Pitchfork = Indie-sphere God
Fate of a Rising Buzzband
I would like to believe that the fate of an indie band is up to the work ethic of the collective members. Appealing music that doesn't shatter glass is a huge plus. But the determining factors of a group 'signing a record deal' are largely up to said group. For example, I was in an indie band for my last couple years of college. We wrote what I thought were 6 high quality songs in 2 months. We gigged locally and had a loyal following that attended our shows. Things were looking bright. An EP demo was recorded and mastered. Internet publicity was growing. We booked shows in other cities. Shortly after the release of our EP, our singer got engaged and was married and moved within a month. Call it bad timing, bad luck, or the curse of mormons in utah and their amazing drive to get married and have babies, but we were out a vital part to our buzzband. As hard as we tried to keep the band together, we couldn't find a new singer that brought to the table what we lost. We jammed on occasion, but things pretty much died.
I get asked all the time "hey, weren't you in a buzzband? What happened?" The second part's a good question. We worked our tails off. We wrote great music - music that I continue to listen to now. I loved what we had. But life happened.
Pitchfork = Indieshpere god
What were we missing? (Besides a hot chick lead singer) Our geographic location probably had a lot to do with it. Frankly, there isn't a large selection of recording studios within 100 miles, or record labels for that matter. Portugal. The Man hails from the great state of Alaska, a hell of a lot less populated than mine. That exposure excuse, well, not so relevant.
So as much as it pains me to say this, it has to come down to work ethic. We didn't work hard enough/want it bad enough. I can live with that, for now. But there has to be a little luck involved, or how would Alaskan buzzbands get any recognition? That's were the internet comes in, and more specifically, web blogs. There are literally hundreds of blog sites on the internet that rate, review, and provide samples of buzz-worthy indie bands. Many are on sites like Hubpages. Others utilize social media. But the god of the 'indie-sphere' is Pitchfork.com. Pitchfork's brand is all knowing, all seeing, and all powerful. A favorable review on Pitchfork will catapult a lowly buzzband into indie stardom. Lets look at The Arcade Fire's rise from an attic studio to the peak of the indie world.
The 2004 release Funeral scored a 9.7 on Pitchfork. Aside from Pitchfork's obsession with the Beatles and Radiohead, very few 10.0 have been given out. Pitchfork ultimately ranked the album #2 on their Top 200 Albums of the 2000s. This album was recorded in a loft space called Hotel2Tango, ran by Godspeed You! Black Emperor member Mauro Pezzente.
The 2007 release Neon Bible scored an 8.4 on Pitchfork. Debuted #2 behind a Notorious B.I.G greatest hits album, selling 92,000 copies in the first week and over 400,000 to date. Funeral even re -entered the charts at #175, selling 3,000 copies.
The 2010 release The Suburbs scored an 8.6 on Pitchfork. Debuted #1 ahead of Eminem's Recovery, selling 152,000 copies in the first week.
I am not trying to discount the accomplishments of any band. Obviously The Arcade Fire writes great music to achieve the success they have. But the 'Pitchfork bump' based on the favorable album scores led many internet blog readers to discover their brand. The same story could be said of Vampire Weekend, whose album Contra debuted at #1 this year as well.
In conclusion, I would submit to you the following:
- indie buzzbands + great music + hard work = mediocre local success, if lucky, possibly a small record deal.
- indie buzzbands + great music + hard work + Pitchfork favorable album review = indie stardom + the sky's the limit
Pitchfork is the hand that giveth. When Pitchfork said 'let there be light,' there was light. Pitchfork is all knowing. Pitchfork is all seeing. Pitchfork is all powerful. In matters of indie greatness, Pitchfork is god.
Future 'Pitchfork bumps'
Keep your eyes on these buzzbands recently reviewed by Pitchfork. They could take off in the near future.
- Twin Shadow - Forget 8.4
- Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest 9.2
- How to Dress Well - Love Remains 8.7