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Pitchfork Magazine

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Pitchfork Magazine

Pitchfork Media
Web address pitchfork.com
Type of site Music webzine
Registration No
Owner Ryan Schreiber
Created by Ryan Schreiber
Launched 1995;  (1995)
Alexa rank positive decrease 3,259 (November 2013)[1]
Current status Active

Pitchfork Media, usually known simply as Pitchfork, is a Chicago-based daily Internet publication devoted to music criticism and commentary, music news, and artist interview. Its focus is on independent music,[2] especially indie rock. However, the range of musical genres covered extends to pop, hip hop, folk, jazz, heavy metal, experimental, and various forms of electronic dance music.

The site, which was established in 1995, concentrates on new music, but Pitchfork journalists also review reissued albums and box sets. The site has also published "best-of" lists – such as the best albums of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, and the best songs of the 1960s – as well as annual features detailing the best singles and albums of each year since 1999.

History

In late 1995, Ryan Schreiber, then just out of high school, created Pitchfork in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Influenced by local fanzines and college radio station KUOM, Schreiber, who had no previous writing experience, aimed to provide the Internet with a regularly updated resource for independent music. At first bearing the name Turntable, the site was originally updated monthly with interviews and reviews. In May 1996, the site began publishing daily, and was renamed "Pitchfork", a reference to Tony Montana's tattoo in the 1983 film Scarface.[3]

In early 1999, Schreiber uprooted Pitchfork from its Minneapolis base and relocated to Chicago, Illinois. By then, the site had expanded to four full-length album reviews daily, as well as sporadic interviews, features, and columns. It had also begun garnering a following for both its extensive coverage of underground music and its writing style, which was often unhindered by the conventions of print journalism. In October of that year, the site added a daily music news section.

Size, readership and site traffic

Pitchfork now receives an audience of more than 240,000 readers per day, and more than 1.5 million unique visitors per month, making it the most popular independent-focused music publication online.[4][5]

On October 24, 2003, the author of

Influence

Pitchfork's opinions have gained increased cultural currency in recent years; some in the mainstream media view the site as a barometer of the independent music scene, and positive quotes from its reviews are increasingly used in press releases and affixed to the front of CDs.

Some publications[7] have cited Pitchfork in having played a part in "breaking" artists such as Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Interpol, The Go! Team, Junior Boys, The Books, Broken Social Scene, Cold War Kids, Wolf Parade, Tapes 'n Tapes, and Titus Andronicus although the site's true impact on their popularity remains a source of frequent debate.

Conversely, Pitchfork has also been seen as being a negative influence on some indie artists. As suggested in a Washington Post article in April 2006, Pitchfork's reviews can have a significant influence on an album's popularity, especially if it had previously only been available to a limited audience or had been released on an independent record label. A dismissive 0.0 review of former Dismemberment Plan frontman Travis Morrison's Travistan album led to a large sales drop and a virtual college radio blacklist.[3] On the other hand, "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."[3]

Examples

  • Arcade Fire is among the bands most commonly cited to have benefited from a Pitchfork review. In a 2005 Chicago Tribune article, a Merge Records employee states, "After the Pitchfork review, Funeral went out of print for about a week because we got so many orders for the record."[8]
  • Bon Iver was catapulted to mainstream and critical success after a 2007 Pitchfork review of the album For Emma, Forever Ago.[9] Pitchfork was the only publication to have included the album on a 2007 end-of-the-year list, while over sixteen popular publications included the re-release on their 2008 lists. In the summer of 2011, Pitchfork noted Bon Iver's self titled release as "Best New Music," and later chose the release as the Best Album of 2011. Pitchfork's critical acclamation of Bon Iver is widely seen as lifting the artist to commercial mainstream success, which culminated with his Grammy Award for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album. Time Magazine nominated Bon Iver as Person of the Year in 2012, noting the 2007 Pitchfork review as the "indie cred" that "led to mainstream success."[10]
  • Clap Your Hands Say Yeah member Lee Sargent has discussed the impact of Pitchfork's influence on their album, saying, "The thing about a publication like Pitchfork is that they can decide when that happens. You know what I mean? They can say, 'We're going to speed up the process and this is going to happen...now!' And it was a kick in the pants for us, because we lost control of everything."[11]

Criticism

Along with its popularity, Pitchfork has attracted criticism.

One common complaint is that the site's journalism suffers from a narrow view of independent music, favoring lo-fi and often obscure indie rock and giving only cursory treatment to other genres.[12] Some critics have suggested that the site rates albums from particular music scenes or artists more favorably in order to bolster its influence when the music becomes popular.[13]

The majority of criticism, however, is aimed at the site's album reviewing style. Critics argue the site often emphasizes a reviewers' own writing over the actual music being reviewed, sometimes not even reviewing the album and instead criticising the artist's integrity.[12] Pitchfork is also known to give "0.0" ratings, deeming the work as utterly worthless. One critic wrote that Pitchfork's "0.0" rating of a particular album amounts to no more than a "cheap publicity stunt" for a website that "thrives on controversy."[14] The critic also hypothetically asked how a neo-Nazi punk record would be scored in comparison to these "0.0" albums, based on Pitchfork standards.[14]

Parodies

  • When Pitchfork asked comedian David Cross to compile a list of his favorite albums, he instead provided them with a list of "Albums to Listen to While Reading Overwrought Pitchfork Reviews". In it, he satirically piled over-the-top praise on fictional indie rock records, mocking Pitchfork Media's reviewing style.[15]
  • In 2004, comedy website Something Awful created a parody of Pitchfork's front page. Entitled "RichDork Media", the page makes reference to nonexistent, obscure-sounding indie-rock bands in its reviews, news headlines and advertisements. The rating system measures music on its proximity to the band Radiohead.[16] A similar, more light-hearted parody was created by Sub Pop, a record label whose musical artists Pitchfork has reviewed (often favorably).[17]
  • On September 10, 2007, the satirical newspaper The Onion published a story in which Pitchfork Media editor Ryan Schreiber reviews music as a whole, giving it a 6.8 out of 10.[18]

Leaked music

In August 2006, a directory on Pitchfork's servers containing over 300 albums was compromised. A web surfer managed to discover and download the collection, which included The Decemberists' The Crane Wife and TV on the Radio's Return to Cookie Mountain, both of which had previously leaked to peer-to-peer networks. Allegedly, one of the albums on the server, Joanna Newsom's Ys, had not been available previously on file-sharing networks.[19]

Deleted and changed reviews

Pitchfork has been criticized for deleting older reviews from their archive in an effort to keep up with the changing trends in indie music. One such example is the 9.5/10 review written for ska band Save Ferris' album It Means Everything.[20] Similarly, the original review of Psyence Fiction by UNKLE received 9.8/10, but the review was later deleted and when the group released their next album four years later, the website gave it a score of 5.0/10 and described it as an improvement on their debut, calling Psyence Fiction "one of the most anti-climactic and jaw-dropping disappointments of recent years" which "came up short on little things like, oh, vitality, restraint, emotional resonance, and tunes."[21]

Negative reviews of two By Divine Right albums were also removed from Pitchfork after members Brendan Canning and Leslie Feist became successful with the band Broken Social Scene and their own solo work. Steven Byrd's deleted review of By Divine Right's Bless This Mess, on which Canning and Feist play bass and guitar, went so far as to compare the band to "retard(s) with a guitar" who "wouldn't know Rock and Roll if she broke into their house and beat up their children," rating the album 1.8 out of ten.[22] After Belle & Sebastian's "comeback" in the mid-to-late 2000s, Pitchfork removed their 0.8-rated review of The Boy With the Arab Strap from the site.[23][24] The reviewer lambasted the band for writing songs that were "so sticky they should be hanging from Ben Stiller's ear, and I don't mean that in a good way."[25] Pitchfork originally gave the Flaming Lips album Zaireeka a scathing 0.0/10 in a review that also derided all Flaming Lips fans.[26]

Interestingly, Pitchfork has also removed the 9.4/10 review for the album Things Fall Apart by The Roots, presumably because it specifically stated that Pitchfork "will not un-publish anything."[27] They also removed the 1998 review of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel which initially received an 8.7.[28]

A Ryan Schreiber review of the John Coltrane album Live! at the Village Vanguard was deleted after attaining notoriety for its supposedly poor writing and alleged racist stereotypes, particularly in the lines, "It's like a dream I had: I floated on the River Nile, smokin' some fresh weed, relaxin'. But I ain't ever gonna see the Nile anyhow."[29] The removed piece was mocked by a cartoon, "The Best Worst Record Review of All Time," uploaded to YouTube in 2009.[30]

Misinformation

Pitchfork has been criticized directly by artists for misrepresentation, most famously in 2007 by the artist M.I.A. for what one of their writers later described as "perpetuating the male-led ingenue myth" with regard to her work.[31][32] Some have argued this is not isolated to Pitchfork in the music press, while this incident was later cited and similarly condemned by the artist Björk,[33] who criticized the site for assuming female musicians do not usually write or produce their own music. Pitchfork's articles on M.I.A. and her career since the incident have been noticeably negative and have attracted media commentary;[34] an article titled "M.I.A. Uses Pitchfork Tweets to Diss Pitchfork" was printed by LA Weekly in 2010.[35]

Music festivals


Intonation Music Festival

In 2005, Pitchfork curated the Intonation Music Festival, attracting approximately 15,000 attendees to Chicago's Union Park for a two-day bill featuring performances by 25 acts, including Broken Social Scene, The Decemberists, The Go! Team, and a rare appearance by Les Savy Fav.

Pitchfork Music Festival

On July 29 and 30, 2006, the publication premiered its own Pitchfork Music Festival in the same park. The event attracted over 18,000 attendees per day. More than 40 bands performed at the inaugural festival, including Spoon and Yo La Tengo, as well as a rare headlining set by reunited Tropicália band Os Mutantes.[36]

The Pitchfork Music Festival was held again in 2007. It was expanded to three days (Friday, July 13 - Sunday, July 15), with the first day being a collaboration between Pitchfork and the British music festival All Tomorrow's Parties as part of the latter's "Don't Look Back" series, in which seminal artists perform their most legendary albums in their entirety. Performers that evening included Sonic Youth playing Daydream Nation, Slint playing Spiderland, and GZA/Genius playing Liquid Swords. Some of the other artists who performed over the weekend included Yoko Ono, De La Soul, Cat Power, The New Pornographers, Stephen Malkmus, Clipse, Iron & Wine, Girl Talk, Of Montreal, Deerhunter, Dan Deacon, The Ponys, and The Sea and Cake.

Since 2011, a European winter edition of the festival takes place in Paris.

All Tomorrow's Parties

In 2008 Pitchfork collaborated with All Tomorrow's Parties to curate half of the bill for one of their May festival weekends. This was the first event that Pitchfork has been involved in outside of the United States.

Rating system

Pitchfork's music reviews use two different rating systems:

  • Individual track reviews were formerly ranked from 1 to 5 stars, but on January 15, 2007, the site introduced a new system called "Forkcast". In it, instead of assigning tracks a particular rating, reviewers simply label them one of the self-explanatory categories "New Music", "Old Music", "Video", "Advanced Music", "Rising", "WTF", the category of their most favorably regarded songs, "On Repeat" and, for the least favored songs, "Delete".
  • Album reviews are given a rating out of 10.0, specific to one decimal point.

On October 24, 2003, Pitchformula.com[37] made a survey of the 5,575 reviews available on Pitchfork at that time, showing that:

  • 6.7 was the average rating
  • 2,339 reviews had been awarded a rating of 7.4 or higher
  • 2,362 reviews had been awarded a rating of between 5.0 and 7.3
  • 873 reviews had been awarded a rating of less than 5.0[6]

The review for Radiohead's album In Rainbows seems to have taken a satirical approach towards the method of pay that Radiohead utilized for the album. It allows a user to type in their own rating, and when a question mark is clicked, says, "It's up to you" (similar to Radiohead's website). If clicked again, it says, "No really, it's 9.3".[38] British Sea Power's 2008 album Do You Like Rock Music? was awarded a rating of "U.2".[39]

10.0 rated albums

The following is a list of albums given a 10 out of 10, Pitchfork's highest possible rating, on initial release. The score is rare and has only been given to ten albums since the site was launched in 1995. Several more albums have been given a 10 on re-release.

Relaxation of the Asshole, a comedy album by Guided by Voices singer Robert Pollard, was awarded a dual 0.0 and 10.0 on initial release. A later site redesign changed the rating to 0.0 only, although the explanation for the unusual rating remains in the text of the review.[40]

Artist Title Year Source
12 Rods Gay? 1996 [41]
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead Source Tags & Codes 2002 [42]
Amon Tobin Bricolage 1997 [43]
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy I See a Darkness 1999 [44]
The Flaming Lips The Soft Bulletin 1999 [45]
Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 2010 [46]
Radiohead Kid A 2000 [47]
Radiohead OK Computer 1997 [48]
Walt Mink El Producto 1996 [49]
Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot 2002 [50]

Subsidiary Websites

Pitchfork.tv

On April 7, 2008 Pitchfork Media launched Pitchfork.tv, a website displaying videos related to many independent music acts. It features bands that are typically found on pitchforkmedia.com.

Altered Zones

On July 7, 2010, Pitchfork announced

Nothing Major

On December 26, 2012, Pitchfork launched

The Dissolve

On May 31, 2013, Pitchfork announced they would be launching a film news and criticism website,

Pitchfork Album and Track of the Year winners

Pitchfork Album of the Year

Main article: The Top 50 Albums of the Year
Year Artist Album Nation Source
1999 The Dismemberment Plan Emergency & I  United States [56]
2000 Radiohead Kid A  United Kingdom [57]
2001 The Microphones The Glow Pt. 2  United States [58]
2002 Interpol Turn on the Bright Lights  United States [59]
2003 The Rapture Echoes  United States [60]
2004 Arcade Fire Funeral  Canada [61]
2005 Sufjan Stevens Illinois  United States [62]
2006 The Knife Silent Shout  Sweden [63]
2007 Panda Bear Person Pitch  United States [64]
2008 Fleet Foxes Sun Giant/Fleet Foxes  United States [65]
2009 Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavilion  United States [66]
2010 Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy  United States [67]
2011 Bon Iver Bon Iver  United States [68]
2012 Kendrick Lamar good kid, m.A.A.d city  United States [69]

Pitchfork Track of the Year

Year Artist Song Nation Source
2003 Outkast "Hey Ya!"  United States [70]
2004 Annie "Heartbeat"  Norway [71]
2005 Antony & The Johnsons "Hope There's Someone"  United Kingdom [72]
2006 Justin Timberlake featuring T.I. "My Love"  United States [73]
2007 LCD Soundsystem "All My Friends"  United States [74]
2008 Hercules and Love Affair "Blind"  United States [75]
2009 Animal Collective "My Girls"  United States [76]
2010 Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti "Round and Round"  United States [77]
2011 M83 "Midnight City"  France [78]
2012 Grimes "Oblivion"  Canada [79]

See also

Internet music journalism

References

External links

Pitchfork sites

  • Pitchfork TV
  • Pitchfork Media
  • Pitchfork Music Festival

Other links

  • The Washington Post, 30 April 2006).
  • Columbia Journalism Review, May–June 2006).
  • Chicago Tribune reprint, published 8 May 2005).
  • City Pages, 14 June 2006).
  • The Chicagoist, 10 March 2006)
  • The Joanna Newsom Leak
  • Unofficial PFMS web board

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