at the cost of quality. Gone are the days when it was technologically necessary to compress music into the smallest Neil Young took on the music industry so that fans could hear his music—all music—the way it was meant to be heard. Today, most of the music fans listen to is streamed via online services and highly compressed. It’s convenient, but, frustratingly, this comes at the cost of quality. Gone are the days when it was technologically necessary to compress music into the smallest possible file size, yet this remains the industry standard. The result is music that is robbed of its original quality—muddy and flat in sound compared to the rich, warm sound artists hear in the studio. It doesn’t have to be this way, but the record and technology companies have incorrectly assumed that most listeners are satisfied with these low-quality tracks. Neil Young is challenging the assault on audio quality—and working to free music lovers from the flat and lifeless status quo. To Feel the Music is the true story of Neil’s quest to bring high-quality audio back to music lovers—which he considers the most important undertaking of his career. Inside, follow Neil as he discovers the step by step deterioration of recorded sound as analog is methodically replaced by digital CDs, MP3s, and low-price, low-quality streaming; gathers others committed to his goal of delivering music the way artists intend for it to sound; and eventually develops the Neil Young Archives, a high-res streaming site that gives users unprecedented access to all of Neil’s music—in the best quality their devices can handle—videos, photos, and more. Neil’s efforts to bring quality audio to his fans garnered media attention when his Kickstarter campaign for his Pono player—a revolutionary music player that would combine the highest quality possible with the portability, simplicity and affordability modern listeners crave—became the third-most successful Kickstarter campaign in the website’s history. It had raised more than $6M in pledges in 40 days. Encouraged by the enthusiastic response, Neil still had a long road ahead, and his Pono music player would not have the commercial success he’d imagined. But he remained committed to his mission, and faced with the rise of streaming services that used even lower quality audio, he was determined to rise to the challenge. An eye-opening read for all fans of Neil Young and all fans of great music, as well as readers interesting in going behind the scenes of product creation, To Feel the Music has an inspiring story at its heart: One determined artist with a groundbreaking vision and the absolute refusal to give up, despite setbacks, naysayers, and skeptics.

30 review for To Feel the Music: A Songwriter's Mission to Save High-Quality Audio

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Should have been a compelling story, but the writing was so dull and repetitive (and the tone so weirdly angry/defensive) that I wound up skimming later chapters even as a huge Neil Young fan and tech-interested audiophile. A few scattered interesting anecdotes and explanations.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Although I enjoyed both Young's previous books, To Feel The Music simply isn't compelling. He belabors the same points again and again ("Why won't anyone embrace high quality sound?") without adding much to each chapter - or even each paragraph. And heck, I agree with him! Baker's chapters are somewhat more compelling, but you probably have to have an interest in project development/business writing to get really invested in them. Nobody seems to want to really acknowledge that the digital store Although I enjoyed both Young's previous books, To Feel The Music simply isn't compelling. He belabors the same points again and again ("Why won't anyone embrace high quality sound?") without adding much to each chapter - or even each paragraph. And heck, I agree with him! Baker's chapters are somewhat more compelling, but you probably have to have an interest in project development/business writing to get really invested in them. Nobody seems to want to really acknowledge that the digital store model had already passed them by in favor of streaming, so it all seems irrelevant until the last 20 pages.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    The book is really 'by Phil Baker with the odd few comments by Neil Young'..any I digress. I myself am a 100% BELIEVER in Mr. Young's HiDef/Gold Standard audio revolution, I invested in a Pono, and subsequently nearly $10K in upgrading my speakers, my stereo amps and turntable to FEEL THE MUSIC. Now I am broke. This book is basically a Project Report written by Phil Baker, outline the Pono/Kickstarter campaign and the difficulties creating a viable, sustainable consumer product. It's a bit dull. The book is really 'by Phil Baker with the odd few comments by Neil Young'..any I digress. I myself am a 100% BELIEVER in Mr. Young's HiDef/Gold Standard audio revolution, I invested in a Pono, and subsequently nearly $10K in upgrading my speakers, my stereo amps and turntable to FEEL THE MUSIC. Now I am broke. This book is basically a Project Report written by Phil Baker, outline the Pono/Kickstarter campaign and the difficulties creating a viable, sustainable consumer product. It's a bit dull. Neil Young chips in with his passionate, idealistic ramblings. At it's best, the PONO experiment 'woke' thousands of music fans to the issue of poor audio quality, the evil of the compression/loudness wars, and the fact that music deserves to be released at the quality the artist wants it at, I mean heck, the Criterion Collection does that for movies, so why isn't there a consumer gold standard for music?? My two bobs, vinyl DOESN'T sound better than properly remastered digital, even the 240gm stuff, CD's for before the 2000s sounds BETTER than all the shit that came after, especially all those rubbishy 'deluxe editions' why because compression and loudness boosting stuffed it. The Neil Young archive is a great idea, but it would be BETTER if I could doesn't the uncompressed, remastered FLACS to list to on my PONO, though my $10000 hifi system! Finally, I think those Bluetooth speakers are getting even better quality, delivering HiDef 'uncoloured' audio, I bought my daughter a JBL Flip4 and it sounds better and has better battery life than the 'hidef ready' Core I crowdfunded 5 years ago. So I must say, the future for HiDef music is looking pretty good, well in Japan, anyway, in America they still want their Starbuck/Apple/Trump pieces of crap. S0 fuck them.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gary A. Lucero

    Great as a history off the Pono player, less interesting as a soapbox for Neil Young This book excels when recounting the history of the Pono music player but falls down when presenting Neil Young's opinions on digital music. I'm not saying he's wrong, and I've been a lifelong fan, but opinions don't really count for much, although i think his cause is noble.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    Unless you work in consumer product design or production, are a clueless start-up wannabe OR a crazy-mad Neil Young fan (yup, you guessed, I fit in the latter).... this really doesn't have a whole lot to offer. Which isn't to say in isn't relatively engaging, fluidly written and almost anoyingly granular. Beware though NY fans -- The Healer only pens around 25% of the total, and while there are a few amusing/pertinent insights into his life and thinking (like when the guys at Ford bring in a Sta Unless you work in consumer product design or production, are a clueless start-up wannabe OR a crazy-mad Neil Young fan (yup, you guessed, I fit in the latter).... this really doesn't have a whole lot to offer. Which isn't to say in isn't relatively engaging, fluidly written and almost anoyingly granular. Beware though NY fans -- The Healer only pens around 25% of the total, and while there are a few amusing/pertinent insights into his life and thinking (like when the guys at Ford bring in a Starbucks for all, shortly after the "A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop" tirade has dropped...) -- there's really not enough to engage a non clinically obsessed devotee.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Xied

    Found this on the shelf on the way out the library on my last visit and finally finished it. It is interesting to read the plight and peril of the team's effort to create the audio device of Neil's dreams. They had highlights to keep them going, and some good fortune with most of their team. I admit I was completely in the dark about the Pono player until reading the book. It was a bittersweet read, but plenty to learn from both Neil and Phil sharing the experience, and their unbounded knowledge Found this on the shelf on the way out the library on my last visit and finally finished it. It is interesting to read the plight and peril of the team's effort to create the audio device of Neil's dreams. They had highlights to keep them going, and some good fortune with most of their team. I admit I was completely in the dark about the Pono player until reading the book. It was a bittersweet read, but plenty to learn from both Neil and Phil sharing the experience, and their unbounded knowledge. Long live the sound of music as intended.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Peter Arato

    Fascinating tale, sign of the times Great read from both a business, music, and audiophile perspective. As with changing behavior with adoption of cell phones, unintended consequences are only seen in hindsight. Even greater admiration for Neil, in his single-minded pursuit of excellence.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Simon Sweetman

    The death of an expensive and impractical reinventing of the digital wheel is commiserated - without wit and at length - and then Neil Young's own digital archive is celebrated in an unsubtle advert as some sort of alleged 'told you so' that proves nothing.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Derek Ambrose

    Fairly interesting recap of the Puretone/Pono story. Young and Baker are quite candid about the mistakes made and opportunities lost. As a fan the fact all of this led to the online NYA is still a win. (Yes I did buy a Pono)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jessica VanDyke

    Ridiculously Boring.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jdetke

    I admire Neil's passion for better quality music, and preserving the greats. Sad take of pono, and state of the music industry today. Support local live music folks

  12. 5 out of 5

    Seb

    Not quite what I expected. Mostly Neil ranting about a topic he is obviously very passionate about. Interesting to read about product development from conception to production.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marcus Rodriguez

    Has Neil Young ever asked to show you the Pono?

  14. 5 out of 5

    PWRL

    O

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jay Gabler

    "You know," writes Neil Young, "I may end up going to my grave and be banging my head against my gravestone trying to get somebody to understand about what's happening to music!" He's not complaining about bro country or trap beats, he's writing about audio quality. The legendary singer-songwriter thinks the recording industry has been experiencing a crisis of audio quality since the '80s, and most listeners have no idea. That latter fact is the crux of the Neil Young dilemma: when you feel like y "You know," writes Neil Young, "I may end up going to my grave and be banging my head against my gravestone trying to get somebody to understand about what's happening to music!" He's not complaining about bro country or trap beats, he's writing about audio quality. The legendary singer-songwriter thinks the recording industry has been experiencing a crisis of audio quality since the '80s, and most listeners have no idea. That latter fact is the crux of the Neil Young dilemma: when you feel like you're banging your head against a gravestone trying to get listeners to understand what they're missing, can the difference really be that big a deal? That's the skeptic's view of Young's Pono project, an entrepreneurial attempt to design and produce a device allowing you — yes, you — to put high-quality music in your pocket. Pono players shipped to Kickstarter backers in 2014, and three years later Pono went kaput. In his new book, co-written with Pono partner Phil Baker, Young chronicles his successful, if brief, attempt to bring a reasonably-priced, reliable high-quality audio player to the consumer market. I reviewed To Feel the Music for The Current.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Du

    Meh, 2.5 Stars. There is a lot of what feels like whining here. I get that pono wasn't the second coming, but move on. The basic writing is fine, and the details about how music is recorded is cool and interesting. The world vs .Neil gets long and boring.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David Mah

    Neil Young’s quest to bring high fidelity music to the masses is engaging. I suppose if we’ve never tasted the best, we will forever be oblivious to the possibilities.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shawnzie Gade

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carl

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ernie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Drew

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elliot Vaughan

  23. 5 out of 5

    Buck Knauer

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mike Joyce

  25. 5 out of 5

    Peter R.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gregory

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Melbie

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  29. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Cheresnick

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jason

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