Neil Young

Three years ago, Neil Young started the long journey to launch Pono Music, his proprietary audio player and online storefront for high fidelity recordings. It soon became clear that the endeavor was mostly bullshit, and it seems like anyone that bought into it has been slowly coming to that realization themselves.

The Pono store has been offline since last July, and a cursory look at the company’s Facebook page reveals a lot of disgruntled customers.

But it looks like Young is attempting to start over by branching out into his own hi-fi streaming service called Xstream. (As Exclaim points out, that’s the same name of the streaming service that’s featured in the FOX show Empire.) In a new post on the Pono community website (via CBC), Young announced the company’s pivot to streaming audio.

He partnered with Singapore firm Orastream to create “an adaptive streaming service that changes with available bandwidth” for “complete high-resolution playback.”
Young hopes to make this version more accessible and draw in a bigger audience, in part by lowering the cost. When PONO first launched, songs and albums cost almost double what they do on iTunes, on top of needing the $399 PONO player just to listen to them. “All songs should cost the same, regardless of digital resolution,” Young said in his recent post. “Let the people decide what they want to listen to without charging them more for true quality. That way quality is not an elitist thing. If high-resolution costs more, listeners will just choose the cheaper option and never hear the quality.”

Price details for Xstream, however, have not yet been revealed. According to CBC, Young is still seeking investors, but is determined to carry on despite it being “a difficult sell.”