Neil Young's Pono music player raises millions

Neil Young's Pono online store and PonoPlayer device feature high-resolution digital music.

Story highlights

  • Neil Young's Pono Music raises $6.2 million on Kickstarter
  • That's the third-largest campaign in Kickstarter's history
  • The music player promises high-quality, non-compressed sound
What happens when a rock 'n' roll legend promotes a music player in a world where the iPod, and its smartphone cousins, already dominate the market?
If that legend is Neil Young and the music player promises higher-quality sound than any of its competitors, it becomes the third-biggest Kickstarter campaign in the history of the site.
The crowdfunding campaign for Young's Pono Music closed Tuesday, having raised more than $6.2 million. The campaign's goal of $800,000 was blown away less than 24 hours after it launched in March.
Young, a longtime critic of what he calls the "underwater listening" experience of compressed digital music, thanked backers on the campaign's homepage Tuesday.
"You have helped to set the stage for a revolution in music listening," Young wrote. "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 idea behind Pono is to boost digital music from the compressed and lossy formats to high-quality resolution. Pono will stream music in 24-bit, 192-kHz sound, brighter and more present than the sound provided by MP3s or even CDs.
Pono will include both an online music store and player. The PonoPlayer, which will come with 128GB of storage, will sell for $399. By comparison, the 64GB iPod touch sells for the same price, and the iPod classic, with 160GB of storage, sells for $249.
High-resolution digital albums at are expected to cost between $15 and $25. The site says all major record labels are on board and beginning to expand the amount of their music that's recorded in high-quality digital formats.
Young, who introduced the system at the South by Southwest music festival in March with endorsements from the likes of Tom Petty, Eddie Vedder and Sting, believes that the quality of the listening experience will draw enough fans willing to pay more.
"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," he wrote. "Pono wants to preserve the history of music, in all of its beauty and expression, for all time. Forever."