Neil Young is making a massive mistake by limiting his forthcoming Archive collection to Blu-Ray.For someone who has put his audience first for more than 40 years, Young is risking alienation of epic proportions by placing his fan-base below technology.
For those of you who missed it, this week Young announced at the Sun Microsystems conference in San Francisco that his forthcoming Archives collection would only be released on Blu-Ray. (The Blu-Ray technology runs on the Java platform, a propriety technology of Sun Microsystems).
Young has totally miscalculated his fan-base for what appears to be a business decision. Sure, the technology for what Young wants to do with this is the best. There is no question about that. The trouble is how many Neil Young fans will ever get to hear it?
The issues here are three-fold:
1. What if I can't afford a Blu-Ray player? It is a valid point. Young fans aren't all as rich as Neil Young, and the Blu-Ray top-of-the-range technology for your home comes at a top-of-the-range price.
2. What if I can afford it, but use another platform? PlayStation 3 supports Blu-Ray. If I have PS2 or PSP, the Neil Young Archives can't be played. Also if my player of choice is X-Box, I cannot play the Archives.
3. What if I do have PS3 or a Blu-Ray disc but want to listen to the archive elsewhere? I can't. The technology won't allow me to download the music to my iPod or burn it to CD. I cannot play the Archive in my car, I can't play it when I travel and I certainly can't move it from room to room, unless I have another Blu-Ray player.
Who is the Neil Young fan and who is the Blu-Ray purchaser? Neil Young has an aged fan-base. For him, under 40-year-old fans gets pretty thin. Neil's fans are mostly middle-aged and older. There is nothing wrong with that. The point he missed is that this is the demographic that still buys CDs. It is not the download market. It is a demographic slow to adapt to new technology but it is a loyal fan base who will pay $150 for a Neil Young concert ticket. By aliening with Sun Microsystems, he has alienated the people who mean the most to him.
So why has he done this? Well, it is no secret that Neil Young is a technology nutter. This Archive collection has been 20 years coming. Man, Axl Rose's 'Chinese Democracy' has nothing on the wait for this title. Every time it looks like happening, Young aborts the project because he isn't happy with the available technology.
Ironically, we are talking about songs, at least on these initial releases that were recorded in mono for vinyl. This title was conceived when vinyl was still around. CD wasn't good enough. CD-ROM wasn't good enough. DVD wasn't good enough. Streaming certainly isn't good enough but Blu-Ray obviously is.
Well, it is for Neil at least. But Neil doesn't need Blu-Ray. He has a home studio. Considering the number of people this title via this technology will actually appeal to, maybe Neil should just invite them around to his house and pump it through his own speakers.
Taking the check fro Sun Microsystems, attending a Sun-Microsystems conference to basically announce just about every one of his fans will not be able to access this release is a gross miscalculation for Neil Young.
It wasn't for Sun Microsystems though. The technology company is having a bad year. A little Neil Young driven publicity didn't hurt that stock this week at all. Neil, this stocks for you!
So, please, come to your senses. Release the Blu-Ray edition of Archives but also make it available for the other 99% of your audience. It should be on CD, it should be available for downloads and if you REALLY want to emulate the original sound, put it out on vinyl.
It is about the audience, not the technology.