|Type of site||Music webzine|
|Created by||Ryan Schreiber|
Pitchfork Media, usually known simply as Pitchfork, is a Chicago-based daily Internet publication devoted to music criticism and commentary, music news, and artist interviews. Its focus is on independent music, especially indie rock. However, the range of musical genres covered extends to electronic, pop, hip hop, dance, folk, jazz, metal, and experimental 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 published "best-of" lists–such as the best albums of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and the best songs of the 1960s and 2000s–as well as annual features detailing the best singles and albums of each year since 1999.
Pitchfork was created in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1995 by Ryan Schreiber, then just out of high school. 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 moved to the domain PitchforkMedia.com, began publishing daily, and was renamed "Pitchfork", a reference to Tony Montana's tattoo in the 1983 film Scarface.
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. Early 2009 saw a complete renovation of the website's layout and a move to a new domain, Pitchfork.com.
In 2008, the book The Pitchfork 500: Our Guide to the Greatest Songs from Punk to the Present–edited and compiled by the Pitchfork staff and freelance writers–was released.
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 vocalist Travis Morrison's debut solo album Travistan led to a large sales drop and a virtual college radio blacklist. On the other hand, as one Washington Post reporter wrote, "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."
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. Some critics have accused the site of rating albums from particular music scenes or artists more favorably in order to bolster its influence when the music becomes popular.
The majority of criticism, however, is aimed at the site's album reviewing style. Critics argue that the site often emphasizes a reviewer's own writing over the actual music being reviewed, sometimes not even reviewing the album and instead criticizing the artist's integrity. Pitchfork is also known to give "0.0" ratings, deeming the work 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."
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.
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.
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.
The festival has been held every year since, and has featured artists such as Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, The National, The Hold Steady, !!!, Spoon, Ghostface Killah, Dinosaur Jr., Cat Power, Spiritualized, Mastodon, Yoko Ono, Stephen Malkmus, Vampire Weekend, De La Soul, Yo La Tengo, The New Pornographers, Of Montreal, Band of Horses, M. Ward, Iron and Wine, The Mountain Goats, Clipse, Girl Talk, Grizzly Bear, No Age, Ted Leo, Les Savy Fav, Devendra Banhart, Liars, and Deerhunter.
The 2009 festival, which took place in July, featured Built to Spill, The Jesus Lizard, Yo La Tengo, and Tortoise performing setlists voted on by attendees, as well as performances by The Flaming Lips, The National, Grizzly Bear, M83, The Walkmen, Yeasayer, Blitzen Trapper, The Black Lips, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Matt and Kim, and Pharoahe Monch.
In 2007, the Pitchfork Music Festival was expanded to three days (Friday, July 13 – Sunday, July 15), with the first day being a collaboration between Pitchfork and the UK-based production company All Tomorrow's Parties as part of the latter's "Don't Look Back" concert series, in which artists performed the content of albums in their entirety. Performers that evening included Sonic Youth playing Daydream Nation, Slint playing Spiderland, and GZA/Genius playing Liquid Swords. The collaboration continued in 2008, with Public Enemy, Sebadoh, and Mission of Burma.
Pitchfork also collaborated with All Tomorrow's Parties to co-curate the ATP vs Pitchfork festival in Camber Sands, UK.
Pitchfork's music reviews use two different rating systems:
On April 7, 2008, Pitchfork Media launched Pitchfork.tv, a website displaying videos and original content related to independent music acts. On March 12, 2009, Pitchfork.tv was incorporated into Pitchfork's new domain, Pitchfork.com.