The big news today is that Pitchfork has been acquired by the owners of Vanity Fair, Vogue etc. I don’t think it changes anything, but it does highlight the economics of websites, or what I call cool laundering.
Stage 1. Exchange cool for attention (or money). Someone creates something fun or innovative. Pitchfork or someone covers it in order to appear cooler, and the artist gains exposure (ie. the attention of readers) in exchange. This is a type of mercantile exchange, in which cool is exchanged for attention.
Stage 2. Exchange attention for advertising. The second necessary exchange for cool laundering, the second economic exchange necessary for websites like Pitchfork to exist, is to trade attention of readers for money from advertisers. If I read everyday, Pitchfork has one more reader, and that’s what advertisers care about, how much attention people give to a website. This crowd attention is traded for advertising money. As Bazan would say, “you make a living, selling advertising”.
The complete trade is cool to attention to cash, with Pitchfork acting the part of the East India Company.
(When you are powerful enough, you can cut out the middleman, such as when acts like Daft Punk make money by soundtracking fashion shows, but that’s rare.)
There other forms of economic exchange too (e.g. product placement for Apple Music, Converse & Beats) but the main question is whether this trading view that I take is consistent with review anomalies on Pitchfork.
I want to suggest that bad reviews are routinely given for anything challenging this trading system. Example: the new album by Refused was given a lukewarm review (mind you, Pitchfork didn’t even seem to review The Shape Of Punk To Come when it came out). Why? It doesn’t stack up to the album, which was quite fun and fresh, and highly rated elsewhere. Nonetheless, the album could be offensive to the fashion industry in Paris (“Genocide was Paris’ will”, the reference to the corporate system in “nothing has changed”) and offensive to the advertising industry generally. Better pan it!
In the time of the zine, people made things out of love. Pitchfork makes things with money, and now someone has recognized the cash cow that is Pitchfork. Caveat emptor.