Neil Young’s hi-def music service, Pono, may be nearing completion, but only time will tell whether it can live up to its goal: to “rescue an art form” and revolutionize the way people experience music.
According to reports, the Canadian rocker recently met with Meridian, a manufacturer of high-performance, high fidelity audio and video components, fueling speculation that the two may be working together.
The development of an analog-quality music service like Pono raises interesting questions about the future of digital music sales and whether upgrading the experience of listening to digital music will restore listeners’ commitment to it—especially to buying it instead of just streaming or illegally downloading it.
According to analysts, the digital music market flat lined once Apple’s iPod sales slowed. Pono will attempt to restore digital music sales (and take aim at Apple’s dwindling iTunes monopoly) by offering a download store and line of portable music players that feature hi-res digital-to-analog converters.
Young unveiled his digital music player on “The Late Show with David Letterman” last year and announced his intention to launch Pono sometime in 2013. He said Pono will offer the highest fidelity digital files possible, reclaimed from the original masters, so the average consumer can experience music at the same quality at which it was originally recorded.
In other words, record companies will be preparing special, high resolution masters for the format, which will allegedly sound as rich as if the listener were sitting in the room with the recording engineers.
A new offering like Pono that reinvents the listening experience for music consumers and creates a paradigm shift within the industry seems to be exactly what’s needed, as many claim today’s consumers are more mp3 hoarders than music collectors.
As Bob Ostertag recently wrote, “I have learned that ‘accessing’ music and actually listening to it are two different things. Free downloading has created a kind of collector or harder who is unique to the digital age…everyone who is deeply into music has figured out how to download music for free, despite the best efforts of the record business to stop them, and have far, far more music downloaded into their laptops and iPods than they will ever have time to listen to in their entire lives. Gigabytes and gigabytes of meaningless data.”
Axel Dauchez, the CEO of Deezer, echoed this sentiment recently during a panel discussion at the New Music Seminar in New York.
“People are hearing more music, but listening less,” Dauchez said. “Pandora and iRadio are destroying engagement. Playing a new song for every moment doesn’t build the identity of artists.”
Could a high-fidelity service like Pono spark an aesthetic revolution in which music lovers relearn to experience the mysticism of music they love through sound that captures every vibration and sound wave an artist makes? Here’s to hoping.
April White is a writer, recording artist, producer/DJ, label owner, and the former Manager of Communications and Public Relations for eMusic. She is currently the President and Founder of her own firm, April White Communications. Her label is Daisy Pistol. She is also part of the electro-pop trio, Tiny Machines. Follow her on Twitter @iamaprilwhite.