Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Online Video Killed the Indie Star

If you’ve been reading any of the blogs or surfed into the belly of the beast recently you probably know Pitchfork is set to launch a 24-hour online independent music network on April 7th. Plenty of people will probably take shots at the indie mogul for this venture for the way they continue to wield their far reaching almost-monopolistic power and influence on the independent music scene but I think it’s a gutsy and necessary move. It’s gutsy because we’ve all seen what depths MTV has sunk to after years of being the only player in town in terms of music television. With Pitchfork being the only true hegemonic independent music source, their reputation will certainly be on the line if all does not go splendidly. That aside, it’s also necessary because, well, there really isn’t such a thing as music television right now. Pitchfork makes a strong point that independent music really has no visual medium to call a home. It really is true. The most notable thing ever to happen to independent music on screen was when Natalie Portman, in a stunning display of solipsism, told Zach Braff that a Shins’ song would change his life. (It did. His character opted not to return to California for the company of a crazy, pathological liar. Hey, thanks James Mercer!)

Well, here comes Pitchfork to change our collective lives. Their online channel (let’s just go ahead and call it PTV) will offer original mini-documentaries, secret rooftop and basement sessions, full concerts, exclusive interviews, and what they describe as a “most carefully curated selection” (hmmm) of music videos. The best part is that all the features will be on-demand so the viewer gets to decide what to watch (unless his or her preferred video was weeded out during the most carefully curated selection process) or not to watch. It hasn’t been detailed whether Pitchfork will be handling the production of these original mini-documentaries but I really think they could be onto something interesting here. And concert footage?! Sounds good to me. Anything that will help us slowly say goodbye to crappy/fuzzy youtube videos is a step in the right direction.

I’m not positive how many people really want to spend time sitting around their computers watching hours of concert footage or some rock and roll documentary. Not really the point, though. Whether this venture is successful will come down to PTV having the obvious foresight to show music fans what they actually want to see and abstaining from stuff they don’t. As it stands currently, they seem to have the right idea. That's not to say once April 7th hits Ptv won't be instantly driving us crazy with their patented self-aggrandizing views that will surely crossover to the television screen. (Speaking of which, anyone read their review of Ghostland Observatory's new album this morning? Eric Harvey gave it a 1.5 coupled with the headline "Daft Punk for frat boys." Does he actually get a check at the end of the week?) But like the original site itself, I expect more of the good than the bad with PTV. I remember a few years ago flipping through the channels and landing on MTV to an absolute apocalypse of a program that I later found out was “Room Raiders” and almost feeling dirty. Let’s hope ten years from now I’m not cringing while trying to sit through Jeff Mangum, Broken Social Scene, Lil Wayne, Ryan Adams, and Karen O all trying to live together in a house. But until that day comes, I say “I want my PTV!”



Jim P. said...

Broken Social Scene can't fit in a house.

Brian said...

What else can't fit in a house? Churches. Very small rocks.

audrey said...

flavor flav's clock can't fit in a house, but vh1 made it happen

NQL said...

For more on PTV there is a pretty good interview in today's Suntimes by DeRogatis with Pfork founder Ryan Schreiber. Here's an Screiber sent to DeRo after the interview was over that I think answers a lot of questions:

"Hey Jim --

Was just thinking about the conversation and wanted to clarify:

I respect your concern about Pitchfork becoming some massive multinational conglomerate in the way that Rolling Stone and MTV did, that there are potential risks of over-extending Pitchfork as a company. But what happened to Rolling Stone and MTV was that at some point, the focus shifted from attempting to create a good and valuable resource to becoming as profitable as possible, or appealing to as many people as possible. What we do with Pitchfork and with the Pitchfork Music Festival, and now with, all come from a sincere place of being really dedicated music fans who want to create these things that don’t exist for other people like ourselves. So in anything we do, the focus is always on how we want to see it done from our perspective as music fans. If we were interested in broadening our readership or viewership or trying to be all things to all people, the logical step would be to start trying to get interested in records with a little more widespread appeal. But then we wouldn’t be covering what we liked, or what our readers like; our lives would be a living hell listening to all that garbage and our readers would understandably turn their backs. Staying true to our vision of Pitchfork and what it represents is the easiest thing in the world for us because we aren’t tempted by the alternatives.


Here's the link for the entire interview:

Jim P. said...

I don't really buy that. I'm no historian, but I bet Rolling Stone and MTV began with similar intentions to Pitchfork.

alex said...

I agree with that. I think we'll have to give it a few years and see what happens with all of this.

Blake F. Ecksnow said...

i don't have a satellite dish or digital cable? Will I get to watch this television next year when my antenna becomes obsolete?

Mike said...

I think for most people interested in music there is a love/hate relationship with Pitchfork. Hopefully their videos stray from their reviewing philosophy. What cynical hipster doesn't hate Ghostland Observatory, yet curiously love Vampire Weekend?

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