If you’ve read an album review as of late, chances are it was probably from Pitchfork. Since its inception in 1996, the magazine has long positioned itself as an  authority of music writing and a keystone outlet in the world of journalism.. I mean, what else would you expect from the self-proclaimed “most trusted voice in music”?

As a writer with an Achilles heel for sassily pretentious prose who-avidly keeps on top of the best (and worst) album releases, I have been a fan of Pitchfork for a while now. The online magazine was my guilty pleasure in my high school English class, a model for my work as a writer, and, most importantly, a place in the media that reminded me how much music matters on a broad scale.

That’s to say, it’s hard to run a successful music magazine, especially for 28 years and counting. While music is such an integral part of our everyday lives, music journalism is a branch of culture writing that is underfunded and often passed off as a passion project for even the most distinguished journalists. Music often finds itself tucked away as a subsection of a subsection in magazines, and, even then, it lends its focus to only the hottest of celebrity news. Where is the room for discovery? 

Pitchfork took the reins on rewriting this narrative, spinning the embryo of the internet into a diverse platform for up-and-coming artists. Its work has helped cement the legacy of musicians like Arcade Fire and Bon Iver, and it raised swarms of new music aficionados and critics through outreach such as its annual festival and online publications. 

This work didn’t go unnoticed. In 2015, the formerly-independent Pitchfork was acquired by mass media giant Condé Nast, the same group in ownership of publications such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Bon Appétit, and nearly every other magazine you’ve heard of. This past week, almost ten years later, Pitchfork was absorbed into its sister — er, brother — magazine, Gentleman’s Quarterly (GQ). 

Announced by Anna Wintour, Condé Nast’s Chief Content Officer, the transition was described as “the best move forward for the brand […] so that [their] coverage of music can continue to thrive within the community.” The transition resulted in mass layoffs across Pitchfork — an estimated half of existing staff — and has prompted the exit of prominent company figures such as Editor-in-Chief Puja Patel. 

For decades, Pitchfork has molded our modern interpretation of music media, setting a tall standard for criticism, coverage, and writer’s voice. The organization has come a long way towards forming a collective that gave room for underrepresented voices — one that highlighted diversity in both sound and its contributors. While, of course, Pitchfork e is not perfect, the high quality and quantity of its content serve as a reminder of music’s importance as a craft, not just a hobby, a rich man’s sport, or an idle way to pass the time. 

The merger with GQ makes the future of magazine publications unclear.  While a variety of other journals such as Mojo, Billboard, and Stereogum have made their marks on the community and mainstream culture, Pitchfork’s shift to the audience of a men’s magazine is frankly demeaning to music journalism as a whole. As an onlooker, it is frustrating to watch the downfall from a distance and to question if Pitchfork’s value of discovery may be swapped for GQ’s shiny celebrity sentiment.. 

As a university student with dreams of publication in music writing, it is harrowing to contemplate whether there is room for you and the representation you crave in what should be an ever-evolving field. Women and genderqueer individuals have fought hard and long enough to even make the cover pages of culture magazines, let alone have their work of writing and music treated as more than just a hobby. While Pitchfork is just one publication out of many, its high status sets an industry standard, one which Condé Nast has flipped into a corporate-warped change with an unclear motive.

As a journal, Pitchfork is the biggest fish in a slowly draining pond, and it is unclear what its decline will sink next.



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