SAN FRANCISCO — Rocker Neil Young officially unveiled a new music download service and a high-tech music player today at Saleforce’s Dreamforce conference.
To the obvious delight of his host, Salesforce founder and chief executive Marc Benioff, Young said his new high-resolution digital music player, the Ponoplayer (the company behind it is called Pono), will provide a sound quality that he claims will put the CD and MP3 format “to bed.”
“With Pono, I’m trying to bring the goosebumps back. Technology is supposed to bring us a better life,” Young said. “And Pono is the exception that will bring us a better life.”
Flanked by large video screens front, left, and center, and with his Pono development team cheering him on, Young launched into a lengthy discourse about how the Ponoplayer was developed. The Pono team sought to raise $800,000 on Kickstarter for the project, but it instead pulled in a whooping $6 million.
Although Young didn’t demo the gadget, he said the Ponoplayer’s quality will bring music back to the way it was intended to sound. He decried what he called the awful sound of CDs and digital formats like the MP3.
“Music has been turned into background noise. It’s the 21st century,” Young said. “It’s time to feel the technology.”
Benioff, a music lover, said that he longed for the old days of fidelity recordings.
For Pono, Benioff said, Young set out to procure the original master recordings of every music artist he could and then transform that “into a deep digital file, so that every single bit of the music would be there.”
“But the interesting thing was, in turn, what was maybe 300K or 500K MP3 files, these huge, huge files, it was if you were listening to vinyl records. And so Young worked tirelessly on building an incredible and new consumer service. It’s as if the iPod met a vinyl record for the first time,” Benioff said.
All preorders of Ponoplayer are sold out. But you can still place orders through Pono’s website. They cost $400.
Benioff said Stevie Wonder and Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder are fans of the new Ponoplayer.
“Eddie Vedder said it’s his new drug of choice,” Benioff said.
The streaming component of Pono contains over 600,000 songs available for download, and that number is growing by the day, Young said. Young noted he collaborated with Salesforce during the development of the project. At that, Benioff, sitting in the front row, positively beamed.
And who wouldn’t? Young is one of the biggest architects of rock ‘n’ roll and a hall of famer who, despite almost dying from a near fatal brain aneurysm in 2005, is still making solo records and music with his band, Crazy Horse. He maintains a relatively rigorous tour schedule, too.
At one point, Young joined his old pal, former Vice President Al Gore, for a nearly 30 minute chat about music and the environment.
“I don’t think there’s anybody, I know a bunch of musicians, I know the culture, and I don’t think there’s anybody in the world that has the position and respect that you have in the music community. All these young rockers out there, they look up to you,” Gore said.
Young, who eagerly embraced music technology throughout his career, having talented Silicon Valley engineers build him effects boxes and amplification systems, said Pono was a new era in listening to music.
“We are bringing great technology back to the masses,” he said.