As reported earlier in the week, Neil Young’s new high-quality audio offering has opened for funding on Kickstarter and, in a matter of hours, had galloped past $1m with 34 days still to go. Pono includes both a store (PonoMusic) and hardware (PonoPlayer). The service says it has deals with all three major labels and “many of the independents”. It also, crucially, has access to the studio masters for the catalogue it will be offering so it can encode the tracks at the highest possible quality. Tracks, based on the demo video, will cost around $1.99 each while albums will be around the $18 mark. Pledges start at $5 and go all the way up to $5,000 (which involves a VIP dinner and listening party with Neil Young himself). “We were selling shit,” is how Young, Pono’s founder and chairman, bluntly chose to describe the MP3 business in his SXSW speech. “They were buying wallpaper.” An audience member asked what cut Pono would take of download sales and, according to Billboard, an awkward process of Young and Pono CEO John Hamm sidestepping the issue followed.
As expected, Pono retails for $399 and comes with 128GB of storage, which the company says will mean it can hold up to 800 high-resolution tracks, although this can be expanded using memory cards. This could be a sticking point for consumers (earlier rumours suggested it could store up to 2,000 tracks) and seems like a throwback (regardless of the audio quality) to the MP3 player market before the iPod came along where most devices only held a few hundred songs. To help his cause, Young has roped in a number of famous musicians – from David Crosby and Elton John to Norah Jones, Duane Eddy and Arcade Fire (we didn’t watch all the way through, but U2’s singer is bound to be in there quacking on about “the Bono Pono”) – to provide vox pops after using Pono and trumpet the quality of the service. Pono set itself a funding goal of $800k and just over a month (until 15th April) to raise it. By 07.10 (GMT) it had raised $1,008,542 from 3,121 backers. Pono is go.