Neil Young's PonoMusic Store Goes Offline as It Switches Content Providers

Pono contracts with 7digital following Omnifone's sale to a mystery buyer.

Neil Young's PonoMusic digital service is offline following the recent acquisition of Omnifone, up until now the company's sole provider of hi-resolution audio downloads. The sale has forced Young and company to go dark until a new platform can be established. Taking over as Pono's new provider will be 7digital, the London-based indie services platform. In a message posted to its website, Pono said the "process of transition is now well underway" and that it would take several weeks to complete.

Pono's music library was taken offline on Wednesday (July 20). In a statement, the company encouraged people to continue listening to their purchased music and said that all licensing agreements with labels are intact and will be in place when the store, which uses the FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) format as its standard, reopens with the help of 7digital. Those distinct, Toblerone-shaped Pono music players are still available to purchase for $399 a pop.

"We're ardent supporters of high resolution music and are delighted to be working with the team at Neil Young's Pono to provide content for their service," said 7digital CEO Simon Cole in a statement to Billboard.

Omnifone, a provider of licensing and backend services for a variety of cloud-based digital music services, entered administration in May 2016 after determining it could not meet its debt liabilities. In late June the company received an offer to purchase its technology business and assets for $10 million, though the buyer's identity has not been disclosed.

While Pono is 7digital's first known pickup from Omnifone, it may not be the last. Cole remarked that "a number of former customers and partners of Omnifone have come to us to request our help with various projects and services. Some of those conversations move faster than others, but there are certainly interesting opportunities we are looking forward to sharing more on in the near future."

The Pono Music Store launched in January 2015 with a library of 2 million-plus songs with all the major labels. In an open letter last August, Young called Pono a "labor of love" and reiterated the company's mission to bring high-quality audio to fans -- "not some 21st century fake shallow Xerox facsimile, with all of the essence taken away and replaced by a thin exterior with no passionate core."