The Null Device

The Pitchfork Effect

The Graun writes about The Pitchfork Effect, which is sort of like the Slashdot effect, only rather than overwhelming web servers, it propels obscure indie bands to fame and critical acclaim, on the strength of a single review in one of the new generation of independent music websites like Pitchfork and DrownedInSound. These sites can now make or break a band by word of mouth, not because they are read by many music fans, but because they reach the few passionate enough about new music to be high up the opinion-forming chain; by the time a band filters down to corporate mass media dinosaurs such as NME, and the millions of teenagers of all ages who buy their "indie" uniforms through the mail-order ads in the back hear of a band, it's overexposed and the Pitchfork coolsies have moved on to the next new thing.
But websites flourish precisely because they don't have to worry who to put on their covers, a factor that still makes or breaks magazine sales. They feel more fearless in the face of the music industry because they're not part of the system, says Schreiber. "Publications obviously seem to feel they need to watch their step and not alienate the label or the artist or the publicist or the advertising department, but that means sacrificing a lot of how you wind up feeling about a lot of the records you have to cover. We don't have to do that."
Travis buys plenty of albums from Pitchfork's recommendations, because he believes its reviews. "I trust them because Pitchfork has more independence. It's like the NME used to be, back in the day. These days it has more of an agenda. Like when Conor [McNicholas, editor of the NME] said on national TV that the NME wouldn't put Antony [of Antony and the Johnsons] on the cover after he'd won the Mercury Music Prize - because he was 'too weird'. It's staggering to hear that."
Also in the Guardian: a piece on the recent wave of Balkan/Gypsy-influenced indie music.

There are 1 comments on "The Pitchfork Effect":

Posted by: Peter Sun Nov 26 01:13:20 2006

Which is funny because I tend to disagree with about 90% of Pitchfork reviews. Wrong-headedness or just a kind of belligerent anti-ness seems to be their forte. Although, to be honest, I often agree with their enthusiastic reviews more than with their pannings.

The other Grauniad article is fun. I love Beirut but since I know the original stuff he's "influenced" by I know there's nothing authentic about it, and it's good to know it's not intended that way either. I quite like the second "Electric Gypsyland" comp too - bands like Taraf de Haidouks being remixed by both the contemporary Balkan dance music groups and people like Tunng and Animal Collective...