Neil Young was described as ‘all smiles’ yesterday after the SXSW launch of his PonoMusic service, and no wonder. At the time of writing, PonoMusic is past $2.2m of pledges on its Kickstarter campaign with 33 days still to go, after setting a sensibly-lowball target of $800k.
“We’re just wondering how long it’ll keep moving like this, but it’s gone very well so far,” Young told Billboard. “It’s hard to ignore that there seems to be a market there for what we’re offering… I think there’s a lot of people who remember good-sounding music, even if they’re in the older generation.”
Young stressed that PonoMusic will be a label-friendly service, including allowing labels (and by extension artists) to decide whether albums are sold unbundled into individual tracks or not. That said, it hasn’t all been sweetness and light.
“I still knock up against them. We knock up against them. I know it took us a long time to get this stuff, but in the end they gave it to us. We didn’t have to pay a fortune for this,” he said. “We talked to them, and they know we are them. We’re not a tech company. We’re a music company. That’s a huge difference.”
PonoMusic CEO Jon Hamm talked on another SXSW panel yesterday, and made a case for his service fulfilling a different role to streaming services like Spotify. “We’re going to let these guys take care of discovery and those kinds of things, and I don’t think that’s our role in the industry,” he said, according to Evolver.fm.
“We’re going to try to fill out catalogs of artists that really have incredible catalog following — The Rolling Stones, Neil Young — you know the names, people with more than 15 or 20 significant albums.”
That’s the latest sign that PonoMusic is being positioned as a heritage-music store for audiophiles – an answer to some of the questions this week about why it’s focused on ownership of files rather than access to streams.
Our caveat is a different one: $2.2m of Kickstarter pledges in a couple of days sounds impressive, but that’s from just under 7,000 backers – a small audience for a new digital music store. Let’s say it reaches $10m in pledges by the end of the campaign: at $300 per device that’s potentially another 26,000 PonoPlayer owners.
None of which is a criticism of PonoMusic or its team: just a healthy reminder that the important work will come after the campaign to continue growing the Pono community into a sustainable store.