Pitchfork may have its detractors, but it remains one of the most important and powerful names in the indie music world, with the ability to make a band’s career, and its opinions respected by hundreds of thousands of music fans the world over. Pitchfork’s founder and CEO, Ryan Schreiber talked to Mediabistro about how a high school grad with no experience in writing or publishing managed to set up the indie world’s online centrepiece, how to keep relevant in a saturated market, and lots more. Check out the most interesting parts of the interview below.
On the Origins Of Pitchfork:
“Well, a friend of mine had introduced me to the Web pretty early on, around ’94. So I had been on it for a while by the time that I started Pitchfork, and there was just not really a lot out there for independent music. There were not a lot of music publications or anything like that online, but especially for independent music it was really just a blank slate. And I had always been interested in publishing and music writing and criticism. I read a ton of music magazines at the time — I just consumed them voraciously — and it seemed like it would be kind of a fun experiment.”
On Keeping Relevant:
“It’s just a grind, basically. The way that we keep it running and keep it interesting to us is just continuing to really engage with and dig up all forms of music. But there are also so many people working on Pitchfork now that it’s great, because a day in the office is people throwing around, “Oh, I just heard this; check this out,” “What do you think about this?” There’s a lot of conversation going about current music and, by current, I mean what’s come out that day… It’s something that you live and breathe and it’s what we’re super passionate about, so it’s just a matter of staying current and loving what you do.”
His Advice To Bloggers And Entrepreneurs:
“Distinguish yourself. Make sure that your voice is independent and unique and that your opinions on your subject vary from the other voices that exist in that field and that your area of expertise is specific to you, and you’re not just out there covering the exact same things that everybody else is in the same way. Just be unique and have an independent voice… I find that the publications I tend to connect with most are ones that are, in many cases, written by a single voice, somebody who has a really interesting viewpoint or perspective.”
On Pitchfork’s Most Controversial Review:
“I would say the review that has been the most controversial was our review of Jet’s “Shine On” in 2006. To this day, it’s probably our most popular review, which is funny because there’s no text. It was just a rating with a YouTube video of a monkey drinking its own piss. [Laughing] That got a lot attention. It’s such a bizarre and funny video, and it’s such a strange thing to see, that the sort of bewildering qualities of this video were, in itself, sort of an early form of viral activity.”
On The Importance Of Being Passionate:
“I do think that passion is maybe slightly more necessary than skill because people are open to a certain amount of amateurism on the Web. As long as you’re getting your point across and doing it in an interesting way, you don’t necessarily need to be technically a perfect writer. You can just be an enthusiast who is able to communicate in a reasonably relatable way, and in many cases that’s enough for people.”
On Print Music Magazines:
“I think if you’re going to be able to do a print publication that works in 2013, it has to really take advantage of that format, and the things that that format offers that are much more difficult to execute on the Web are having really expansive, beautiful layouts for your articles and features and making it feel like a desirable object… It used to be that when you picked up a music magazine in, like, the 90s there was all this cheap, chintzy content thrown in there and goofy sidebars and just sort of filler, almost. And it’s really just not an option anymore. I feel like if people are willing to make an investment in a music magazine — or in a magazine of any sort, currently — they want something that feels substantial and feels significant. It’s not a joke. It’s a real thing.”
On His Media Idols:
“Roger Ebert and musician, poet and visual artist Patti Smith. She’s an incredible writer and one of those people who is just great at everything she does.”
Read the full interview at Mediabistro.