Neil Young and his team have pulled it off. As they close in on the last 24 hours of their Kickstarter campaign, over 17,000 supporters have helped push the amount raised to over $6 million. Amazing! I’m jealous, impressed and seriously hoping that they get it right…especially when it comes to the Ponomusic.com site and the content that they will bundle and sell.
The Pono initiative has brought major media outlets on board. Because of Neil’s rock start status and his ability to connect with other celebrities in the music business, he has almost single-handedly raised awareness of better sounding audio to the masses. And the message resonated with over 17,000 supporters…at least enough to have them contribute around $400 to the effort. Are these people audiophiles, novelty collectors or just music listeners?
As I read the articles describing the Pono hardware, I was struck by the difference of opinion about the merits of the hardware and the entire market for “high-resolution audio”. I contributed to some of the discussion by challenging some of assumptions about audio quality especially as delivered by the major labels. Despite the information that continues to come from the Pono people, I’m not sure that we’re going to get a dramatic improvement in the listening experience by simply recasting the older standard definition masters in 192 kHz/24-bit buckets. And I don’t see Neil and his technical having the bandwidth to re-master the original source tapes in sufficient quantity to actually populate a meaningful site come October. They certainly have the money to make a serious stab at the right solution…but the target might drift from what’s right to what brings in the most money. After all, the labels have minimum levels of payback on the licenses that they issue.
I’m hoping to spend some quality time with Pono CEO John Hamm and discuss some of these things while both of us are in Chicago for the AXPONA show. He’s giving a keynote address on Friday the 25th of April from 6-7 pm. This is to be the first public roll out of the Pono hardware and post Kickstarter campaign. John is described as an audiophile. It will be interesting to hear him talk about things like provenance and upsampling and using sample rates as production tools. I’ll provide an up close and personal report following out meeting.
The people that have opted in to the KS campaign are going to get a variety of “Limited Edition” Pono players. I found it very interesting to read some of the comments that they’ve written on the KS page. I posted that a substantial number of supporters seemed to be contributing to the campaign NOT for the quality of the player but instead for the “collectability” of the signed/engraved units themselves. There are a lot of comments from supporters that have signed up for this or that artist’s LE Pono player and are now bartering them among other supporters. It remains to be seen whether Neil can “Whole Foods” quality audio to his state-of-the-art Pono kitchen or whether we’ll be eating Big Macs wrapped up in Wolfgang Puck’s packaging.
I’ll give John my congrats when I see him in Chicago. They’ve managed to open the door to better quality audio and that’s saying something.