Without Warning, Pono’s Site Goes Offline for ‘Several Weeks’

Beginning of the end for Neil Young’s Pono?

Pono’s companion music site, at ponomusic.com, abruptly went down over the weekend with apparently zero warning to users.  According to details now posted on the site, a broad range of higher-end downloads will be completely unavailable for several weeks, with no firm return date.

In a notice posted online, Pono blamed a backend problem with Omnifone, which has now been acquired.  Apparently the rugged got ripped out under Pono’s music hosting and delivery as a result, with the company scrambling to move backend providers.

Whether Omnifone reneged on a deal as a result of its acquisition, a renegotiation flatly failed, or some fight broke out between the companies is unclear.  Either way, Pono believers are now paying the price.  In a notice that has now replaced an entire store of higher-end downloads, Pono assured users that its core licensing with major labels remains in place.  But storing, delivering, and encoding all of those songs is the responsibility of the service, with Pono opted to outsource.

Die-Hard Pono Fan Can’t Take It Anymore, Starts PonoSucks.com…

Bigger services like Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud, and Apple all handle their backend storage and delivery internally.  Pono has raised more than $12 million since a splashy Kickstarter several years ago, but has made little impact since then.  Quite the opposite: in the past two years alone, downloads have cratered, while streaming has entered an extreme growth phase.

That leaves a possible niche for high-end downloads, though Tidal seems to be filling that need with its premium streaming tier.  Strangely, Neil Young released his latest album exclusively on Tidal, before Pono.

This is the notice to users, posted underneath a 90s-style ‘Under Construction’ heading:

“One of our key infrastructure partners – Omnifone – has recently been acquired by a large company.  An impact of this purchase is that all Omnifone’s supply relationships are being terminated, effectively immediately.  Omnifone has been the exclusive content provider for PonoMusic.” 

“In early anticipation of this change, some time ago we began, and subsequently concluded, negotiations to move our content provision to 7 Digital, the leading independent music content/services platform.  This process of transition is now well underway, but not yet complete. Please rest assured that our contractual relationships with all the major music labels remain fully intact and will transition to our new platform.”

As for a return time, that sounds like anyone’s guess.  For now, a rough timetable of ‘several weeks’ will have to suffice.  Meanwhile, 7digital undoubtedly has Pono by the balls, given the urgency of the replacement situation.

“With our partners at 7 Digital, we will determine the timeframe of this transition. Right now, we believe this transition process will take several weeks to achieve.  In the meantime, please stay connected to the site and the community and keep listening to and enjoying the music you have.  This transition is our highest priority and will remain so until we are live again and providing our customers with seamless access to music in the highest quality available.”


More as we learn more.

Written while listening to Miles Davis.




4 Responses

  1. anon

    “…Pono blamed a backend problem with Omnifone, which has now been acquired. Apparently the rugged got ripped out under Pono’s music hosting.”

    Acquired by whom? Rugged?

  2. Doug

    I have a Pono player and was also once an active member of the Pono Community Forum. The user who started the pono sucks website was once a most favored poster, contributing many humorous posts, articles, and tips. Then the Yellow Meanie (censors) Moderators stepped in. Posts were flagged and users warned. One particular female user with a nose ring, multi color skanky looking hair, and love like orientations spinning off the bell curve became offended about any and all Hillary jokes. Soon after, any and all left of liberal leaning positions and topics deemed politically incorrect were banned, flagged, citations and warnings were issued. Free speech and open floor discussions were effectively shut down. The lights dimmed, people left, conversations dwindled, and now the store has gone dark.

  3. Winged Mind

    It is my dream that before i die I will get to see human beings become
    clear and mature enough, to have a opinion that is based on truth and not emotion, myself included.
    Left brained demented web forum asbys mods. aside, mostly the yeas and nays of pono have come from 4 camps=

    I can’t hear Hi End or I can’t afford Hi End so we hate it.

    I can afford Hi End and and hear Hi End so I am for it.

    The same folks who can not hear a good speaker wire will see no need to spend more money on their Grey world.

    Frankly for me, most digital sounds un natural and perverse, but has gotten way way more listenable these past few years,
    Class D amps with bass have helped a lot.

    I can not afford Hi End, but god does it sound good, and as a web site owner, changing distribution flux has shut me down more then once, we just put the world on back order, gave a discount and no one noticed.

    Pono at least had the dignity to tell the truth.