Pono Mines More Gold Than Influency

 
would you rather listen?

Neil Young just hit the jackpot. But I can’t quite figure out why, except to look longingly at how cool being a famous guy with a lot of fans must be.

I wrote about Neil Young a couple of years ago, when he begged all but gave his fans permission to pirate his music. Of course, nobody wants to give their work away and Neil Young didn’t so much want to promote music piracy as he was showing us how smart he is; the world changes, you change with it. Or you die. The music business has had a tough time adapting to the changes that digital music and the Internet has brought about, and Neil Young has a better idea.

Sort of.

While piracy has turned out to be a money maker and a new way to achieve Influency for studios, the artists who produce music and video have long been on the short end of the media profitability stick. Yesterday, Neil Young began—and successfully completed in just a few hours—Kickstarter funding to produce his Pono music player. The Pono is a new kind of device in that it’s designed to play music at the same fidelity as original studio recordings.

Which, unless you’re an audiophile, is likely something you’ve never given a thought to. Your MP3 files and music you buy from places like iTunes have been compressed, thus making them take up way less room. How much? the highest quality MP3 files fill 320 kilobits per second of space and bandwidth. Pono will use the FLAC file format, and FLAC files, as you can see, are at least four times larger:

How compressed is compressed music? Neil Young's Pono Answers

I appreciate the lesson in FLAC file sizes; I’ve used FLAC for things that had nothing to do with portable music for years and never knew the numbers that Neil Young’s Pono team has shared. I wish both Mr. Young and the other artists who ultimately make money from Pono great luck and good fortune. And I know a few folks who believe that lossless music sounds a lot better than MP3 files do at any size and I expect that Pono, in legitimizing FLAC, will make them happy. But I don’t care about Pono, and I’m 99.99999% sure you shouldn’t, either.

The Pono Player costs too much for non-audiophiles to care about. That part doesn’t matter. Pono music will cost more than anyone who hasn’t been buying high-definition music will understand, but that doesn’t matter, either. Pono has quite a few problems that do matter, though:

  • Pono’s shape is clumsy; you won’t want to put your Pono in your pocket
  • No matter how great Pono theoretically makes music sound, you won’t hear it unless you buy headphones far more expensive than you use now
  • For practical, bandwidth-related reasons, Pono music can only be stored in your Pono device; it can’t be streamed over the Internet
  • Most people are already playing music through their phones; the era of the stand-alone music player is coming to an end

I’m a Neil Young fan from way back, and both because of that and because I’m a proponent of artists making more money from their art I’d like to see Pono succeed. But I’m pretty sure Pono is destined to be a low-volume oddity that never really goes anywhere (reference Zune). Sorry Neil.

Speaking of artists succeeding, I have an announcement that I referred to cryptically last week in a post about JJ Abrams and magic. We’re launching a new service to help video producers make a lot more money. So welcome to the Influency of Video Network One. And if you join Video Network One before launch, we have a special offer for you.

Still trying to figure out how Influency works? Say hello, here.

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