2 12 2010

When I first began analyzing Pitchfork, I realized it did seem like sort of  a stretch in qualifying as an online magazine. The site is very much about music criticism, but as I continued reading it I found more and more examples of solid writing and good reporting. Sure, the reviews and opinion pieces are snarky and laden with an elitist attitude, but that’s what readers look for in Pitchfork’s writing.

In a recent article titled, Beg, Steal, or Borrow: New Beats From Moscow, the website documents a new trend in Russian music. It discusses an underground electronic movement blending dubstep, electronic, hip hop and many other electronic inspired genres. The author, Finn Cohen, clearly did extensive research in creating this. The article begins with a scene setting lead, describing artist Alexander Kohlenko in his apartment working on music and doing work online. The story continues on talking about and to other artists like him involved in this movement.

The article continues with quotes from about 5 different key members in this scene talking about how they are trying to make it. It discusses the role of the internet, and how things have changed in that it used to be nearly impossible for artists in Russia to get known on a more international basis. The internet has obviously changed that. One other thing that really makes this article enjoyable to read is that is sort of blends in the author’s musical knowledge in describing the music. Though there are song clips in the article, it’s easy to imagine what the songs might sound like based on the thorough descriptions given.


2 12 2010

Pitchfork is owned by Pitchfork Media Inc. The site is the only entity that is owned by Pitchfork Media. It exists on its own, though it has produces some ancillary products.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Pitchfork hosts an annual music festival. This year’s was its sixth year in existence. The festival developed as sort of a physical representation of the kind of music it supports and covers. In 2009 there were more than 50,000 people in attendance, and the three day festival was completely sold out.

Pitchfork also is involved with other events such as SXSW (South by South West). It’s a music conference in Austin, Texas that features may speakers as well as dozens of showcases throughout the city. Each year Pitchfork hosts a party during the day for people to network at, promote their own brand and of course showcase some artists that have been featured on the site.

pitchfork employment potential

1 12 2010

I think it could be very difficult to make a living for the site when starting out as a journalist. I was unable to find out if all the writers for the site are paid, or if it is just its staff writers. The site only has two staff writers, so I would imagine it is difficult to get a job such as that, though the site has nearly fifty other contributing writers. Their is some blogging done on the site, though I would not call the writers bloggers as they do more than that. They also conduct interviews, write reviews and do some opinion columns.

As I mentioned in my previous posts, there is evidence of multi-source reporting on the site. Though, it is very much secondary to the opinion and review pieces on the site. Readers go to Pitchfork to find out what’s good to listen to, not for in-depth articles. This is not to diminish the quality of the research and reporting that goes into some pieces, it is well done. It’s just to say that it’s not the focus of the site.

The overall tone of the site varies. In the feature articles, it is an informal tone, but still authoritative on the subject matter it’s speaking about. The reviews have an informal tone, but can delve into a sort of elitist territory as the writer deems an album good or bad.

All about advertising

1 12 2010

Pitchfork’s content is free to readers online. This of course means it has to rely on advertising in order to make a profit. The highly trafficked site does not have any advertising rates listed, but offer specifications that advertisements must meet to appear on the site. It offers a variety of advertising packages. Advertisers are able to do a “homepage takeover” or sponsor individual sections, and have nothing but their own advertisements appear on those pages.

They also make money through working with sponsors at events. The site has its own music festival that serves to help make money, and also helps to promote the site. In 2009 the three day festival completely sold out with more than 50 thousand people in attendance. It also hosts its own party at SXSW every year, and works with sponsors for the event to make a profit.

The site does not currently have an app, though it would probably prove to be a profitable avenue for the publication.

20 10 2010

One of the more recent stories that I found most interesting and very well written was “What’s the Matter with Sweden?” The story starts off with a narrative lead, discussing how one band received funding multiple times from the Swedish Arts Council to work on creating an album. It discusses how this money was able to help the band. This particular paragraph then follows and functions  as the theme paragraph:

Scandinavian social democracies have come under the microscope amid the U.S. debate over President Barack Obama’s domestic agenda. In February 2009, FOX News host Bill O’Reilly asked, “Do we really want to change America into Sweden?” Last December, at a Tea Party protest in Washington, D.C., a handmade sign went further: “Norwegian socialists like what they see in Obama. WE DO NOT.”

The article continues on discussing how health care reform in the United States will affect musicians. It also continues to discuss how other countries work to fund musicians and the arts, and how the United States compares to them. There are more than 10 different sources, and again a significant amount of other research and information that was put into the article.

It has a news angle since at the time it was written health care was one of the most talked about issues, but with the focus on musicians it gave it a twist to appeal to Pitchfork readers. It actually reads as a much newsier stories as opposed to a feature story, but still keeps the tone that it will appeal its audience.

Overall this article is a very interesting read. It definitely appeals to the target Pitchfork audience.

20 10 2010

While Pitchfork is mostly known for their music criticism and album reviews, there is much evidence of multi-source reporting throughout some of their other stories. Take for example the article “This is Not a Mix Tape” in which the writer discusses the underground cassette tape culture that has emerged in recent years. It has a wide variety of sources from various musicians and record labels that specialize in the creating of limited edition cassette tapes. It also delves into some background information about cassette tapes and the cost of manufacturing them.

The extensive reporting done by some of the writers for the site is further illustrated in the excerpt from “This Book is Broken.” This book excerpt is from an oral history of the band Broken Social Scene. The writer conducted more than 40 interviews in writing it. Obviously, this level of research isn’t able to be put into every article, but it still shows just how extensive some of the research can be.

In Pitchfork’s “Social History of the MP3” it shows some of the seriously extensive research that goes into writing a story. It delves into an elaborate history of MP3s and how they have really shaped the music industry. It gives plenty of information via secondary sources, though there are a very limited number of live sources. The research is extensive, including a lot of information about the RIAA and their prosecution of digital downloaders.

Pitchfork may not be most renowned for their articles, but the research and reporting that goes into some of them really is quite impressive. The background information and live sources for each of them really makes for some very interesting reading.

Pitchfork Philosophy

19 10 2010

At the time of writing this post, I have yet to receive a response from Pitchfork in regards to their editorial philosophy. While it is not specifically titled as the editorial philosophy, the “about” section in Pitchfork’s media kit gives some idea as to what it is. It claims that it “is widely regarded as the music world’s primary tastemaker.” I think to a certain degree that statement is kind of true. Artists such as Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene are considered to have been made popular after Pitchfork started featuring coverage of them on the site.

The about section also talks about Pitchfork.tv and states it is “dedicated to documenting independent music as it happens.” I think this sort of philosophy expands beyond just the video channel on the site. They focus mainly on artists who are not popular in the mainstream music scene. It also states that Pitchfork’s album reviews “start the discussion on emerging and established artists alike.” I think this is true in that some of Pitchfork’s more positive reviews really can help an artist’s career, but they have also become a sort of joke. They’re known for being hypercritical in some cases, and completely praising of others. Usually, the more indie an artist, the more extensive the praise.

Pitchfork certainly is influential, and do live up to their philosophy of shaping musical tastes. Their devout readership assures that they continue to have some sort of role in shaping the music industry. It mentions that there are an average 2 million unique visits to Pitchfork’s site each month.