When Aretha Franklin’s hit “Respect” blasted from the speakers of Neil Young's (News - Alert) Cadillac Eldorado, it sounded clearer than ever while Young showcased Pono, his high-resolution music service created to confront the compressed MP3 audio. With Pono, the music legend’s goal is to improve the quality in which people receive their music these days.
In 2013, Pono, a Hawaiian word meaning “righteous,” will release a line of portable players, a music-download service and digital-to-analog conversion technology to present songs as they sound during studio recording sessions. This offering will consist of a music store with high resolution recordings, a digital-to-analog style conversion technology as well as a portable hardware to listen to it all with.
According to a recent article in Rolling Stone, in his book out this week, “Waging Heavy Peace”, Young writes that Pono will unite record companies with cloud storage "to save the sound of music." Pono's preservation of fuller sound has caught the attention of the Big Three record labels including Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group (News - Alert) and Sony Music.
In 2011, Craig Kallman, chairman and chief executive of Atlantic Records invested with Young and helped put together the Pono team including representatives from audio giants Meridian and Dolby. Once WMG signed on, Kallman and Young approached UMG CEO Lucian Grainge and Sony Music CEO Doug Morris about remastering their catalogs for Pono distribution, but UMG and Sony didn’t acknowledged those conversations.
"This has to be an industry-wide solution. This is not about competing, this is about us being proactive," Kallman told Rolling Stone. "This is all about purely the opportunity to bring the technology to the table."
Waging Heavy Peace refers to the response that Young gave a friend who questioned whether the artist was declaring war on Apple (News - Alert) with his service. Apple's Mastered for iTunes program, which launched in 2011, requires engineers to provide audio quality based on a listener's environment. Those dissatisfied with Apple's AAC format say that it still represents a fraction of the options that Pono will offer.
Recently, Young discussed his plans of his high-fidelity Pono music service on The Late show with David Letterman:
In June 2011, after filing trademarks for Pono, Young performed at Bonnaroo with Buffalo Springfield where he invited musicians from Mumford & Sons and My Morning Jacket to see a Pono demo and he videotaped their reactions for a marketing campaign.
"Neil's premise is cool, and I think it's exciting as a traveling musician," My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James said in a statement. “However, I think that's somewhere that he has to be careful.”
Red Hot Chili Peppers Bassist Flea argued, “Young’s reasons are so not based in commerce, and based in just the desire for people to really feel the uplifting spirit of music.”
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Edited by Jamie Epstein