Pitchfork (website)

Last updated

Pitchfork logo.svg
Pitchfork.com screenshot.png
Screenshot of Pitchfork's homepage
Type of site
Online music magazine
Available in English
Founded1995;25 years ago (1995)
Country of origin United States
Owner Condé Nast
Created byRyan Schreiber
EditorPuja Patel
Employees36 [1]
Parent Condé Nast
URL pitchfork.com
Launched1995;25 years ago (1995) (as Turntable)
Current statusActive

Pitchfork is an American online music publication launched in 1995 by Ryan Schreiber. It was first based in Chicago, later moved to Greenpoint, is currently in One World Trade Center, and is owned by Condé Nast. [2]


It began as a blog that developed during Schreiber's teenage years working at a record store. It quickly earned a reputation for its extensive coverage of indie music. It has since expanded and covers all kinds of music, including pop. [3]

The site is best known for its daily output of music reviews but also regularly reviews reissues and box sets. Since 2016, it has published retrospective reviews of classics, and other albums that weren't initially reviewed, each Sunday. The site publishes "best-of" lists—albums, songs—and annual features and retrospectives each year. During the '90s and '00s the site's reviews—favorable or otherwise—were considered widely influential in making or breaking careers. [4]


Pitchfork Media Logo.svg
Previous Pitchfork logo

In late 1995, Ryan Schreiber, a recent high school graduate, created the magazine in Minneapolis. Influenced by local fanzines and KUOM, Schreiber, who had no previous writing experience, aimed to provide the Internet with a regularly updated resource for independent music. Initially called Turntable, the site was updated monthly with interviews and reviews. In May 1996, the site began publishing daily and was renamed Pitchfork, alluding to Tony Montana's tattoo in Scarface . [5]

In early 1999, Schreiber relocated Pitchfork 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 its extensive coverage of underground music and its writing style, which was often unhindered by the conventions of journalism. In October, the site added a daily music news section.[ citation needed ]

Pitchfork has launched a variety of subsidiary websites. Pitchfork.tv, a website displaying videos related to many independent music acts, launched in April 2008. It features bands that are typically found on Pitchfork .[ citation needed ] In July 2010, Pitchfork announced Altered Zones, a blog aggregator devoted to underground and do it yourself music. [6] On May 21, 2011, Pitchfork announced a partnership with Kill Screen, in which Pitchfork would publish some of their articles. [7] Altered Zones was closed on November 30. [8] On December 26, 2012, Pitchfork launched Nothing Major, a website that covered visual arts such as fine art and photography. [9] Nothing Major closed in October 2013. [10] On October 13, 2015, Condé Nast announced that it had acquired Pitchfork. [11] Following the sale, Schreiber remained as editor-in-chief. [12]

On March 13, 2016, Pitchfork was redesigned. According to an announcement post during the redesign, they said: [13]

We last redesigned in the fall of 2011. A lot about the online world has changed since then. This iteration, more than a year in the making, brings Pitchfork into a new era, improving functionality and inviting deeper exploration while simplifying the experience to make browsing, searching, reading, listening, and watching easier.

In August 2018, Pitchfork's longtime executive editor Mark Richardson stepped down. He began writing for the site in 1998 [14] and was employed full-time in 2007. [15] On September 18, 2018, founder Ryan Schreiber stepped down as the site's top editor. He was replaced by Puja Patel as editor-in-chief on October 15, 2018. [16] On January 8, 2019, Schreiber announced he would be exiting the company. [17] In January 2019, Condé Nast announced it would put all its titles, including Pitchfork, behind a paywall by the end of the year, though this did not occur. [18]


Publicity and artist popularity

Pitchfork's opinions have gained increased cultural currency; some in the mainstream media view the site as a barometer of the independent music scene, and positive quotes from its reviews are increasingly used in press releases and affixed to the front of CDs. Some publications have cited Pitchfork in having played a part in "breaking" artists such as Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Interpol, The Go! Team, Junior Boys, The Books, Broken Social Scene, Cold War Kids, Wolf Parade, Tapes 'n Tapes, and Titus Andronicus although the site's true impact on their popularity remains a source of frequent debate. [5]

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 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 frontman Travis Morrison's Travistan album led to a large sales drop and a virtual college radio blacklist. [5] On the other hand, "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." [5]

Examples of Pitchfork's impact include:

Size, readership and site traffic

Pitchfork now receives an audience of more than 240,000 readers per day, and more than 1.5 million unique visitors per month, making it the most popular independent-focused music publication online. [23] On October 24, 2003, the author of Pitchformula.com reported that Pitchfork had published 5,575 reviews from 158 different authors, with an average length of just over 520 words. Together, the reviews featured a total of 2,901,650 words. [24]


In the 2000s the website's journalism favored independent music, favoring lo-fi and often obscure indie rock and giving only cursory treatment to other genres. [25] The website had a reputation for publishing reviews early and for being unpredictable, often strongly dependent on which reviewer was writing. In a 2006 article in Slate , Matthew Shaer accused Pitchfork of deliberately writing provocative and contrarian reviews in order to attract attention. [26]

The website was sometimes criticized in those years for the quality of its writing. A 2006 article in City Pages noted the large discretion the site gave to its writers, arguing it was "under-edited" and that the prose was often "overly florid". [25] Shaer singled out some examples of "verbose and unreadable writing". [26] In response, Schreiber told City Pages that "I trust the writers to their opinions and to their own style and presentation. The most important thing to me is they know what they're talking about and are insightful." [25]

A 2007 review of the album Kala by M.I.A. inaccurately said that Diplo had produced the tracks, when he had produced 3 out of 11 tracks and M.I.A. had produced the rest. Another Pitchfork writer described the error as "perpetuating the male-led ingenue myth". [27] M.I.A. and later Björk argued that this was part of a wider problem of music journalists making the assumption that female singers do not write or produce their own music. [28] [29]

Leaked music

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 been leaked to peer-to-peer networks. Allegedly, one of the albums on the server, Joanna Newsom's Ys , had not been available on file-sharing networks. [30]


The Pitchfork Review

Logo of The Pitchfork Review The Pitchfork Review logo.jpg
Logo of The Pitchfork Review

In December 2013, Pitchfork Media debuted The Pitchfork Review, a quarterly print journal focused on long-form music writing and design-focused content. [38] J. C. Gabel, its first editor, had been the publisher of The Chicagoan and founding publisher of Stop Smiling . [39] Pitchfork planned a limited-edition quarterly publication of about 10,000 copies of each issue, perfect bound, and printed on glossy, high-quality 8-by-10¼ paper. [40] It was expected that about two-thirds of the content would be original, with the remaining one-third recycled from the Pitchfork website. [40] The International Business Times likened the publication's literary aspirations to The New Yorker and The Paris Review . [41] It ended after 11 issues [42] in November 2016. [43]

Music festivals

Intonation Music Festival

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 an appearance by Les Savy Fav.

Pitchfork Music Festival

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. [44]

The Pitchfork Music Festival was held again in 2007. It was expanded to three days (Friday, July 13 – Sunday, July 15), with the first day being a collaboration between Pitchfork and the British music festival All Tomorrow's Parties as part of the latter's "Don't Look Back" series, in which seminal artists perform their most legendary albums in their entirety. Performers that evening included Sonic Youth playing Daydream Nation , Slint playing Spiderland , and GZA/Genius playing Liquid Swords . Some of the other artists who performed over the weekend included Yoko Ono, De La Soul, Cat Power, The New Pornographers, Stephen Malkmus, Clipse, Iron & Wine, Girl Talk, of Montreal, Deerhunter, Dan Deacon, The Ponys, and The Sea and Cake. Since 2011, a European winter edition of the festival takes place in Paris.

All Tomorrow's Parties

In 2008 Pitchfork collaborated with All Tomorrow's Parties to curate half of the bill for one of their May festival weekends. This was the first event that Pitchfork has been involved in outside of the United States.

Rating system

Pitchfork's music reviews use two different rating systems:

On October 24, 2003, Pitchformula.com [45] made a survey of the 5,575 reviews available on Pitchfork at that time, showing that:

British Sea Power's 2008 album Do You Like Rock Music? was initially awarded a tongue-in-cheek rating of "U.2", however the page now gives a rating of 8.2, seemingly at odds with the critical review. [46] Their rating of Run the Jewels' remix album Meow the Jewels (2015) was a pictogram of a cat's head with hearts for eyes – highlighting the pictogram and right-clicking on it reveals that the actual score is 7.0. [47] Their review of Pope Francis' album Wake Up! featured the rating "3:16", though using the same method of revealing Meow the Jewels' actual score reveals the score to be 5.0. [48] Rather than give a traditional review to Jet's Shine On , the site simply posted an embedded video of a monkey urinating into its own mouth and a 0. [49]

Initial release 10.0 rated albums

The following is a list of albums given Pitchfork's highest possible rating, on initial release. The score is rare and has only been given to twelve albums since the site was launched in 1995. Many more albums have been given a 10.0 following a reissue or the publication of a retrospective review. Pitchfork has since deleted the reviews for 12 Rods, Amon Tobin, Walt Mink, The Flaming Lips, and Bob Dylan without replacing them with newer reviews, meaning that only seven albums continue to be listed with a 10.0 rating that was given on initial release.

Relaxation of the Asshole , a comedy album by Guided by Voices singer Robert Pollard, was awarded a dual 0 and 10 on initial release. A later site redesign changed the rating to 0 only, although the explanation for the unusual rating remains in the text of the review. [50]

12 Rods Gay? 1996 [51]
Walt Mink El Producto [52]
Amon Tobin Bricolage 1997 [53]
Radiohead OK Computer [54]
Bob Dylan The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert 1998 [55]
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy I See a Darkness 1999 [56]
The Flaming Lips The Soft Bulletin [57]
Radiohead Kid A 2000 [58]
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead Source Tags & Codes 2002 [59]
Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot [60]
Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 2010 [61]
Fiona Apple Fetch the Bolt Cutters 2020 [62]

Pitchfork awards

Pitchfork Album of the Year

1998 (original) Sunny Day Real Estate How It Feels to Be Something On Flag of the United States.svg  United States [63]
1998 (2018 retrospective) Outkast Aquemini [64]
1999 The Dismemberment Plan Emergency & I [65]
2000 Radiohead Kid A Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom [66]
2001 The Microphones The Glow Pt. 2 Flag of the United States.svg  United States [67]
2002 Interpol Turn On the Bright Lights [68]
2003 The Rapture Echoes [69]
2004 Arcade Fire Funeral Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada [70]
2005 Sufjan Stevens Illinois Flag of the United States.svg  United States [71]
2006 The Knife Silent Shout Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden [72]
2007 Panda Bear Person Pitch Flag of the United States.svg  United States [73]
2008 Fleet Foxes Sun Giant / Fleet Foxes [74]
2009 Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavilion [75]
2010 Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy [76]
2011 Bon Iver Bon Iver, Bon Iver [77]
2012 Kendrick Lamar Good Kid, M.A.A.D City [78]
2013 Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City [79]
2014 Run the Jewels Run the Jewels 2 [80]
2015 Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly [81]
2016 Solange A Seat at the Table [82]
2017 Kendrick Lamar Damn [83]
2018 Mitski Be the Cowboy Flag of Japan.svg  Japan /

Flag of the United States.svg  United States

2019 Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell! Flag of the United States.svg  United States [85]

    Pitchfork Track of the Year

    2003 Outkast "Hey Ya!"Flag of the United States.svg  United States [86]
    2004 Annie "Heartbeat"Flag of Norway.svg  Norway [87]
    2005 Antony and the Johnsons "Hope There's Someone"Flag of the United States.svg  United States [88]
    2006 Justin Timberlake featuring T.I. "My Love"Flag of the United States.svg  United States [89]
    2007 LCD Soundsystem "All My Friends" [90]
    2008 Hercules and Love Affair "Blind" [91]
    2009 Animal Collective "My Girls" [92]
    2010 Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti "Round and Round" [93]
    2011 M83 "Midnight City"Flag of France.svg  France [94]
    2012 Grimes "Oblivion"Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada [95]
    2013 Drake featuring Majid Jordan "Hold On, We're Going Home" [96]
    2014 Future Islands "Seasons (Waiting on You)"Flag of the United States.svg  United States [97]
    2015 Kendrick Lamar "Alright" [98]
    2016 Kanye West featuring The-Dream, Chance the Rapper, Kelly Price, and Kirk Franklin "Ultralight Beam" [99]
    2017 Cardi B "Bodak Yellow" [100]
    2018 The 1975 "Love It If We Made It"Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom [101]
    2019 FKA Twigs "Cellophane" [102]

    Pitchfork Video of the Year

    2015 Kendrick Lamar "Alright"Flag of the United States.svg  United States [103]
    2016 Beyoncé Lemonade [104]
    2017 Björk "The Gate"Flag of Iceland.svg  Iceland [105]
    2018 Rosalía "Malamente – Cap 1: Augurio"Flag of Spain.svg  Spain [106]
    2019 FKA Twigs "Cellophane"Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom [107]

    See also

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