Neil Young has finally gotten the message about his Pono high-fidelity service, only it’s a couple of years too late. Originally conceived as a download service complete with its own dedicated player, the development took way too long and when it launched potential users had already moved on to streaming instead of buying downloads. Now the artist has announced that the service will convert to streaming, although no other details were given.
This makes sense from the standpoint that the catalog is already licensed, the most difficult part of the equation, and it’s also online, although the format is probably not what will be ultimately streamed.
Of course the big problem here is that the idea of Pono is a service to deliver higher resolution audio than than currently available from the major streaming services. That said, it’s not clear that people will actually pay a premium (approximately double the monthly fee) for something they’re not sure they can hear in the first place. Both Tidal and Deezer offer hi-fi premium tiers already, and that feature hasn’t been a major factor in attracting users or generating revenue for either of those services.
While the world doesn’t need another streaming service, there just may be a niche in the hi-fi area. It’s still unknown whether there are enough people interested to make the service viable though. Then there’s the fact that at some point, the other major streaming players can turn on a hi-fi tier as well (especially Apple, who’s been collecting hi-res audio tracks via its Mastered For iTunes program for about 3 years) at any time. Either way, you have to give Neil Young credit for being passionate about audio enough to take on this gargantuan task.
Pono’s hi-res music store went offline in July. There are no predictions when the new service will be launched.