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Monday, September 1, 2014

Hi-Res Pono Music Delayed And Raising More Money

Pono music player image
Neil Young's Pono Music service and hi-res player was supposed to be launched around now, but recent announcements have indicated that it's now being delayed to the beginning of 2015.

That news is ominous enough, but even after a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $6 million (way beyond the goal of $800,000), Pono went back to the well with another campaign on Crowdfunder that exceed its goal of $4million by 179%, and it now stands at more than $7 million. The company still continues to raise money as the campaign will continue until the end of September.

All this raises a number of questions, such as:
  • Can the company actually raise enough money to put together both a music delivery service infrastructure and hardware manufacturing? 
  • Will there be any money left over for the ever-so-important marketing? 
  • Are there enough masters actually available at 192kHz/24 bit to make the service viable?
  • Who's the target market, and will they spend $400 on a player?
  • Will anyone abandon their phones to return to a dedicated player?
  • Do enough people actually care about high-quality audio to make a market?
  • Can Pono go up against the big guns of the industry (Apple, Google, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, Sony) who have much deeper pockets?
  • Will people want to go back to downloading files again?
  • Will people actually want to pay for music again, especially at $15 to $25 a pop?
While it's admirable to try to bring high-quality audio to the masses, this has proved to be a losing business model in the past. The average person wants convenience, not quality, and that has always won throughout the history of the business.

Plus I believe that unless the player is supplied with an excellent set of headphones, perhaps the average user won't hear enough of a difference to make a purchase seem worthwhile.

If Pono's expectations are limited to just the audiophile market and a little beyond, the company may have a chance. But if it intends to go after the mass market, that's a recipe for disaster.

This all goes to show that it's never easy to launch a startup, even for someone like Neil Young.


Paul S said...

Why would audiophiles would choose this over existing HD DAPs (Fiio X3/X5, Sony, Astell-Kern)?

The DAPs are not the problem. It's making the content available and easy to download.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

There is no delay to Pono's deliveries. We ship about 10K units of the Kickstarter players by October (on-time and as promised) and another 5K units by December (again as on-time and as promised). I'm guessing that the report that this post is based on was Roger Friedman's post which is something that's completely fabricated and a figment of his imagination. He didn't bother doing any fact checking whatsoever. He thinks Pono is an MP3 Player! That should tell you his credibility on the subject. I've replied to his post in the comments section and took it apart point for point. I recommend you read my reply.

Pedram Abrari,
PonoMusic's EVP of Technology

Unknown said...

Bobby, you censored my previous comment on Ponos. Care to comment on Deezer?

If you censor me again, I will quit reading your blog.

You cannot ignore reality. The music biz abused consumers for many years and thus the backlash. Censoring my comments because I mentioned free downloading is a reality you choose to ignore.

Bobby Owsinski said...

I don't remember intentionally censoring your post. In fact, the only posts I don't approve are spam. Sorry if it happened by mistake.


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