Marshall Kirkpatrick has a post at Read/Write Web with some notes from an interview he and some other bloggers did with Neil Young at the JavaOne conference. And why was Neil there? Apparently he’s releasing his entire back catalogue as a Blu-Ray disc, which — thanks to the Java embedded in Blu-Ray — will automagically download new content if there is any when you play the disc. Among other things, Neil in jeans and a T-shirt was probably the only person who could make ponytailed Sun CEO Jonathan Schwarz look stuffy and uptight.
I’m a big fan of Neil’s, and always have been. And not just because my family and his family were neighbours in Toronto about a hundred years ago, or because his cottage is up in northern Ontario (“there is a town in North Ontario” he sings in Helpless) just like my cottage. Neil has always done whatever the hell he wanted to do, regardless of what his record label wanted — anyone remember the album Trans, released in 1982? — and he has a similarly straightforward approach to file-sharing and the dangers thereof, according to Marshall’s post.
“It’s up to the masses to distribute it however they want,” he said. “The laws don’t matter at that point. People sharing music in their bedrooms is the new radio.”
Obviously, he’s not saying that he’s happy people are trading mp3 files of his music rather than buying it. But I think he knows he can’t stop it, and I get the sense that he thinks it’s probably on balance a positive thing — and there will always be people who want the Blu-Ray disc with the whole back catalogue, or the $300 package deal that Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails made $1.6-million or so on awhile back, despite the fact that he was effectively giving the entire album away. You just have to focus on that, and give them the best you can give.