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What I Learned About Culture, Mission, Movements, and the Pure Power of Sometimes From Working on PonoMusic's Launch

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I am part of the team that, a month ago, launched what many thought was -- in the true Cervantean sense -- a quixotic effort to raise $800,000 for PonoMusic on Kickstarter.

PonoMusic, born out of the restless and feverish imagination of Neil Young, is an effort to restore music's soul, which -- asphyxiated by the immense digital squeeze that mp3 puts on audio information -- had been shrinking into a ghost state.

The team included me and my son Lucas on the marketing and messaging side (more about that later), our indefatigable CEO John Hamm, and an undefeatable team of hardware, software and design experts.

Now that we're down to the final day, and having swept past $6 million -- making us the third most successful project in Kickstarter's history -- reflection is in order.

Reflection, because it isn't often that the way things should be dances into our lives as the way things are; in those moments the rare glow of sometimes washes over us.

Sometimes, patience gains reinforcements and can win on the battlefield of rush.

Our culture hums with the seductions of speed, and the fatal risks of falling behind. By contrast, the need for PonoMusic had been germinating in Neil's mind for decades, as he slid into mourning over the degradation of the listening experience, the hollowing out of music's soul. "Around the turn of the century," he started to focus on it. No one can accuse us of sprinting to market.

Many would have said -- and did, unshyly -- that our battle had been lost a long time ago. But patience itself is a talent of mind, and over the last month, the reinforcements came.

Sometimes, you discover that there are more people who think alongside you, than you thought.

Music is something we respond to individually, and that binds us collectively. We are dazzled by the ability of Kickstarter to activate both. The fulsomeness of the response has been profound, measurable in how much we raised; how many individuals contributed (more than 18,000); and the emotional directness, even plaintiveness, of so many of the comments. The loss of the molecule-moving experience of music is something others feel, too.

As you can imagine, there were the usual grumblings from the techno crowd. But this comment, for me, says it all (punctuation as in the original)

...whatever the specification ends up, does it really matter as long as when we listen to our favorite music through Pono, it makes us feel alive again!!!!. That's all I want back, MUSIC THAT STIRS MY SOUL.

Sometimes, the hunger for authenticity is recklessly underestimated.

And the settled victory of convenience over quality is lemmingly overstated.

In our case, many proclaimed that the audience for quality music was insignificant. Well, we still don't know how big it is, but we know how small it isn't. We know that there's a stirring out there. That something telluric is happening. A movement is coalescing. "6m in view," notes one comment. "I think we have sent a message to the music establishment."

We also know that millions are similarly rejecting the industrial food system. And with Airbnb, they are rejecting the industrial hotel system. So I reject this gratuitous comment from Mashable: "The Pono music player would be like Young himself: something very much out of time."

That's so wrong. PonoMusic is something very much in time. All movements are, including Gotham Greens, which is growing vegetables on rooftops in Brooklyn: "We are farmers who live in apartments," they say. "We see fields where others see rooftops."

Sometimes, the people who don't give you what you want, give you what you need.

To those people who inhabit the world of venture capital, the shape and form and mission of PonoMusic was the poster child of risk. Their lack of embrace -- and Neil talks about this -- brought us to Kickstarter, which in turn brought us to a supportive and loving community, and the attentive eyes of the media.

For reporters and bloggers, Kickstarter is both platform and barometer -- and that's more than fine with us, because raising consciousness is as important as raising money.

I have no doubt that venture capital will be interested in us now, which is fine, there is a sequence to all things, and the capital-raising world has its own natural laws.

Sometimes, celebrity rises.

Every musician who is part of our Kickstarter video, and those who are also part of the limited-edition series, did it out of the richness of belief.

Rarely, if ever, has such an explosion of talent, bridging generations, been ignited in support of a mission of such tender creative mercy. There are too many names of the generous to list, but they include Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, My Morning Jacket, Willie Nelson, Patti Smith, Arcade Fire, Bono and Dave Matthews.

All gave something of themselves for nothing, because for them, music is everything and they want it to be experienced in the form and substance in which it was birthed.

With their help, we proved that dreams need not be ended by the sirens of morning.

Sometimes, you can go home again.

I say that for two reasons, and if the Thomas Wolfe estate made a few pennies each time that reference was used, they'd be happy heirs.

The first reason is that we are indeed journeying home again, to the source of the music, the studio masters. We lost the center, we wandered, now we're heading back.

The second refers to my earlier note about working with my son on this project. Lucas has been emotionally tethered to Neil's music for as long as I can remember. To see him help PonoMusic succeed has been to witness an emotional homecoming that few fathers are fortunate enough to behold.