The Kickstarter campaign to fund Neil Young's PonoMusic player reached its goal of $800,000 less than 10 hours after it went live. Now, the campaign has ended after earning nearly eight times that figure. It is officially the third highest-funded campaign in Kickstarter history.
The campaign closed out at over $6 million on April 15th with full backing on several pledges tied to rewards, including signature series Ponos bearing pre-loaded music and autograph inscriptions by Metallica, Tom Petty, Pearl Jam and, of course, Young. Two of the rewards for the top-priced $5,000 pledge levels – dinner and a VIP listening parties with Young in California and New York City – also sold out. In total, 18,220 people backed the campaign, pledging $6,225,354. Kickstarter's rules say that project organizers can keep money raised above and beyond the initial funding threshold.
After years of planning, Young announced Pono in March at South by Southwest. The Pono music player and service allows users to listen to music at a much higher quality than the typical smartphone. To support his Kickstarter campaign, Young also recruited a number of his famous friends – including Beck, Norah Jones, Rick Rubin, Jack White, Arcade Fire, Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Dave Grohl, Elvis Costello, Beastie Boys’ Mike D, Elton John, Jackson Browne, Dave Matthews, Patti Smith, Kid Rock and Mumford & Sons’ Marcus Mumford – to appear in a video and offer testimonies to the player's sound quality.
In an interview with Rolling Stone in March, Young said he was not surprised by people's reactions to Pono. "It's been pretty predictable, because I'm a musician and I know how musicians feel about sound," he said. "The record companies made some bad choices and did not realize how big this tech [MP3s] was going to be. And when that happened, there was no alternative to the cheap sound. . . We're going to be able to play records back just like the artists made them — with absolutely no magic sauce, no DRM, no encoding, decoding, none of the things that screw with the sound and make it an intellectual property."
The player has a suggested retail price of $399 and contains 128 gigabytes of memory, which can store between 1,000 and 2,000 high-resolution songs. The device will also accept memory cards to hold more music and playlists.