We all remember Pono, don’t we? Neil Young’s Kickstarter-funded vanity music player cost $400. It had a 64-gig storage capacity and a tiny, fucked-up touchscreen. It didn’t do anything other than play music, and the amount of music available to buy on it was severely limited. Pono’s big selling point was its audio quality, but unless you had ridiculously expensive headphones, you reportedly couldn’t tell the difference between a regular MP3 and one of Pono’s hi-res files. How could this thing have failed? According to Neil Young, that failure was the fault of the record labels.
There’s a new Los Angeles Times feature about Young, mostly about his Neil Young Archives online venture and his proposed new streaming platform XStream. But the piece also features Young grousing about the end of Pono. Here’s what he says:
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.
Watch out, or the record labels might kill XStream, too.