Neil Young vents about Google ripping off music artists

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Neil Young came into fame during the 1960s, when music was used as a form of protest – for everything from the Vietnam War to equal rights. The legendary singer, now 72, has kept the spirit of music as protest alive. He memorably took on MTV and the commercialization of rock music with his 1998 song “This Note’s For You” and its accompanying video, which was banned from MTV. The ban inspired Neil to compose an open letter calling MTV execs “spineless twerps,” adding, “You refuse to play ‘This Note’s for You’ because you’re afraid to offend your sponsors. What does the ‘M’ in MTV stand for: music or money? Long live rock and roll.” Interestingly, the video went on to take Video of the Year honors at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Flash forward thirty years, and Neil is still as outspoken as ever, now taking on Google and other tech companies, accusing them of “building their wealth on music’s back and paying nothing to the artists.” In an essay posted to his Neil Young Archives site, he said:

Today, in the age of FaceBook [sic], GOOGLE, and Amazon, it’s hard to tell how a new and growing musical artist could make it in the way we did. The Tech Giants have figured out a way to use all the great music of everyone from all time, without reporting an artist’s number of plays or paying a fucking cent to the musicians. Aren’t they great companies!!! It makes you wonder where the next generation of artists will come from. How will they survive?

‘Don’t Be Evil.’ That was GOOGLE’s corporate motto as they directed users to pirate sites to get artists’ creations and not pay!! Amazing tech breakthrough!! Meanwhile, they reap the bucks from ads people read while listening to music made by the artists. GOOGLE just changed their motto to ‘Do The Right Thing,’ but haven’t changed anything else as they continue to rip off the artist community, building their wealth on music’s back and paying nothing to the artists. WOW! Brilliant tech breakthrough! BTW, GOOGLE is YOUTUBE! Guess who’s next?

Neil used the post to promote his Neil Young Archives project, a streaming platform where fans can access music that spans Neil’s career, from his solo work to his songs with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby Stills Nash and Young. Neil, who also had issues with the sound quality of his music on streaming services (although I found his songs on Spotify) has launched his own streaming service, XStream.

I’m sure a lot of people think Neil is rock’s resident curmudgeon, but he makes us remember that rock is about being a rebel. I’m not a huge fan of Neil’s. I won’t turn off “Heart of Gold” when I hear it on the radio and I always loved his experiment in doo-wop, Wonderin’. I’m glad he’s speaking up and fighting the man.

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Neil Young signs copies of his book 'Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life & Cars'

Neil Young performs live in concert

Neil Young performs live

Photos: Getty Images,

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10 Responses to “Neil Young vents about Google ripping off music artists”

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  1. Millennial says:

    Remember when Google tried to digitize every book, despite copyright law, and didn’t stop until they got sued and lost. Because I remember. They’ve been pulling this crap for a long time, so it doesn’t surprise me.

  2. Junebug says:

    I love Neil Young. They don’t make em like that anymore!

  3. Aang says:

    I really have nothing to add other than I love Neil Young. I discovered him in my mid teens and his music held me over until grunge arrived and I could embrace my gen xness instead of wishing I was a boomer.

  4. V4Real says:

    Not really a Young fan, I like maybe a couple of songs by him. I understand his frustration though. I can listen to an artist entire album on YouTube and not have to pay a cent.

    It’s been many years since I bought a CD but I do purchase songs I want to keep from Amazon music MP3.

  5. Beatrice says:

    Neil is a crabby old fart, but he’s totally right. Good for him for taking on these tech giants. Glad to see the old rocker hasn’t lost his righteous indignation over artists being ripped off.

  6. HK9 says:

    He’s right. They need to stop ripping artists off and pay them what they deserve. It’s not made for free and they should be compensated like everyone else.

  7. JeanGenie says:

    Neil Young’s music has been inspiring, devastating, and filling me with joy for 30 years. He’s going to live forever, right? Phew, thanks.

  8. brutalethyl says:

    I love the man’s music but not so much the man since he left his wife for Darryl Hannah. None of my business but I lost respect for him when he made that shit move. shrug

  9. Pickles and Cheese says:

    Neil Young remains gold. And he’s right.

  10. DesertReal says:

    He has a point.
    Large corporations have been pulling this crap since the beginning of time.
    They’ve just gotten better at marketing themselves (i.e. Google, Amazon, Apple, etc.)