Neil Young’s PonoMusic Player Surpasses Kickstarter Goal
It remains to be seen whether Neil Young's hi-def PonoMusic player will be able to survive in the marketplace, but if the early returns for the device's Kickstarter campaign are any indication, there's plenty of demand for what he's selling.
The campaign rolled out March 11, looking to raise $800,000 and offering discounted pre-orders for the Pono, as well as an assortment of added goodies for above-and-beyond backers. As of this writing, it's pulled in more than $1.3 million, with a number of pledge specials already sold out -- including the one offering the player for an Early Bird price of $200, a $199 discount from its $399 retail cost.
Backers can still order the Pono for $300, or kick in an extra $100 for special chrome-plated, laser-engraved Artist Signature Series players boasting music pre-loaded by Young, Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, Patti Smith, Pearl Jam, Beck, Crosby, Stills & Nash (or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), Dave Matthews Band, Foo Fighters, Herbie Hancock, Norah Jones, Lenny Kravitz, or Arcade Fire. For $5,000, you can even gain access to a VIP dinner and listening party with Young (travel not included).
The campaign launch comes amid a flurry of press attention -- and, not coincidentally, takes place during SXSW 2014, giving Young and Pono CEO John Hamm the opportunity to sit down for a Q&A session the same day the company started seeking funds on Kickstarter. As reported by Billboard, the exchange found Young decrying the MP3-driven "cheapening" of audio fidelity and expressing his hopes for a restored "vibrant creative culture" around music.
Things got a bit awkward, however, when an audience member asked Hamm how much Pono would be taking from music sales through its store. Described by Billboard as "flustered," Hamm responded, "It surprises most people that everyone who buys music from the record labels pays exactly the same amount," after which Young mused, "That's a delicate question, isn't it?" and the moderator opted to end the discussion. For all its promises of restoring music's glory, it'll be interesting to see whether Pono delivers hi-def royalties and accounting in the bargain.