Kickstarter campaign for Neil Young’s PonoMusic system starts strongly

Neil Young’s PonoPlayer
The first edition high-quality digital music PonoPlayer created by rock musician Neil Young.

This post has been updated. See note below for details:

One of Neil Young’s not-so-whimsical mottoes has long been “Quality — whether you want it or not,” but it appears there’s a population of music fans that does want it, judging by the early response to the Kickstarter campaign supporting his new high-quality PonoMusic system.

The Kickstarter operation went live on March 11 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific time, and within the first hour it had logged almost 400 supporters for a total of more than $100,000. At the two-hour mark, more than 750 people had pledged more than $240,000. By 7:30 p.m., the $800,000 goal had been reached and one day in--at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday--more than double that amount has been pledged by 4,800 supporters.

Many of those pledges were earmarked for reserving a first-generation PonoPlayer, the answer to Apple’s iPod that will hold 1,000 to 2,000 high-resolution digital albums.


The early pledgers were able to reserve the player for $200, nearly half the $399 retail price cited in Monday’s announcement of PonoMusic, which comprises an online music store containing recordings from all three major music groups, and the PonoPlayer itself.

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The Kickstarter goal is $800,000, which must be reached by April 15 or the campaign will not be funded.

“You no longer have to choose between quality and convenience when listening to music,” the Kickstarter home page states, “you can have both.”


In addition to the basic PonoPlayer, which comes in yellow and black models, there are several artist signature versions, priced at $400, being produced in chrome, with laser-etched autographs of Young or other high-profile musicians who are Pono supporters including Willie Nelson, Patti Smith, Tom Petty, Pearl Jam, Beck, Crosby Stills & Nash, Dave Matthews Band, Arcade Fire, Foo Fighters, Herbie Hancock, Norah Jones and Lenny Kravitz.

Additionally, at the $5,000 level, Young is offering 30 Pono supporters a VIP listening party and dinner that he will attend.

The store will offer albums and individual tracks in high-resolution FLAC files; they are estimated to sell for $14.99 to $24.99 per album. Pricing on track downloads has not been established. 

Young chose “Pono” as the word for the system because it is the Hawaiian word for “righteous.”

Update March 12 at 10:55 a.m.: Young’s longtime manager Elliot Roberts said Tuesday from Austin that the public response to the Kickstarter campaign “has been beyond our wildest expectations. The way people have come to this, it shows us how many people really [care] about music—high-quality music.

“If you saw the film we made, and all the artists we talked to and played it for, you could tell there’s such an overwhelming need in the artist community to have their work heard by the public the way they heard it in the studio,” Roberts said. “The fact that so many people have backed it shows plain old people care about quality music too.”

PonoMusic CEO John Hamm, fielding questions with Young from the SXSW audience, said they chose to use a Kickstarter campaign with the aim of building a community of ordinary music fans. “That’s something we couldn’t have accomplished with one person writing a big check,” Hamm said.



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