Sunday, March 09, 2008

"hmmm" or "slippery slopes"

What do you guys think about this? I'm really not a Jim DeRogatis fan, but I'm happy he stepped up to the plate to ask a lot of the questions that disturb me about I'll be honest, though, the whole thing still weirds me out. Especially this:

DeRogatis: Are you concerned at all that this could undermine what’s been Pitchfork’s main claim to fame: rock criticism? I’m thinking of a scenario where Pitchfork gives a band a rating of 2.0 or less, and yet 100,000 people click on it that day and love the video. And at the same time, a band that Pitchfork gives a 9.4, nobody likes or watches.

Schreiber: I don’t know, I think we have a little more confidence in how it’s going to work than that. I mean, for one thing, we’re being pretty selective about the videos we’re showing; we’re not just putting up any old thing. So if there’s something that we actively dislike, it’s probably not going to show up on That’s not to say that if an album gets a negative rating, that there’s not a really good song on that record that might get played a lot. But it’s a different thing, because you’re talking about individual songs versus full-length albums, and those two things are very different.

It doesn't help that a lot of Schreiber's answers are "I don't know." I don't know exactly why this bothers me, other than the basic and personal bitch that I think Pitchfork frequently gets it wrong, even that a fair amount of their reviewers look for the wrong things in a record, and that they claim to be fostering a kind of independence but their favorites usually boil down to types. I've said this before, but most of the records they dislike that are worth investigating don't easily fit into one box and the low rating seems to represent their frustration at pinning it down rather than the actual quality of what it's doing. End rant.

But as a business, something disturbs me greatly about the prospect of essentially being a YouTube for cool kids with all the questionable content filtered out. My friend Jonathan Bradley has doubts it'll last; I most certainly don't. DeRogatis really hits the nail on the head about journalistic integrity, but (and I swear this isn't an insult) I've never felt that was something P4k held in the highest regard. Not that they don't have journalistic integrity, but that the Object of the Game seemed to be to push as much DIY content as they could. Which is fine! But the actions they've taken have always been more akin to a mouthy, small-time record label, like a Matador or Sub Pop at the head of the 90s, relentlessly promoting and posting about the 12 bands of the year that you Need to Know. I've never thought it made for good credibility as critics. This is mostly speaking of Schreiber, of course, who has stated that he barely writes reviews anymore and obviously takes more active enjoyment in promoting bands he loves rather than placing them up against an objective rubric.

Ironically, this TV venture could be great: Pitchfork's greatest contributions to this century mostly have to do with the quickness of their multimedia content, the blur of news, videos and new singles they make available quickly and daily. And it could also ruin them as a critical powerhouse. But more likely it will make them Rolling Stone; this is the best case scenario, because someone else may start up a Pitchfork alternative for the readers fed up with the complacency. Though they have an advantage that Rolling Stone didn't in 1996: Rolling Stone was easier for Schreiber to chuck because he only had to cancel his subscription; they didn't give it away for free. And what sap turns down free? If I was Barry Schwartz (or at least feeling sly), I might expound on the similiarities between Pitchfork and the free stress tests I'm offered in the subway.


Blogger Ian said...

someone else may start up a Pitchfork alternative for the readers fed up with the complacency

...and now I'm depressed that Stylus closed again.

7:07 PM, March 09, 2008  
Blogger Al said...

I'm completely mystified by why people think this "" thing is a big deal or signifies some major shift in what Pitchfork does. Seems like just another addition to the portfolio along with the festival and the (ugh) "forkcast" and a dozen other things besides album reviews that have gradually shown up. Is the difference here just that it's a whole new domain name? Or because people think it'll eventually get them their own basic cable channel and they'll become Fuse? Maybe I'm biased because I think 99% of all straight-to-YouTube indie rock videos are unwatchable horseshit (especially the stuff on PF's year-end videos lists) even when I like the songs, so I have zero interest in a site like this to begin with.

6:54 AM, March 10, 2008  
Blogger kiss out the jams said...

" I think 99% of all straight-to-YouTube indie rock videos are unwatchable horseshit"

and hiphop ones! I agree, but plenty of people do watch them.

6:58 AM, March 10, 2008  
Blogger Al said...

At least straight-to-YouTube hip hop videos tend to feature the artist performing their own song. These days indie rock videos are all "I have a friend who does puppetry/stop motion animation/performance art and they wanted to incongruously set one of my songs to their bullshit and that'll be our 'video'."

10:09 AM, March 10, 2008  

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