Pitchfork and Payola

Not gonna accuse them, but I’m going to point out:

Patchfork eagerly pushes an album in the forkast section, to the point of whipping up hysteria, and then pans it in their review section, or at least doesn’t give it the rave you’d expect. Hence:

Panda Bear gets a 9.4, and while the forkast really only plugged the album once. LCD Soundsystem did get a few entries, but nothing in their text spouted amazement for the rest of the album which, by the way, is good, but not above an 8, not by a long shot, since each song is overlong by a minute and steals so liberally from Mr. M’s influences (Shelley, Walker) that parody approaches. I said approaches, not arrives.

Neither had prominent retail links.

Ted Leo, on the other hand, who gets an inflated 7.5 (His first dud; I wouldn’t give it a 6, and I like Mr. Leo), launches the frikking Forkast. And then the album gets multiple plugs, since January, with prominent “to-buy” links to a retailer. Makes me think someone (Touch and Go? ADA? Insound?) paid for that coverage. The tone of p-fork’s writing for this release, as opposed to LCD’s or Panda’s text, all but forkasted a blockbuster rating and review. The tone of their Ted Leo writing also skirted marketing-speak, and barely. Not to mention that on the morning of Mr. Leo’s review, they updated late, which makes me think they argued (remember the Annuals?) into the night, over the rating. Maybe the review came in at 6.4.

Again, this is conjecture, but it seems probable. It was only a matter of time until payola hit the online editorial. Rolling Stone sold out 20 (25?) years ago, and Spin … well, ever read a bad review of something in their online version?

Also: Astralwerks protects the shit out of their mp3s. So does Subpop. But you see them on Pitchfork, pre-release, in the forkast. (Yoko Ono, Air, Low)

One exception: they plugged the shit out of the Deerhunter record. But then again, isn’t Kranky in Chicago? Ah, I’ll give them that one, because the album deserves it. If someone paid them to pre-plug that album, they were probably right to do so, since it’s the type of thing that might get missed, despite a big review. And yet, it got an 8.9, and it’s easily better than both the new Panda Bear and LCD. In fact, I’d give the Panda Bear a 7.9 for it’s missed opportunities and slumber-inducing repetition.

At the same time, I sort of think their ratings have become predictable. Here’s some future guesses. Remember, this is what they’d give, not me (mine are in bold)

Blonde Redhead – 23:
7.6 (trio now duo goes MBV)

Electrelane – No Signals, No Calls:
8.4 (guitarist Mia Clarke writes for p-fork, or did; & the album rocks)

Feist – The Reminder
7.1 (aside from three wonderful tunes, Ms. F dangerously flirts with Norah Jonesing)

Grinderman – S/t
This one depends. The leaked/euro version isn’t the official American version. If they review the right one, the latter, it gets a 7.8. The former gets a 8.0
I give both a 7.5
The Us version has new tracks, and new recordings of euro/leaked tracks. Here’s a new version:

Grinderman – I Don’t Need You (to set me free)

Dntel – Dumb Luck
4.1 He picks the wrong people to sing for him. His tracks are boring, too.

Dinosaur Jr. – Beyond
7.4 But it’s too much Where You Been, too little You’re Living All Over Me.

More soon.


12 thoughts on “Pitchfork and Payola

  1. totally all conjecture. what kind of money do you think these indies have? and that bloggers wouldn’t call shit on all of this? please…


  2. Yeah I’m sure Touch and Go paid for all kinds of Ted Leo features and then only shelled out enough for a 7.5 review. I heard Kranky had to mortage thier building to cover all those Deerhunter invoices.


  3. don’t get too stressed out over this. the answer to all of your concerns is simple.pitchfork is wack.if any of the people who work or write over there started a band it would also be wack. most of them actually already tried and failed is my guess- which is why their job now is to write bullshit about bands getting a leg up on anything.


  4. some interesting points relating print publication’s paid editorial to that of the internet. you’re right. these things probably do happen and more often than we realize. your examples are pretty poor, though. i mean, insubstantial observations, man. if you studied this a little more and grounded your arguments better, you might have something but you just based it all on, like, 5 records. that’s flimsy as hell.


  5. point to anon #1: when your main distro umbrella is warner bros, like touch and go, and arcade fire debuted at #2, you have cash.points to anon #2: Insound paid for those ted leo features. The review being low was exactly my point as to why I suspected so. Pitchfork keeps the reviews sacred.Kranky has distribution by any number of majors, prominently Caroline, and they wouldn’t be out of sorts if they dropped $500 to promote an album. They also played puppeteer with that album’s release date for no reason other than promotion.point to anon #3: only statutory rapists use the phonetic spelling ‘puhleeese’point to anon #4: Get Him Eat him: awful. Elecrelane: goodanon five: it is flimsy as hell. That’s why this is a blog, and why I haven’t yet called Slate or Gawker etc. In any case, here’s five more:Stars of the Lid: another big insounder in the forkast (also Kranky); we’ll see what it getsYoko Ono Comp: big forkast push, astralwerks okays an mp3, lowish review in the sevensLifetime – big forkast hype, weakness reviewPagoda (how could it be anything else)Annuals. Such a weak review for such pre-review jizzing. This was before the ‘forkast,’ though.Plus: another point: they also link to itunes and Amazon in there, although about a month ago they began leaning toward label stores (like Kill rock stars’) more often. Can they possibly be just linking to these sites out of love? Doubtful. I wouldn’t be surprised if retailers could, for a fee, pick an album that will soon be featured.


  6. here’s some more conjecture:You all posted quickly, and anonymously. I haven’t had comments for weeks. None. Google alerts? Why not go on record under a name, otherwise? You can’t be people I know personally – they make fun of me all the time. Or you’re afraid of pitchfork? Or you’re insound? Or vice versa?Also: it’s common practice for a small label like T&G to combine forces with their distributor and a retailer to put an ad on an otherwise financially unattainable venue. Like Caroline/Insound ads on the Onion.


  7. insound does pay pitchfork to be the exclusive link to sales, or at least the preferred link. actually, they might just give them a bigger kickback from sales that came from pitchfork clicks. remember for awhile it was ampcamp? before that, insound again? just people making them better deals. however, they will link to whoever the label wants. insound just happens to do presales, and some labels don’t have webstores (like t&g)second point – i know for a fact insound, nor touch and go, paid for that placement. i mean, if they did, who’s paying for, like, the “wtf” content, like steve albini on stilts, or the “dump it” content? plus, pitchfork does turn things down for forkcast, for reviews, and for news.if you want to make conjectures and vilify, why don’t you just ask pitchfork? they have an email contact on their site, i’m sure. i don’t work there, and i don’t think they’re infallible, and i know that a lof ot shady shit goes on in the industry, but i don’t think this is it. plus, how many records do you think ted leo actually sells? do you think it’s worth it to pay pfork a big chunk of change for the presales that insound might get? i mean… no, it’s not. rest assured. the music industry isn’t as big and bad (at least in relationship to indies) as you might think.


  8. The music industry <>is<> as big and bad as I think, because I’m there. It’s an outmoded ripoff model. And in relationship to indies, too. You’re the most naive commenter I’ve had, yet, although I susppose you’re young and work in the industry yourself. Wait til you rise high enough run things and find out how many people/labels don’t get paid – I can name two record label indies – good labels, out west — who told me they’d been waiting for nearly 1K from insound for years now – or better yet, ask merge or touch & go about using the ‘indie’ wing of warner bros as their distributor, and how the arms does extend downward for price setting when it comes to arcade fire etc. The push behind Ted, for this album, is big because they probably paid well after bidding for him – this is his first album not on the poorly distributed Lookout, and he knew it. Good for him.You’re also naive because you’ve obviously never emailed pitchfork. They don’t answer. I even have their phone number, and I didn’t bother.


  9. do you mean ADA as distribution??and, yeah, i’ve emailed pitchfork, and i’ve gotten responses. all the time. maybe it’s just because i’m not so accusatory.


  10. Dang. I’m not touching this conversation with a 10-foot pole. Too many intertwined tentacles.I will say this. Money powers the capitalist economy. It flows in a thousand billion different directions. Trying to tease out what’s going where, paid by whom to what media outlet is, well, headache inducing.Which is why I don’t want a job in the industry, and I don’t want a job reviewing records. I think. Maybe. Or something. I’ll just be over here crying over The Shivers. And hating the new Ted Leo.


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