For a man nearing his 70th birthday, Neil Young has his finger right on the pulse of the changing times in the music business.
After more than 40 years of making music, the Canadian recording legend is relevant all over again courtesy of a successful Kickstarter campaign for his long-gestating Pono music player.
Young's crowdfunding crusade for Pono Music – which promises higher-quality music reproduction than the iPod or comparable smartphone players – launched in late March with a goal of $800,000 (which was met within 24 hours).
By the time the Pono campaign closed yesterday, it had raised slightly more than $6.2-million (U.S.) – making it the third-biggest Kickstarter campaign in the history of the site.
All of which is pretty impressive when you consider Pono was developed by a musician who formed his first band, The Squires, way back in 1963.
On Tuesday, Young went on the Kickstarter site to thank his backers for financially supporting his vision.
"You have helped to set the stage for a revolution in music listening," wrote Young. "Finally, quality enters the listening space so that we can all hear and feel what the artists created, the way they heard and felt it."
The concept behind Pono involves boosting existing digital music from its compressed formats to high-quality resolution. Pono will stream music to listeners in 24-bit, 192-kHz sound, thereby resulting in brighter and cleaner reproduction than MP3s or CDs.
As detailed on its Kickstarter page, the Pono system will interface an online music store and player, which is expected to sell for $399 and feature 128 GB of storage.
Compare that to the 64 GB iPod touch, which also retails for $399, or the iPod classic, which offers 160 GB of storage and sells for $299.
Once the Pono website is fully up and running – the launch date is this October – high-resolution digital albums are expected to cost between $15 and $24 apiece. The website claims all major record labels are on board with the system and are starting to expand their catalogues to feature high-quality digital formats.
So far, Young has exacted endorsements from several big names, including Tom Petty and Sting, in support of the Pono system, and holds firm in his belief that the public will pay a little more for a quality listening experience.
"It's been a long time coming," writes Young in his thank-you note. "It was not easy getting this far, but you made it happen by supporting Pono's vision for better listening. Pono wants to preserve the history of music, in all of its beauty and expression. Forever."
Thanks for pushing the edge of the envelope, Neil. Long may you run.