Jim DeRogatis Takes On Ryan Schreiber, And There Are No Winners

noah | March 6, 2008 1:15 am

Chicago Sun-Times critic Jim DeRogatis starts off his chat with Pitchfork head honcho Ryan Schreiber by asking if forthcoming video venture Pitchfork.TV will work off “the YouTube or YouPorn model,” and things get stranger from there. Also much more argumentative! The whole q-and-a session, which is full of questions about Pitchfork’s “new model” and how it affects the idea of Pitchfork as critical enterprise, whether or not Schreiber sees himself as the new Jann Wenner, and the obligatory mention of the evilness of MTV, clocks in around 3,500 words–and that’s not even counting the DeRogatis-penned intro and the slightly defensive e-mail Schreiber sends along after the two signed off. After the jump a few highlights, for those of you whose “tl; dr” filter clicked on after seeing that word count.

DeRogatis’ magical Pitchfork score: 9.4. He mentions that number three times when giving examples of how bands blessed by the “Best New Music” tag could fare in Pitchfork’s other business dealings–a high-rated band dealing with low-viewership video on Pitchfork.TV, for example, or the prospect of bands feeling “bullied” by Pitchfork into participating in their other ventures because they’re afraid of getting dinged with a low rating. Why 9.4, though? Is it a Lost spoiler?

Schreiber wasn’t allowed to stay up late and watch The Cutting Edge and 120 Minutes as a child. “I watched MTV all the time growing up. I was obsessed with music all throughout my childhood, and I watched it incessantly. And, um, as I got more turned on to music, I was like, ‘Why was there never anything like this on MTV? Why was there no exposure for these things anywhere else so I could have heard it, being as big a music fan as I was my entire life, and only discovering independent music and alternative rock at like 13?’ “

DeRogatis thinks that MTV founder Bob Pittman is “Satan!” Stereogum not available for comment.

Schreiber uses that sweet Pitchfork revenue to… pay off his parking tickets. The rock and roll lifestyle: It doesn’t really mesh with the whole “alternate side of the street” concept.

DeRogatis is still kinda bitter about that whole Hootie and the Blowfish incident, but he won’t come out and say it. Replying to Schreiber’s assertion that everything he does now is borne of sincere impulses: “Well, by all of the accounts I’ve read, that was what Jann Wenner was like at first. When he was taking acid with the Grateful Dead in ’67, he was sincere, too.” Insert your own adjective for how DeRo thinks Wenner behaves now here.

Pitchfork doesn’t like everything that every Animal Collective member oozes out. See?

“Synergy” is a four-letter word in DeRogatis’ book. Much of the back-and-forth between the two revolves around the idea of Pitchfork, heretofore regarded as a predominantly critical enterprise, getting into the business end of promoting bands through the Music Festival, Pitchfork.TV, and picking out wildly inappropriate songs for video games. First, I’d argue that the Forkcast and the news section, both of which are less critically focused than the reviews that have been Pitchfork’s bread and butter for so long and more in tune with the “new” and keeping readers informed, have a heightened prominence and importance in the RSS age. Second, while I understand his qualms about critical enterprises getting involved in the promotion of bands, and have for a while–hello, blogs!–I do have to say that if yesterday’s review of Ghostland Observatory’s Robotique Majestique inspires the inspid duo to stay far, far away from this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, which takes place July 18-20, the consequences aren’t 100% bad.

Is Pitchfork a media empire? Yes. No. Maybe, but not really! From the e-mail Schreiber sent to Derogatis after their conversation ended: “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.” I can’t help but wonder if the fact that those alternatives are currently floundering around in search of a business model is helping along that conviction at least a bit.

Pitchfork founder and indie-rock tastemaker Ryan Schreiber talks about branching out to TV and video game soundtracks while keeping the integrity in his Web zine’s journalism and criticism. Can it be done? [Jim DeRogatis’ Blog] [DeRogatis pic via jimdero.com; Schreiber pic via NYM]