Is Neil Young Working on a High-Quality Digital Music Service?

Categories: Tech

Gretchen Robinette
Neil Young performing at the Fox Theater in 2010.

Earlier this year, rock legend Neil Young made some waves in the tech world when he blasted the thin, tinny sound quality of MP3s, arguing that digital music distribution is "degrading music, not improving it."

"The MP3 only has 5 percent of the data present in the original recording," Young said at the D: Dive Into Media conference in January. "The convenience of the digital age has forced people to choose between quality and convenience, but they shouldn't have to make that choice."

Young -- who has long been a stickler for good sound -- said he had spoken with Steve Jobs about the issue prior to the tech mogul's death, and that Jobs was planning to do something about it.

Now, it looks like Young himself has taken on that task: Trademark applications recently uncovered by Rolling Stone seem to be an indication that the singer's high-quality digital music outlet is under development.

According to Rolling Stone, the Canada-born rocker and his record label have applied to trademark the terms 21st Century Record Player, Earth Storage, SQS (Studio Quality Sound), Thanks for Listening, and Storage Shed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The trademarks haven't been approved yet, and Young's publicist wouldn't comment on the matter. The intended use of the terms won't be unveiled until later in the application process.

Nonetheless, the trademark applications seem to suggest that Young is working on a music outlet, service, or file format built for high-resolution digital music.

Another interesting twist: RS notes that a press release for Young's upcoming memoir mentioned that, in addition to the book, "Young is also personally spearheading the development of Pono, a revolutionary new audio music system presenting the highest digital resolution possible, the studio quality sound that artists and producers heard when they created their original recordings. Young wants consumers to be able to take full advantage of Pono's cloud-based libraries of recordings by their favorite artists and, with Pono, enjoy a convenient music listening experience that is superior in sound quality to anything ever presented."

Which sure sounds cool to us. What do you think?


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I don’t see how anybody could beat Apple in bringing something like this to the market.  My guess is that Apple would have two tiered pricing available and would make sure iTunes and all iPads/Pads/Phones could play either file type.  A small price difference per track or album gets you the higher quality - and 8-10 times the file size!


Bout Time!! Go get em Neil!There are few good options when looking for quailityin distributed music, as well as audio equipment.I hope this will change the trend.Bill D

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