by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & Stick a Pitchfork in it... & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & O & lt;/span & n March 4, the Web exploded. Every media entity remotely interested in music (or the cool derived from listening to music) -- from blog Stereogum to New York Magazine to G-frickin'-Q -- breathlessly blogged that navel-gazing indie music tastemaker Pitchforkmedia.com would be spinning off an "online video channel."
A day later, Wired had picked up the scent and Chicago Sun-Times critic Jim DeRogatis had already interviewed and berated Pitchfork's creator, Ryan Schreiber, on the slippery ethics of being both a critic and a promoter.
Why the buzz? Well, most people would say it's because Pitchfork, despite being a relatively small Website, has a disproportionately huge cultural footprint. I think it's because Americans alive during the '80s desperately want something to replace MTV.
That's certainly the way pitchfork.tv is promoting itself. Calling itself a "music channel" rather than a "video Website" (which is what it is), the thing is built upon a belief that, in the creators' words, "The 24-hour music network was such a great concept. What happened?"
Der, I'll tell you what happened. That shit wasn't profitable. The reason MTV doesn't show music videos is because the music video model broke when the big record model did. The advent of the Internet and Napster gave people more listening choices and, when MTV -- or rather the big record companies that supply MTV with its videos -- failed to broaden their video selection to match, people stopped watching. And so MTV had to start airing the kind of programming people never get tired of: watching beautiful and/or rich people treat each other like crap.
Schreiber knows this. He's a student of music and a pretty smart guy. So when Pitchfork hints that it wants to be MTV, what that means is that the Website wants to be an unquestioned purveyor of hipness. It established its cred with criticism, being loudly and brashly too hip for all but the hippest music. Now it wants to broaden its base, by bringing videos to more people than will ever read a masturbatory 2,000-word record review.
Which is to say, the Pitchfork brand is about to get decidedly less hip.