It seems I had only finished reading We Listen For You's great 'non-album/ep/tracks' Best Of 2012 list, still in mid-head-nodding agreement with their thoughts on the two really exceptional things Pitchfork did this year, when I stumbled upon Pitchfork's next well executed and inspiring idea… Pitchfork Advance.
But before I jump into this new fangled thing, a few extra words on those other two things that Pitchfork hit directly on the head.
Pitchfork Classic (really great music documentaries - only 2 so far, but they were both really damn great) and Cover Story (a really innovative way of bringing music journalism into the digital world… you know, by embracing the possibilities the digital world provides rather than looking in the rear view) were probably the only two things from Pitchfork that I gave more than a passing glance at this year. But I gave them much more than a passing glance. I dove in with both feet and marvelled at the display of creativity + execution. They left me feeling inspired and excited for the future.
This was especially true with Cover Story, as Pitchfork Classic was not so much innovative, but rather just some really excellent documentaries. Which is nothing to scoff at. Classic provided me with two of my favourite docs this year. WLFY specifically mention The Flaming Lips documentary —and I agree that it is something everybody should definitely put on their list of things to check out— but the one that really got me was the Modest Mouse doc. It made me wish I could hop in a time machine and slip my younger self Modest Mouse's 'The Lonesome Crowded West', while at the same time smacking that Limp Bizkit album out of my hands. And then I would whisper "just trust me on this". But in a non-creepy way. And then maybe I would have started a band back when I was of the age where those sort of things seem completely fathomable. Or at the very least, I would have got into actually important albums when I was of an impressionable age, rather than the majority of hollow and regrettable stuff I was listening to back then (and still trying to make up for now).
But back to Cover Story. As Zach so aptly wrote in his post:
If you haven't already, you really do need to check these Cover Story's out (the Ty Segall one is a good starting point). So many people have been writing about the death of writing. Or more specifically —as I mostly follow music blogs— so many people have been writing about the death of music writing. Often, 'the digital age' is wrongly diagnosed as the main cause of death. Seeing the first Cover Story made me think that their theory couldn't be further from the truth. I think we're all waiting for someone to start doing something interesting with music writing on the web. Computers have the potential to do stuff that a piece of paper can't even dream up (no matter how glossy it is). If you ask me, people seeing what Pitchfork was doing was probably the greatest factor in why something like Uncool failed to get their backing on Kickstarter.
We are at a crossroads. Stick with our comforting favourites of yesterday or start embracing (and creating) the unknown evolutions of those things for tomorrow (or today, depends on how quick we are with things). And hats off to Pitchfork for putting their name in the hat.
Which leads us nicely into the announcement today of Pitchfork Advance. Like the death of music writing, a lot of people have been going on about how streaming music is bad thing for music. It's not. It's just new. It needs improvements, but it's not a bad thing. You know what was a bad thing? Discovering music, pre-internet, in a small rural town in Alberta. The only thing that streaming music will be the death of is shitty radio playlists pushing garbage to the masses. And when (hopefully not if) someone gets streaming right, everyone will realize just how much better off we are.
Now Pitchfork Advance is not a template for what streaming should be. It's more a slap in the face to anyone who thinks that the current state of streaming is a done and dusted product. As ADD as we've all been programmed to be, we can still absorb entire albums online. But it sure as shit helps when the only other things on the screen to click are ways to delve deeper into the world of that album. Artwork and liner notes can work on a computer screen, and the possibilities are pretty endless with what you could do. Advance introduces this idea with a full album preview of a new Yo La Tengo album, complete with (somewhat) interactive cover art and (some) liner notes, and it is small hint as to what is possible. I'm a little surprised that the unveiling of this new idea was not more of a show stopper (i.e. more liner notes, more artwork, more etc.), but the idea is still sound and shows a lot of promise (and I wish I had the skills and/or bills to do something similar).
The thing I hope the Spotify's of the world take notice of the most is probably the simplest and most obvious feature: a link to where you can buy the physical product. What a novel idea. If you want streaming to lead to actually purchases, maybe you shouldn't have to open a browser and google where you can buy something (side note: Bandcamp, can you please get into the streaming game… i.e. like with a way to explore, discovery, and keep track of all the Bandcamp music in a 'spotify-esque' manner, but better?).
Well done Pitchfork, you're onto something.