Pitchfork—The Essential Guide to Independent Music and Beyond

By: Aura Guadagno

Former record store clerk, Ryan Schreiber, created a music review website shortly after finishing high school in 1995.  Pitchfork was started to provide the Internet monthly updates for independent music reviews.  Fifteen years later, Pitchfork has expanded greatly with daily in-depth record reviews, news, interviews, and gossip. “You want your news live, in real time, as it happens — not on some archaic daily schedule like the ones limited technology forces on us back when people still relied on paperboys and printing presses,” Schreiber recently wrote on the Pitchfork website.

The music industry has drastically changed throughout the years, but the fact that remains constant is that most listeners find their music through a filtered reliable source that helps people choose what music they want and don’t want to hear. This is one of the reasons why Pitchfork is so popular. With traffic around 150,000 visits per day, Pitch fork has driven fans away from other music review sources like Rolling Stone magazine, and MTV with its direct to fan approach.  Pitchfork is also on Twitter with a 1,538,806 following that updates regularly about artists, albums, festivals and labels.

Pitchfork used to have an album rating system, which assigns scores from 0.0 to 10.0, which is sometimes harsh and often controversial but often steers sales.  It has a significant influence on an album’s popularity and also “breaking” artists. Indie rock band, Arcade Fire, cited Pitchfork’s review to have helped with the success of their album, Funeral, which was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Alternative Rock Album category. After a positive Pitchfork review, Funeral was said to have gone out of print for a week because of the immense demand for the album.

This rave process after an album is reviewed has become notable as the Pitchfork Effect , which is the websites ability to make or break a band with a single review.  Few albums have received a perfect 10.0 score including:

  • Bruce Springsteen- Born to Run
  • Beastie Boys- Paul’s Boutique
  • Radiohead- Kid A & OKComputer
  • The Flaming Lips- The Soft Bulletin

Pitchfork has stopped using a numbered rating system for individual songs and has now introduced a feature on the website called  “Best New Tracks.”

30-year-old Ryan Schreiber was nominated in the top 100 entrepreneurs to appear on Time Magazine in 2009. Now based in Chicago, Pitchfork is still led by Schreiber. He has a small team of full time staff members of writers. ABC news has launched  “New Music Monday’s” which is a new series on its website that Pitchfork writers will appear on.  Writers will discuss recent albums they have reviewed and appear weekly on the series.  To kick off this new series, Schreiber promoted five albums he was looking forward to be released himself. (see video here)

Lists have been published for the best albums of the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 2000 decades. Another list for best songs of the 1960s, 1990s and 2000s has been created as well. The website also features detailed album reviews of the best singles of each year annually.   The popularity of Pitchfork is growing tremendously.  In 2006 PitchforkMusic Festival premiered. It was a two day event with 15,000 per day and more than 40 band performances.  This has grown into a three day annual festival held in Chicago each summer.

Pitchfork is a thorough and speedy way of reporting reviews and news.  The articles are written by people with a special passion for music and they will continue to be a great resource in finding new music.  Although it has grown to a wide range genres, it still focus on indie music. It is controversial about the limited experience these writers have, but fan or not, they have taken control of the indie music scene. Pitchfork is currently seeking writers to join their team of music journalists.  “Candidates should have a deep knowledge of music past and present, with a particular interest in emerging artists, and must be able to communicate idea clearly…” For more information on becoming a member of the Pitchfork staff, click here.

Sources:

Pitchfork Official Site

Slate: The Indie Music Site That Everyone Loves To Hate

Wikipedia: Pitchfork Media

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