The month of October is already half over and Halloween is right around the corner. This is the month that Pono promised to begin sending their new players to supporters and to launch their music download site. So I stopped by Ponomusic.com for a peek. I was curious about the design and layout, the type of information that will be provided with each tune, and whether they will segregate their catalog of CD specification downloads from the “high-resolution” tracks that are available from the major labels.
The site looks great! They’ve taken the color of the Pono player and used it throughout the pages of the site. It’s all very elegant, straightforward, and minimalist. Here’s a screenshot of the main page captured this morning.
Figure 1 – The main menu from the Ponomusic (Beta) website. [Click to enlarge]
There design includes a set of rotating images under the top navigation/sign in section and a large, single search field. The scrollable album covers have the name of the album and the artist underneath and are grouped by NEW RELEASES or PONO PICKS. The rest of the page promotes the player, displays lists for TOP ARTISTS, ALBUMS, and FEATURED RELEASE. The style is simple…maybe too simple.
There is no filtering for type of music, artist, or fidelity or provenance. All of the music that will allow your “soul will rediscover” it is lumped together. When you click on an album cover, the product or album page comes up. There’s a list of the tracks that can be auditioned, the album cover again, and an area that includes basic information about the album. In the case of the “Gorilla” album by James Taylor, they provided the year of copyright, the owner of the copyright, and the record label.
The beta version of the site also has a shopping cart icon with the words “COMING SOON” next to it. I’ll wait and see what, if any, additional information is provided. Computer music fans and Pono Player owners will undoubtedly want a certain minimum of metadata included with the music files. Pono has stated that they will provide the files at the “best available” format but will they say what that is? Again, we’ll have to wait and see.
Simple, simple, simple…that’s the vibe from the site. And I agree that simple and easy to use is critical for customers. My own sites are not simple. I’ve crowded the iTrax product pages with lots choices, information, mixes, formats etc. It’s too much and I’m simplifying things as I write this…but I don’t have a team of developers and artists to move things along fast enough.
Pono should provide us with basic provenance information. I know the labels want to make that information available and for the 20 million CD spec tunes promised for the October launch, the metatdata is well known.
In the upper right hand corner of the site is a link to the “Pono World Times”, their newspaper. I clicked and read through some of the articles and updates.
Figure 2 – The Pono World News of October 17, 2014. [Click to Enlarge]
You might notice the animated GIF vintage adding machine in the top left corner of the page. It’s counting off the number of tracks that have been added to the Ponomusic site. If you go to the site and watch the counter increase moment to moment, you’ll realize that the chances of getting that number to 20,000,000 over the next two weeks is not going to happen. Perhaps the number is not real and just a fake counter…but then why put it on the page?
What I found most interesting on the “Pono World Times” page was the “Message from Neil Young” article from May 17, 2011. I copied it from the page and included it below:
Figure 3 – The message from Neil from the period that he was just imagining Pono.
If you read it carefully, you’ll notice that Neil states, “Since the advent of the CD, listeners have been deprived of the full experience of listening. With the introduction of MP3s via online music services, listeners were further deprived.” Knowing Neil’s stance on the fidelity of CDs, I’m not surprised that he identifies the start of our sonic deprivation as the launch of the CD. So a fundamental question remains…why is the Ponomusic site populated with 99.9% CD audio…the stuff that Neil claims deprives us of true fidelity. Is this how your soul is going to rediscover music?
Would we prefer to have 10,000 tracks that have been remastered and carefully prepared in new high-resolution buckets like HDtracks? You might argue about the hit or miss nature of some of the remasters provided to them and other sites but at least they are identified and new transfers…not just CD rips.