Is Spotify killing the album review? That question and other issues like rights clearances and Mp3 hosting platforms were explored in a panel, "Music Blogs: Discovering The Best New Music," at the New Music Seminar Monday.
"Music criticism is being marginalized in a way it shouldn't ever have been," Pitchfork president Chris Kaskie told moderator Bill Werde, editorial director of Billboard. "In more cases criticism is coming from your peer group, whether it's from what someone's writing about on Tumblr or listening to on Spotify through their Facebook feed. That's still criticism, just more loosely defined."
Matthew Perpetua, founder of MP3 blog Fluxblog and associate editor of Rolling Stone, occasionally contributes reviews to Pitchfork and puts more effort into his work as a result of the new wave of music discovery. "I want to make sure it's good... I feel more responsible," he said.
Though all panelists agreed that Spotify has changed the way they sample and even access music, the platform is not always the go-to source to host MP3s on new-music blogs. "A lot of times we're putting up music before Spotify even gets it," said Daniel Petruzzi, president of Okayplayer, an online hip-hop community.
And those posts are often being made with little regard to rights clearances, sometimes even by the people sending their songs to bloggers. "A lot of times, publicists will ask me to post a song, and an hour later a lawyer from the same company will ask me to take down the song," Petruzzi said. "If it's too easy to stop, it's probably not that good music anyway," added Anthony Volodkin, CEO of music-blog network Hypemachine.
Pitchfork's Kaskie tends to favor platforms like Soundcloud for streaming new songs, but pointed to the site's recent use of Pitchfork as a streaming complement to its album reviews. "You want these musicians to able to succeed, and streaming is just another form of marketing," he said. "We want to cover music as it's happening, and will try to avoid any step to disturb that flow of information."
As for how blogs' expertise in indie music can be valuable to brands, recent partnerships have been very careful. Volodkin's Hypemachine teamed up with Taco Bell at South by Southwest this year for its Hype Hotel, where bloggers in the Hypemachine network curated the days' artists and Taco Bell promoted its Feed The Beat program and gave away free Doritos Tacos Locos.
Pitchfork has also warmed up to working with sponsors both online and at its annual festival in Chicago, but Kaskie said he keeps a spreadsheet on his computer listing all the opportunities where he's walked away from ad dollars. "Brands will say, 'We have this new initiative where want to be aligned with indie music' and they're leveraging our credibility vs. working to have their own credibility," he said. "It's taken us years to get to a point where they're drinking the same water. The bad ideas you walk away from don't have the same experience."