Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

18,000+ people have spoken: they want Pono

Neil Young’s new music service and player is a Kickstarter funding success story

Anyone for some Pono?

Tue, Apr 15, 2014, 10:06


There are still a few hours to go for anyone who wants to throw some money into Pono’s Kickstarter kitty but, as things stand, Neil Young’s righteous new player and music service has hit all its funding targets. At the time of writing, the Kickstarter campaign is 765 per cent funded with $6,120,114 in cash received and that figure is sure to increase by the end of the day.

As first steps go, this is a good one. When we wrote about Pono a few weeks ago, the question was posed about whether the common-or-garden music fans, those who’ve never set foot in a recording studio, would buy into Pono and it sound quality mantra. While 18,000 people is not exactly iPod terrain, it is a pretty damn good start especially as they’re paying with their wallet.

The trick with Pono is to see if they’re going to go for niche or mass-market. There’s certainly a sizeable number of people who will happily pay good money for a good listening experience. Anyone who has dabbled in the high-end specialist audio equipment game will know that these people are passionate about sound quality and can spend hours talking the hind legs off a donkey about their B&W speakers, Arcam CD player and Rotel amp. Many of these audio experts sadly have terrible taste in music, but we’ll leave that to one side.

All of those brands are niche, high-end, specialist ones. They’re not the bits and bobs you’ll find in whatever High Street store is still in the business of flogging hi-fi gear. They’re names that buyers with an ear for this kind of thing know and trust because they deliver quality and don’t let you down. You’re paying good money for all of that quality.

You can definitely see a market for Pono amongst that constituency rather than the mainstream, but the question is if the startup’s economies of scale will allow for that. Does Pono need the mass sales to make sense or can they get by with pitching the PonoMusic service and the PonoPlayer as niche, specialist products? After all, as has been noted before, the vast mass of music fans are happy to settle for something else.