Neil Young may be dedicated to communicating with his fan community, but the fragmented, hit-and-miss way in which he does it makes it difficult to assemble a coherent narrative of what, exactly, he’s up to. Way back in May, Industry News in Copper #32 reported Neil’s announcement that Pono was essentially dead—no surprise there, as the service’s online store disappeared back in July, 2016—and Young would be starting a new streaming service called Xstream, dedicated to adaptive high-resolution streaming.
Xstream is not yet live, but Young periodically releases bits of information—and not in the usual here’s-a-press-release way. This message was posted on Young’s Facebook page on July 15th:
“Streaming has ended for me. I hope this is ok for my fans.
“It’s not because of the money, although my share (like all the other artists) was dramatically reduced by bad deals made without my consent.
“It’s about sound quality. I don’t need my music to be devalued by the worst quality in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution. I don’t feel right allowing this to be sold to my fans. It’s bad for my music.
“For me, It’s about making and distributing music people can really hear and feel. I stand for that.
“When the quality is back, I’ll give it another look. Never say never.
Since then, there have been no formal announcements on the member-only Pono community, but Young’s intentions have been revealed on a new website, neilyoungarchives.com. In a message posted recently on the site, Young said that the archives will be the exclusive online source for his music, starting with his first recording from 1963 (!!), all the way through to the present day. All will be delivered in Xstream adaptive streaming, supposedly delivering the highest quality signal possible over any connection.
Young recently announced the forthcoming release of Hitchhiker, an album from 1976 which has never previously seen the light of day. Young indicated that there would be much more previously-unreleased material that would appear on the Archives website, along with full production notes on each piece.
Given the massive catalog of Young’s work, this promises to be a huge project— and no details have been released as to the cost of Xstream, when material will begin to appear, or any other details of how the service will operate.
Given Young’s track record with Pono, it’s safe to bet that Xstream will take a while to appear…if it appears at all.
I hate to be skeptical, but consider the source.