It amazingly took over a year for Neil Young to finally come out and say why his Pono player failed in the marketplace.
Young announced the new technology four years ago to much fanfare and the third biggest campaign on Kickstarter to date, raising $6.2 million. The system used special files that preserved the audio quality of the original recording as a reaction to the highly compressed MP3 format which Young called “crap”.
That technology came with a cost. The original player had 128gb of storage and, because of the size of the file, was said to hold 200 to 800 songs. The announced cost was $399.
Unfortunately, it was a year before the device became available for pre-order and, by late-2016, the format seemed to be almost dead as Young returned his music to the streaming systems and the Pono store went to “under construction”. Finally, last April, Young said that the format was, for all intents and purposes, dead.
On Wednesday (February 14), Young told the Chicago Tribune that he attributed the failure of the system to the record labels.
The record labels killed it. They killed it by insisting on charging two to three times as much for the high-res files as for MP3s. Why would anybody pay three times as much?
It’s my feeling that all music should cost the same. The [high-resolution] file doesn’t cost any more to transfer. And today with streaming, you don’t have the problem [of unauthorized file sharing]. Who wants to copy something if you can stream it?
The record companies, by charging three times as much for hi-res music as they charge for regular music, they’ve killed hi-res music. It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.
He also laments the end good sounding music. “The thing is, I want the sound of music to come back – and it’s gone. CDs have less than 20% of the quality that music could be, and MP3s in most cases have only about 5% of what’s on the master recording.”