Get ready, MP3s: Rocker Neil Young and his electric-powered Lincoln Continental are coming for you.
According to "Rolling Stone," Young has applied for a series of trademarks on what appears to be potential names for a new high-definition audio format that the musician is creating.
The project appears to be the result of Young's long-standing dissatisfaction with the quality of MP3s.
"They might sound like great song titles, but '21st Century Record Player,' 'Earth Storage,' and 'Thanks for Listening' aren't new Neil Young tunes," "the magazine wrote. "They're trademarks that the rocker recently filied with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office...and they indicate that Young is developing a high-resolution audio alternative to the MP3 format."
In patent office documents uncovered by "Rolling Stone," Young's application, first filed last June, points to six potential trademarks: 21st Century Record Player, Earth Storage, Thanks for Listening, Ivanhoe, Storage Shed, and SQS (Studio Quality Sound). The trademarks' description reads: "Online and retail store services featuring music and artistic performances, high resolution music downloadable from the internet, high resolutions discs featuring music and video, and pre-recorded digital media featuring audio and video recordings for storage and playback."
Young's publicist said that the star isn't ready to talk publicly about the project.
But it seems that in a press release about Young's memoir "Waging Heavy Peace" put out last year by Blue Rider Press, the beans about the potential new audio format may well have been spilled. After extolling the virtues of the musician's electric car, the LincVolt, the release goes on to talk about the new project, tentatively known as Pono.
"Young is also personally spearheading the development of Pono, a revolutionary new audio music system presenting the highest digital resolution possible, the studio quality sound that artists and producers heard when they created their original recordings," reads the release. "Young wants consumers to be able to take full advantage of Pono's cloud-based libraries of recordings by their favorite artists and, with Pono, enjoy a convenient music listening experience that is superior in sound quality to anything ever presented."
The upshot of such a new format, notes "Rolling Stone," is that "such a service would allow music fans to download audio files that sound like the studio recordings of the past, as opposed to the uber-compressed song files that are currently available at MP3 stores like iTunes and Amazon."
According to the Patent and Trademark Office documents, Young first filed for the trademarks on June 9, 2011, and as of March 23, 2012, they were ready to be published. "Rolling Stone" wrote that the trademark must be published for 30 days, during which challenges to the trademarks can be mounted. "If the trademarks face no opposition or snags," "Rolling Stone" wrote, "Young must then file documents detailing how he intends to use the trademarks, which the government could register as early as the holidays."
Though Young may well be pushing Pono on his own, it seems that he previously had hopes of coming up with a new kind of audio format in conjunction with the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. In January, at the D: Dive into Media conference, Young laid into MP3 quality, dismissing the format for having just "5 percent of the data present in the original recording." He then said that the way to get to the remaining 95 percent would be "high-resolution" digital tracks of the same quality as that produced during the studio recording.
Clearly, boosting sound quality in digital recordings is one of Young's major interests. On a message posted in May 2011 on his Web site, he predicted the future was just a year away. "2012 will be the year that record companies release high-resolution audio," Young wrote. "This is huge for our industry. Since the advent of the CD, listeners have been deprived of the full experience of listening. With the introduction of MP3s via online music services, listeners were further deprived.
"The spirituality and soul of music is truly found when the sound engulfs you and that is just what 2012 will bring. It is a physical thing, a relief that you feel when you finally hear music the way artists and producers did when they created it in the studio. The sound engulfs you and your senses open up allowing you to truly feel the deep emotion in the music of some of our finest artists. From Frank Sinatra to the Black Keys, the feeling is there. This is what recording companies were born to give you and in 2012 they will deliver."
Now the question is: Has Young given up on the record companies and taken matters into his own hands?