In the opening minutes of his new memoir Waging Heavy Peace (I listened to the audio book, and you can too for free), Neil Young talks about his model trains, his extensive collection of vintage cars, and not much about music per se — although he does highlight his entrepreneurial effort to save the music industry with a new-fangled audio system called PureTone.
For quite some time now, Young has lamented the decline of music during the digital age. It’s not pirating that’s the culprit. It’s the MP3, a format that degrades the quality of the music we hear. Speaking at a Wall Street Journal conference earlier this year (watch here), Young complained that the MP3 can’t “transfer the depth of the art.” “My goal,” he continued, “is to try and rescue the art form that I’ve been practicing for the past 50 years.”
Enter PureTone, which has actually been renamed Pono more recently. The device/music service will hit the market next year, and it essentially promises to let fans hear recordings in super high fidelity, as if they owned the original master tapes created by various artists. Not long ago, Flea, the bassist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, raved about the sound of Pono, telling Rolling Stone: “It’s not like some vague thing that you need dogs’ ears to hear. It’s a drastic difference.”
If that’s right, Young may do a great service for musicians everywhere, and make a lot of money for himself and others along the way. I mean imagine the number of remasters that could hit the market in the comings years, starting with two by Bob Dylan — The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and Highway 61 Revisited. A perfect place to begin.