Pitchfork CEO: Reviewing music in a digital age
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It goes without saying that the music industry has seen a lot of change in the past couple of years, as record labels and musicians continue to struggle with making money in the rise in digital sharing and streaming.
And the industry covering the shifts in music have changed too. Music magazines like Spin and VIBE have all gone through major restructurings and new formats — some have even stopped printing altogether, and are trying to find new life online.
But there’s one music source that already seems to have figured it all out. Pitchfork is the music website often credited with launching the careers of indie rock bands like Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend. And while making some names big, they’ve stayed pretty successful as well — pulling in more than 1 million unique visitors a month.
Ryan Schreiber began the website back in the 1990s, and continues as its CEO today.
“For the first four years, it wasn’t even really what you might consider a business,” he said. “It was just me back in the period, and anybody else who wanted to write for it.”
He said one advantage Pitchfork has over the monthly print music magazines was not having to focus on traffic and big names to put on newsstands. “Who they would put on the covers, for example, would be tied to who’s going to sell the most issues. And for us, it’s like we get to have a different cover every single day — because we have five record reviews a day — so we’re able to give the same type of treatment to the White Stripes and Radiohead as we do to brand new emerging artists.”
This weekend, Pitchfork is hosting a big music festival in Chicago, the Pitchfork Music Festival, that includes a lineup of up-and-coming musicians alongside big names like Bjork and R. Kelly. Schreiber insisted it’s never been a problem booking good acts for the festival while being a website known for its tough criticism.
“Reviews, scores, ratings — these things wouldn’t work as currency, you know what I mean? We’ve had artists who have received 10.0s not play the festival, or turned down or declined it, and we’ve had artists who’ve received 0.0s come and play the festival.”
Schreiber offered a few of his favorite songs from bands playing the festival this year. Listen now:
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