Shortly after its public unveiling at SXSW 2014, Neil Young’s Pono launched on Kickstarter with a major push from an impressive roster of music’s A-listers all giving Young’s high definition music device their giddy tick of approval.
As a result, the Pono crowdfunding campaign blasted past its initial target of $800,000 to raise over $2 million in its first 48 hours. “When we blew through our goal and actually doubled it on the first day, you changed my life,” exclaimed Young of the achievement in a message to backers.
The Canadian music legend is now going to have to come up with an even grander statement as the crowdfunding campaign reaches its conclusion and has seen Pono become the third biggest funded project on Kickstarter in its half-decade existence (the other two being the Pebble smartwatch and Ouya gaming console), as Billboard reports.
A whopping US$ 6,225,354 was raised by the campaign’s close on Monday 14th April, 7.7 times more than its humble goal of $800k. The multi-million dollar figure was achieved thanks to 18,220 punters hungry for a taste of Neil Young’s audiophile experience.
Those pledges included 15 Pono diehards, who donated the $5,000 top tier amount, earning them a dinner and listening party with Young himself at a private Chicago function. The 68-year-old musician has long been hyping how his new music service will revolutionise the industry through providing the average consumer with high-end audio; the hoping being once the listener is freed from the shackles of poor quality sound, they’ll never look back.
Young has previously likened hearing Pono “for the first time is like that first blast of daylight when you leave a movie theater on a sun-filled day.” While during an award acceptance speech in January, he remarked “the time has come for us to recover and to bring music back to the people in a way that they can recognize it in their souls – through the window of their souls, their ears.”
The touted iPod killer doesn’t land in Kickstarter pledgers’ hands until October, with the 128GB PonoPlayer, which holds “about 100-500 high-resolution digital-music albums”, is expected to reach the general consumer soon after with a retail of US $399.
Major labels Warner, Universal, and Sony have already confirmed that “three to five thousand albums” have been converted to the new ‘lossless’ Pono format, while a statement to pledgers from Young earlier this month confirming, “we are working now with Rap and R&B music sources as well as Country Music and Classical, in an effort to show you how great all music can and will sound with Pono;” adding that:
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This is just the beginning of a long road towards our goal of rescuing the music, all of it, from Cab Calloway to Sinatra, the Beatles and Rolling Stones, to Nirvana and Patti Smith, to Jay Z and Rihanna, and beyond. All of this music is the world’s history, the cultural creations of artists since the beginning of recorded sound. Now it can be preserved, if we do our job right, for future generations to hear and feel, not just recognize.
While many of music’s biggest names, such as Bruce Springsteen, Jack White, Dave Grohl, Elton John, Beastie Boys and beyond, have endorsed Young’s Pono music revolution (re-watch that celebrity-studded clip below), others are not so sure, based on the fact that the specs of the Pono format already being available to the consumer.
One such figure is Dr Paul Doornbusch, Associate Dean and Audio Production Program Leader at Australian music college Collarts, who “cannot recommend Pono to anyone;” as he detailed in an opinion piece for Tone Deaf last month.
Is Pono simply another set of music vapourware-in-waiting? Or genuinely the next stage in an iPod-sized cultural revolution? Either way, considering the Kickstarter $6 million success, Young can – to paraphrase 50 Cent – “If the n!#%as hate then let ’em hate/ and watch the money pile up.”