Pitchfork
Pitchfork logo.svg
Pitchfork.com screenshot.png
Screenshot of Pitchfork's homepage
Type of site
Online music magazine
Available inEnglish
Founded1995
Country of originUnited States
OwnerCondé Nast
Created byRyan Schreiber
EditorPuja Patel
Employees36[1]
ParentCondé Nast
URLpitchfork.com
Alexa rankDecrease 3,137 (June 2020)[2]
CommercialYes
RegistrationNo
Launched1995; 25 years ago (1995) (as Turntable)
Current statusActive

Pitchfork is an American online music publication launched in 1995 by Ryan Schreiber. It was first based in Chicago, later moved to Greenpoint, is currently in One World Trade Center, and is owned by Condé Nast.[3]

It began as a blog that developed during Schreiber's teenage years working at a record store. It quickly earned a reputation for its extensive coverage of indie music. It has since expanded and covers all kinds of music, including pop.[4]

The site is best known for its daily output of music reviews but also regularly reviews reissues and box sets. Since 2016, it has published retrospective reviews of classics, and other albums that weren't initially reviewed, each Sunday. The site publishes "best-of" lists—albums, songs—and annual features and retrospectives each year. During the '90s and '00s the site's reviews—favorable or otherwise—were considered widely influential in making or breaking careers.[5]

History

Previous Pitchfork logo

In late 1995, Ryan Schreiber, a recent high school graduate, created the magazine in Minneapolis. Influenced by local fanzines and KUOM, Schreiber, who had no previous writing experience, aimed to provide the Internet with a regularly updated resource for independent music. Initially called Turntable, the site was updated monthly with interviews and reviews. In May 1996, the site began publishing daily and was renamed Pitchfork, alluding to Tony Montana's tattoo in Scarface.[6]

In early 1999, Schreiber relocated Pitchfork 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 its extensive coverage of underground music and its writing style, which was often unhindered by the conventions of journalism. In October, the site added a daily music news section.[citation needed]

Pitchfork has launched a variety of subsidiary websites. Pitchfork.tv, a website displaying videos related to many independent music acts, launched in April 2008. It features bands that are typically found on Pitchfork .[citation needed] In July 2010, Pitchfork announced Altered Zones, a blog aggregator devoted to underground and do it yourself music.[7] On May 21, 2011, Pitchfork announced a partnership with Kill Screen, in which Pitchfork would publish some of their articles.[8] Altered Zones was closed on November 30.[9] On December 26, 2012, Pitchfork launched Nothing Major, a website that covered visual arts such as fine art and photography.[10] Nothing Major closed in October 2013.[11] On October 13, 2015, Condé Nast announced that it had acquired Pitchfork.[12] Following the sale, Schreiber remained as editor-in-chief.[13]

On March 13, 2016, Pitchfork was redesigned. According to an announcement post during the redesign, they said:[14]

We last redesigned in the fall of 2011. A lot about the online world has changed since then. This iteration, more than a year in the making, brings Pitchfork into a new era, improving functionality and inviting deeper exploration while simplifying the experience to make browsing, searching, reading, listening, and watching easier.

In August 2018, Pitchfork's longtime executive editor Mark Richardson stepped down. He began writing for the site in 1998[15] and was employed full-time in 2007.[16] On September 18, 2018, founder Ryan Schreiber stepped down as the site's top editor. He was replaced by Puja Patel as editor-in-chief on October 15, 2018.[17] On January 8, 2019, Schreiber announced he would be exiting the company.[18] In January 2019, Condé Nast announced it would put all its titles, including Pitchfork, behind a paywall by the end of the year, though this did not occur.[19]

Influence

Publicity and artist popularity

Pitchfork's opinions have gained increased cultural currency; 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 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.[6]

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 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.[6] 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."[6]

Examples of Pitchfork's impact include:

  • 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."[20]
  • Bon Iver was catapulted to mainstream and critical success after a 2007 Pitchfork review of the album For Emma, Forever Ago.[21] 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 nominated Bon Iver as Person of the Year in 2012, noting the 2007 Pitchfork review as the "indie cred" that "led to mainstream success".[22]
  • 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.[24][25] On October 24, 2003, the author of Pitchformula.com reported that Pitchfork had published 5,575 reviews from 158 different authors, with an average length of just over 520 words. Together, the reviews featured a total of 2,901,650 words.[26]

Criticism

In the 2000s the website's journalism favored independent music, favoring lo-fi and often obscure indie rock and giving only cursory treatment to other genres.[27] The website had a reputation for publishing reviews early and for being unpredictable, often strongly dependent on which reviewer was writing. In a 2006 article in Slate, Matthew Shaer accused Pitchfork of deliberately writing provocative and contrarian reviews in order to attract attention.[28]

The website was sometimes criticized in those years for the quality of its writing. A 2006 article in City Pages noted the large discretion the site gave to its writers, arguing it was "under-edited" and that the prose was often "overly florid".[27] Shaer singled out some examples of "verbose and unreadable writing".[28] In response, Schreiber told City Pages that "I trust the writers to their opinions and to their own style and presentation. The most important thing to me is they know what they're talking about and are insightful."[27]

A 2007 review of the album Kala by M.I.A. inaccurately said that Diplo had produced the tracks, when he had produced 3 out of 11 tracks and M.I.A. had produced the rest. Another Pitchfork writer described the error as "perpetuating the male-led ingenue myth".[29] M.I.A. and later Björk argued that this was part of a wider problem of music journalists making the assumption that female singers do not write or produce their own music.[30][31]

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 been leaked to peer-to-peer networks. Allegedly, one of the albums on the server, Joanna Newsom's Ys, had not been available on file-sharing networks.[32]

Parodies