Have iTunes and the iPod met their match in Neil Young? Earlier this year, Young said that he and former Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, had been discussing ways to improve the audio quality of the iPod. But with Jobs death in October of last year, that project ended, as Young says current Apple execs do not return his calls.
Young has currently teamed with Craig Kallman, the chairman of Atlantic Records, to create Pono. Pono, showcased on "Late Night With David Letterman" on Thursday, is a service that will include an iTunes-style music downloads store; utility software to convert digital audio files into Pono analog-sounding recordings; and audio players.
Atlantic's parent company, Warner Music Group, has reportedly signed on to the project, but that's just one of the "Big Four" music labels. To make the project successful, the format would have to go industry wide, so the other record labels would need to sign on for the project to make a dent in the iTunes near-monopoly.
MP3s and Apple's AAC format have been criticized for their quality. In fact, in March of 2011, Jon Bon Jovi went as far as to say that Steve Jobs - and the iPod / iTunes - destroyed the music business. He wasn't talking about the industry, per se, but the listening experience.
Even Jobs recognized that, according to Young. Young said earlier this year that Jobs listened to vinyl, instead of digital music.
It's not like some vague thing that you need dogs' ears to hear. It's a drastic difference."
He added that Young's reasons for creating Pono are about the sound, not money:
Based in just the desire for people to really feel the uplifting spirit of music. MP3's suck. It's just a shadow of the music."
However, My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James said the obvious:
I think that's somewhere that he has to be careful: I've already bought Aretha Franklin's 'Respect' a lot of times. Do I have to buy it again?"
Pono will be compatible with existing digital music formats.