Neil Young’s Pono Music Kickstarter has reached the end of its run on the crowdfunding site, raising $6.2m from 18,220 backers. “On behalf of Pono, we thank you for helping us give music a voice. You have helped to set the stage for a revolution in music listening,” wrote Young in a celebratory message to backers.
“It’s been a long time coming. It was not easy getting this far, but you made it happen by supporting Pono’s vision for better listening. We have been working with the labels, with the artists and producers, and we will continue to do that.”
He promised further updates in the coming months, as Pono sets about building the first run of PonoPlayers and launching its downloads store. There’s also a stirring pitch to artists and labels: “High quality digital is wonderful to hear and sense. It is the sound of the 21st Century,” wrote Young. “Record companies, this is an opportunity to rescue the art of recorded sound…”
The crowdfunding campaign has been an undeniable success for Pono: it’s the third biggest Kickstarter total ever, behind only the Pebble smartwatch ($10.3m) and Ouya games console ($8.6m). It’s also thus the biggest music-related Kickstarter ever, although it reached that milestone weeks ago when zooming past artist Amanda Palmer’s $1.2m total.
For Pono, the hard work really begins now, and the company has already said that it’ll be looking for a more traditional funding round in May or June this year – a strategy also followed by Pebble and Ouya following their campaigns. Pono didn’t need the $6.2m to develop its first PonoPlayer gadget either – the company quietly raised seed financing for that.
The real value of its Kickstarter campaign has been to create buzz around the PonoPlayer, its PonoMusic store and Young’s vision of higher-quality music downloads. Kickstarter as a PR campaign, as well as (in theory) proving there’s a demand out there to persuade VC firms to chip in to the upcoming investment round.
But perhaps the most valuable benefit for Pono is the community it has created: those 18,220 people who stumped up already. The company can now tap those early adopters for feedback, and keep them informed on Pono’s progress to make them an online street team of sorts, keeping its buzz going in the run-up to the first devices shipping in October.
And if it can convert a decent chunk of these people into regular music buyers from its store, it’ll have the first shoots of a sustainable business…