Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pitchfork - Global Media Goliath

I was thinking recently about how our generation basically grew up with music videos as a viable commercial art form (or at least a common promotional entity) and have seen it fade out to a more niche part of the music-making process. The long-running joke about MTV not showing videos has been true for so many years that we really are moving toward a new and different world. Sure, there's videos on demand and the ubiquitous YouTube, but when labels are trying to survive for a few more years, throwing half-a million bucks at 3 minutes of visuals for a pop song looks like a poor investment.

And then I realized belatedly that with the advent of, the Pitchfork Media empire has really edged closer to an actual empire. It's become conventional wisdom that Pitchfork is this generation's Rolling Stone, for better or worse, and now they're our generations MTV too. Plus the Pitchfork Music Festival has become the Lollapolooza that Lollapolooza no longer properly is.

But as Chris Ott one of the website's most notable writers, put it, the economics of the situation, like those for most internet entities, are not very good. To quote:

"[F]ewer than 10 people could make a living (e.g. middle-class) wage via Pitchfork, thanks to the other 60 or 70 who don't (and don't seem to mind that they're engaged in a talking head pyramid scheme). I've said before that writing for a living is an untenable, abhorrent aspiration of the very rich and overeducated, but I'm talking about writing about music, pop culture, op-ed garbage like that. I have friends who write meaningful articles and books on finance and law and the environment and political history: they deserve to and make out just fine."

So even when you add to the equation, whose "programming" is mostly inexpensively shot mini-concerts in zany locations, (a roof, a church, a basement), there's not much more money coming in. It'd be like if MTV only showed videos from bands performing in their studio. So at the end of the day, perhaps adds a dozen video producers/editors to the payroll, but this is still not exactly helping the situation, since the most popular music web publication is still only putting food on the table for two dozen people.

Sure the last 20 or 30 years now look like a coked out car crash of greed with an often terrible soundtrack, but the future don't look all the bright either.

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