Neil Young to Launch '21st Century' Music Service PonoMusic This Week

"It's about the music, real music," singer says in a statement

Neil Young
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
Neil Young performs in Mountain View, California.
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Almost two years since Neil Young trademarked slogans to accompany his burgeoning MP3-replacement service PonoMusic, the rocker will unveil his PonoMusic service this week and will be selling the PonoPlayer, which has an suggested retail price of $399, via his PonoMusic.com website. The service will also be available on Kickstarter, which will offer the player at a discount, beginning Saturday, March 15th. The service's mission is to deliver what it calls the "highest-quality music" to consumers.

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"It's about the music, real music," Young said in a statement. "We want to move digital music into the 21st century and PonoMusic does that. We couldn't be more excited – not for ourselves, but for those that are moved by what music means in their lives."

The company said that the player would play back music at a level surpassing the typical smart phone. The service comes with its own iTunes-like media manager that can download music from its endemic store and load it onto the PonoPlayer. The Pono store will offer music from both major and independent labels.

The player is described as a portable device with an intuitive LCD touch screen. It contains 128 gigabytes of memory, which can store between 1,000 and 2,000 high-resolution songs, depending on the resolution and length of the recording. The device will also accept memory cards, which will hold more music and playlists. Young's company developed the player technology with Boulder, Colorado–based engineering team at Ayre, whose CEO, Charlie Hansen, said, "We will always be grateful to Neil Young for changing the landscape of recorded music."

In early 2012, Young said he believed that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs – who had passed away the previous October – would have backed the idea behind PonoMusic. "Steve Jobs [was] a pioneer of digital music, and his legacy is tremendous," he said. "But when he went home, he listened to vinyl. And you've got to believe that if he'd lived long enough, he would have done what I'm trying to do." Young said that he had met with Jobs shortly before his death to discuss his service and that "we were working on it."

Although the exact tech specifics have yet to be released, reports from 2012 said that Warner Music Group had converted thousands of albums from its archives to 192 kHz and 24-bit sound in anticipation of Pono's release. In a Facebook post from 2013, Young wrote, "The simplest way to describe what we've accomplished is that we've liberated the music of the artist from the digital file and restored it to its original artistic quality – as it was in the studio. So it has primal power."

In addition to launching Pono, Young is planning the release of an album he told Rolling Stone was "one of the lowest-tech experiences I've ever had." The record, A Letter Home, is due out this month via Jack White's label Third Man. Also this year, Young is also planning to release a book about his love of cars in the fall.

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