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Tag Archives: indie

In Era of Web 2.0, Is Pitchfork Stuck in Web 1.5?

“Who else is with me and is “over” Pitchfork? This is Web 2.0. If I say The Modern Lovers is a 9.0, then I should be able to go edit the review and give it the correct rating.”

–  Paul, a user on the Sound Opinionsmessageboard

This statement from Paul is a fitting summation of what I want to look at in my concluding post – Pitchfork’s anti-user participatory approach to content generation – something we don’t find too often anymore in this era of Web 2.0.

Pitchfork’s design is based on a one-way flow of information. Content is categorized between Reviews, News, Features, Pitchfork.tv, Forkcast and Best New Music. While all of the content can be shared using the AddThis Button which we now find on most websites, there is no other area on the site for users to interact either with the reviewers or with each other (though a few email addresses are available for select reviewers through the Staff footer link – still very difficult to find, and obviously a response is not guaranteed). Besides a few features (the AddThisButton, tags, and relevant links), Pitchfork can definitely be described as a site from the “Web-of-information-source” or, Web 1.0.

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No One Asked For Your Opinion…

In my first post I discussed how people used Twitter shared their thoughts on Pitchfork’s Top 20 Albums of the 2000s. I wanted to also take a look at how bloggers did the same.

Based on any online discussion surrounding Pitchfork and its reviews, it’s obvious that users want to interact with the site – and they actually do – just on other websites. Popular music blogs Stereogum and Brooklyn Vegan both linked to the list, generating almost 500 reader comments between the two. I couldn’t get an exact number, but through a Google search I found that around 500 smaller blogs, both personal and music related, linked to the list as well. Even without Pitchfork allowing readers to comment directly on their own site, readers will still comment, and in large numbers.

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Honest Opinions or Hidden Agendas?

The way we intake and find out about new music has changed drastically through the emergence of music blogs, message boards, recommendation services, iTunes, Twitter, and mp3 sites. With so much information available, trusted filters have developed to sift through and essentially assist in curating reader listening habits. Over the last few years, Pitchfork has become one of these filters – many agree that it’s become one of the most influential sources, (if not the most influential source) for new music. Here I illustrate what has been said about Pitchfork’s power, and reactions against its authority.   

The Pitchfork Effect

“[Pitchfork] has become the most powerful voice among the music media’s exploding new breed of digital tastemakers. Viewed daily by music zealots, record store buyers, college radio programmers, label executives, magazine editors and their ilk, the free site is capable of propelling an independent artist’s career with a single rave… An endorsement from Pitchfork — which dispenses its approval one-tenth of a point at a time, up to a maximum of 10 points — is very valuable, indeed.” (du Lac, Washington Post)


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Behind the Music (Criticism)

In my last post, I focused on how Pitchfork readers interacted with the site’s list of the Top 20 Albums of the 2000s to exemplify how a link can be shared through Twitter. In this post, I wanted to give a bit more background on the site and its readership to further understand its role in the media sphere.

Who is “Pitchfork?”

Ryan Schreiber, publisher and editor-in-chief, started the site in 1995 from his parent’s basement. More than anyone else associate with the site, Schreiber serves as the face of Pitchfork in the media. 

Pitchfork has a full-time staff of 15-20 employees, and more than 50 paid freelancers. Unfortunately not uncommon in music journalism, the content is primarily authored by males. By looking at the staff roster, one can see that out of these 50-55 freelancers, a mere 7 are women. This is not reflective of their readership, as according to their media kit, 36% of Pitchfork’s readers are women. Through what I could find on Google, a majority of the writers are based in large cities such as New York, San Francisco and Chicago, and (thank you Google Images), out of the 28 (male) writers I was able to find images of online, 24 were Caucasian. 


While each album is reviewed by an individual writer (and some writers do have better name recognition than others – Managing Editor Mark Richardson, Domonique Leon and Philip Sherburne who are well known critics in the electronic music community, Village Voice writer Zach Baron, Bjork biographer Mark Pytlik, and author Douglas Polk for example), the reviews and opinions are commonly seen as that of the Pitchfork brand (Mark Pytlik didn’t give the album a 7.8 – Pitchfork gave the album a 7.8).

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A Day in the Life of a Link: Twitter Edition


I raised a few questions in my last post regarding the issues I want to address surrounding Pitchfork Media, and I’ve decided to begin my journey by looking at how readers take content originating on the site into their own hands and disseminate it through Twitter.

I’ve been monitoring all of Pitchfork’s content for the last week, and wanted to choose one item that I thought would serve as an appropriate example of how information travels. Last week, Pitchfork posted their list of the Top 200 Albums of the 2000s – on Friday, albums 20-1 were announced.

Using TweetMeme, I found that an estimated 500-600 users reposted Pitchfork’s original link announcing the top 20 albums. There were a variety of ways users passed on the link over the weekend, and I was curious to see how the conversation developed around the list among Twitter users. (All of these tweets were followed with tinyurl or bit.ly link linking back to Pitchfork).

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What Are the Major Issues Surrounding Pitchfork Media’s Power?

Known to many as the authorities on all things music related, Pitchfork Media has garnered a definite influence on trends in music over the last decade. I want to know why and how. Here are a few questions I’ll attempt to find the answers to:

How does Pitchfork’s content spread across the internet? I plan on researching how the website’s content is disseminated through both smaller blogs and twitter posts, and how much of an effect a positive review can have on the number Youtube views, Myspace views, and bittorrent downloads (through waffles.fm).

Why is Pitchfork so controversial? To many, the mention of the site immediately elicits a gag reflex, yet it is difficult to argue that it’s become one of the definitive sources for music. What about the site makes readers so reactionary?

Does Pitchfork have an agenda in securing its status as a dominating taste-maker? Like any brand, there are a few instances in the website’s history where it may have been aware that confrontation and controversy is good for business.

In this Web 2.0 era, why is there no space for a dialogue among the readers? Or do readers simply want to be told what the Best New Music is (even better, in the format of clickable lists and quick 1-10 scale ratings) without having to seek it out for themselves?

Pitchfork serves as a concise guide and filter among the thousands upon thousands of music blogs out there. Is there harm in having a single go-to publication as an information source for all things music related?

And who are these writers who, under the Pitchfork brand, have the power to steer the direction of musical trends?


The Pitchfork Effect

I’ve decided to base my travelogue on the highly influential music website, Pitchfork Media. Specifically, I want to concentrate on what some people call The Pitchfork Effect – the websites lone ability to make or break a band with a single review.

Started in 1995 by editor Ryan Schreiber, Pitchfork began as a small music review website, updated monthly. As of this year, the site averages 245,000 visitors a day, has delved into book publishing, curates an annual music festival, has an online tv channel, partners with ABC WorldNews, and has created a “canon” of staff lists. This year, Schreiber was a TIME100 Most Influential People in the World finalist, and the site is often credited with breaking artists such as The Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and Grizzly Bear.

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