Back in 2015, Neil Young thought he had completed his never-ending quest to give listeners everywhere the joy of hi-res audio with the release of his Pono player and download service. Of course, the triangular device never quite took off with consumers, and now Young has pinned its failure on record labels.
Speaking with the Chicago Tribune, Young said that labels "killed [Pono] by insisting on charging two to three times as much for the high-res files as for MP3s. Why would anybody pay three times as much?"
Upon Pono's launch alongside its online music store in early 2015, full albums of hi-res files ranged from $20 to $28. Individual songs ranged from $1.99 to $2.99 each.
"It's my feeling that all music should cost the same," Young expressed. "The [hi-res] file doesn't cost any more to transfer. And today with streaming, you don't have the problem [of unauthorized file sharing]. Who wants to copy something if you can stream it?"
He continued: "The record companies, by charging three times as much for hi-res music as they charge for regular music, they've killed hi-res music," adding, "It's the dumbest thing I've ever seen."
In the wake of Pono's demise, Young is now focused on hi-res platform XStream, which is currently being used for his own massive online archive.
Calling it a platform as opposed to a service, Young noted that "there's nothing stopping anybody else from [starting something similar]...The record companies are in the way with the high prices. There should be hi-res streaming services everywhere."
Pick up Young's albums Live at Massey Hall, Harvest, After the Gold Rush and Greatest Hits on vinyl through Umusic.