For the past decade, Neil Young has been on a one-man mission to bring high fidelity audio to the masses. He’s like Don Quixote, except instead of charging at windmills, he turns in cranky diatribes about the inadequacy of the Mp3 file format. One of his most notable projects to help consumers obtain a richer sonic experience was the release of the Pono player several years back. The yellow, Toblerone-shaped device was constructed with the purpose of playing high-def audio files that you could purchase from a special website that Young had put together. Unfortunately, despite selling over a million tracks, the Pono never caught fire in the way Neil had hoped, and it was quietly put to rest in April last year.
In a new interview with the Chicago Tribune, Young knows exactly who to blame for the death of the Pono. No, it wasn’t the device’s high price tag — $399 — or the inconvenience of carrying around a heavy, extra media player on top of your phone, which you can already stream and store music from; it’s the major record label’s fault.
“The record labels killed it,” he said. “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?” Adding, “It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Though the Pono will live on in infamy, a curio of 2010s consumerism, Neil has already launched his next bid for audio supremacy, a high-res streaming platform of his own archives. Right now, the site is totally free, though in a few months Young expect to add a paywall. “All I can do is take care of my music, so that’s what I’m doing,” he said.