Pitchfork Festival Organizers Talk Music and Fans

(Listen to Heeb‘s favorites and Pitchfork’s bands to watch After The Jump)

On July 17, Heeb takes the windy city by storm as a media sponsor of the Pitchfork Music Festival, a three-day event showcasing over 40 of independent music’s best bands and artists. In anticipation of the festival, we caught up with Pitchfork.com‘s publisher Chris Kaskie and editor-in-chief Scott Plagenhoef to learn more about the upcoming festival, the Craigslist "missed connections" the event inspires and how, after 14 years in existence, Pitchfork is still the makers of cool.

What is the selection process for the bands that play?

We consider artists we like and artists we think would work well in a summer festival setting, and naturally artists whose music we enjoy are also going to be ones we’ve reviewed favorably in the past.

Do you think that the festival has a certain tone of elitism associated with it, because of the obscurity of a lot of the performers and the nature of the site?

The festival doesn’t have any elitist undertones. It’s an unpretentious, incredibly laid-back atmosphere–an event focused squarely on music–and it attracts a wide range of people. It’s true that many of the artists are less well-known than those at corporate festivals, but we don’t feel that is equatable with elitism.

How do you think that your online publication managed to topple the influence of many print publications that have been around longer–such as Spin or Rolling Stone?

We aren’t trying to quantify what we do against other publications, but we think we are at least in part successful because it’s run for and by music fans. We present honest, concrete opinions rather than fencesitting or placating the music industry at the expense of our readers.

Given the fact that many indie bands find it so difficult to get noticed, and have even taken to cheating online charts to get higher rankings, what do you think the future of publicity for indie music will be?

The future is direct communication with fans and listeners, honest and transparent interactions, although, yes, many artists and publicists have been able to take the democratization of the Internet and the gatekeeper/tastemaker process and maneuver pieces in place for their own benefit.

How do you feel about the power you have in terms of making or breaking the future of vulnerable musical acts? Well, we review records when we are into them or when an artist has a certain level of popularity and it would be expected we’d review them–we certainly don’t diss artists with no profile, the type of people who might be considered ‘vulnerable.’ That aside, we offer honest, respectful opinions and we certainly don’t think of ourselves a power agent, let alone conduct our work that way, as a publication that seeks to do harm to anyone. We’re one of many voices in the pop music landscape and we’re fortunate that we’re a voice a lot of people have grown to respect over the years.

Explain the relationship that you share with the UK music festival All Tomorrow’s Parties in terms of the festival.

In 2006 and 2007, the Pitchfork Music Festival was partnered with All Tomorrow’s Parties to co-present their series ‘Don’t Look Back.’

Pitchfork.com started in a basement in Chicago. Would you ever think of holding the festival in any other location than the Windy City?

There is always the chance that we could develop a festival in another city, but there are no plans to do so at this time.

Pitchfork has become a beacon for utilizing all types of media available–Pitchfork.com, live events and the Internet music channel Pitchfork.tv. Where does Pitchfork go from here to keep itself relevant?

Pitchfork’s relevance doesn’t rely upon our usage and adoption of emerging technologies or ideas–those are tools that allow us to try new and exciting ways of presenting what we do, the artists we cover and the music we love to our readers. Our relevance instead will be based upon the foundation of the site: music criticism, in a world that is sorely lacking much real discussion about music. As long as we can stick to our plan and continue to do so, we feel we will remain relevant as long as our readers want to hear what we have to say.

At Coachella earlier this year, tickets were available for purchase on layaway. Did you plan this year’s festival differently given the current financial climate?

The Pitchfork Music Festival has always prided itself on being an affordable event for people to attend, and we keep our ticket prices as low as possible from year to year. So by now we have come to be counted upon for producing and presenting an affordable, exciting and valuable festival so the economy can’t really mess with us.

The festival is now in its fourth year, what have you learned about putting together a live event such as this?

We have learned that when you place your focus on the music and the fans, and not the bottom line, it will be a rewarding experience for everyone involved.

Last year, there were tons of Craigslist’s "missed connections" from the festival with headers ranging from ‘Throwing up near the entrance – w4m – 21 (Union Park)’ to ‘Owl belt buckle both days.’ What would your missed connection ad say if you had posted one?

Saw you with the rainbow shorts. I was wearing jeans. I was jealous, since I was hot and wearing jeans and you were hot and not.

Heeb is excited to be a media sponsor this year, especially having covered several acts that are playing including Ponytail, Yo La Tengo and Yeasayer. Who are some up-and- comers–playing the festival or not–that our readers should know about?

Japandroids, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Antlers and The Very Best. But everyone is an up-and-comer to someone, right?

Lastly, favorite Michael Jackson song?

‘Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough.’

Wanna know more? Check out Pitchfork.com.

What do you think?

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