Neil Young Readies Pono Store, Says Partnerships With Lincoln, Tesla in Works

Neil Young speaks about 'Pono', his new audio system being financed through Kickstarter at the Austin Convention Center during South By Southest on March 11, 2014 in Austin, Texas.

Gary Miller/FilmMagic

Neil Young is making the media rounds this week to hype his Toblerone-sized Pono music player and its updated website, which now has a preview of how the service's music store will function when launched. The PonoMusic.com store is comprised of a simple search bar and a selection of current albums by Prince, Ryan Adams and others, though there are currently no prices and you can't purchase anything yet. 

The company announced that Young will officially launch PonoMusic at the Salesforce Dreamforce conference on Thursday, Oct. 16 in San Francisco. During his keynote speech, Young will presumably talk about the website and planned Pono desktop app, though it's unclear whether the store will launch by then. Says the company, the "music purchases and the PonoMusic desktop app will not be publicly available until we've successfully completed our beta testing of the music purchase ecosystem."

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Pono expects to have the complete catalogs of the three major labels (Sony, Universal and Warner) in the store, with a total of over 2 million tracks. The store will be powered by Omnifone, which handles the songs for Sony's Music Unlimited service. As Gigaom notes, Pono is working with JRiver to develop its app.

In a visit to Howard Stern's radio show on Tuesday, Oct. 14, Young talked about the early enthusiasm among music lovers for his Pono device, which sold out its initial run with the help of a $6 million-dollar Kickstarter campaign. "We're making more in January and February," he told Stern of the player, which costs $399. "We're starting to build and scale up, and the demand for them was awesome and they're gone. We're making this for people who want it."

Stern asked Young whether he felt most people are "sophisticated enough" to understand the technical differences between Pono and other digital music delivery systems. "No, I don't," he said. "But I think that they will feel it. And that's what I care about. So it's not a cognizant thing. That's why when you try to discuss this with some people, they don't get it -- particularly investors. They don't understand, and I say 'well, you really feel the music when you listen to the music this way.' When you hear it through this you get goosebumps -- if you liked the music originally, you love the music. If it's one of your favorite songs, you're inside it."

Young said the idea of Pono "started innocently enough" around 2000. "I had just gotten to the point where I was really tired of the CDs, and I saw that the new thing that was happening was even worse than the CDs. Instead of getting better, it was getting worse. The quality got even worse, it went down to like 5 percent of what was capable."

Stopping by CNBC's Mad Money, Young told host Jim Cramer that Pono is working on partnerships with at least two automakers. "We're working with Harmon for Lincoln Continental for 2016 release, with Pono already built in," he revealed. "I've been talking with Tesla and as soon as we're ready with our store they said they're ready to put it in."