An Open Letter To Ryan Schreiber of Pitchforkmedia.com
Dear Ryan: Last week when you asked for my photographer's contact info because you wanted to use a couple of the Pitchfork Festival shots that were posted on Radio Free Chicago for your very own coverage, I thought I was doing you a favor. I guess I could've been like, "how much are they worth to ya?" Or perhaps I should’ve got all competitive about things and refused to release any of the pics. But none of that really crossed my mind at the time. Our sites are like apples and oranges. We're local and focus on live music, you're national and focus on album reviews. Not to mention I've respected your work for years and was just flattered that our coverage attracted your attention. So, even though I got back to you right away, was more than happy to comply with your request and forwarded you Rory's info, why do I feel like I got totally taken advantage of here? Yes, technically, you did follow through with what I asked. Rory got the photo credit, Radio Free Chicago got a link. But c'mon, could you have hidden the hyperlink any better? No bold or underscore on Rory's name...not even a different font color to give even the slightest indication that there's a link there. Furthermore, the piece is solely credited to "Pitchfork Staff," (which is a glaring inaccuracy) so why would anyone even think to look for an external link where there may be more pictures elsewhere? The point being is that I obviously agreed to let you use the pics because I thought we'd be getting a mention and a nice boost in traffic in return. This is pretty much standard practice these days when trading content between Web sites, no? I would think you, of all people, would understand and appreciate this concept. So why would you bury the link in a non-descript spot that you know is going to lead to virtually no hits for us? Most of all, why would you not even bother to put a quick "thanks to Radio Free Chicago" in your intro or at the very least in a footnote at the end? Come to think of it, you didn't even reply with a quick "thanks, man" via email after I gave you my blessing and forwarded you to Rory?!? I don't get it...there's no competition here, right? Pitchfork certainly isn't in danger of losing thousands of readers to Radio Free Chicago. You struggled in obscurity for many years trying to get Pitchfork off the ground, no? Why wouldn’t you want to support fellow underground music journalists like yourself in the local community? I could be wrong, but it seems like there's some seriously unwarranted competitive paranoia going on here. Speaking of which, what was the deal with the clamp down on the press at your festival? Photogs were only allowed to shoot during the first 3 songs, we were banished from the artist/VIP section and given the saddest press area/tent that I've ever seen. To be fair, I guess I don't know how directly involved you were with the festival logistics, but I found it ironic that of all the times I've had press privileges at concerts and other events, I probably received the least amount of access at the Pitchfork Festival...a festival run by a press outlet! You'd think of all the concert/festival organizers in the world, you guys would be the most sympathetic to giving the press easy access and ample amenities. So, I don't know what's going on over there at Pitchfork HQ these days, but it seems to me that your success has, in fact, totally gone to your head and you need to loosen up a bit. I first sensed this odd paranoia with the way you handled (more like ignored) your split with Intonation. Then, at your own festival, I got this odd feeing that you were limiting press access so that no one could trump your own coverage. Then I thought, "nah...the heat’s just messing with my head, reading into this waaaay too much." I even gave you the benefit of the doubt when I saw you didn't mention Radio Free Chicago in last week's piece. I was angry at first, but then I thought..."well maybe he was in a hurry to finish it, overlooked it, forgot, etc." So I dropped you a line and asked if you could highlight the link better and give RFC credit at the bottom. No reply. “Well, maybe he’ll add a quick note later…” Nothing. Damn, did my conspiracy theory actually have some validity? The reason I was drawn to your site in the first place years ago was because of its irreverence and honesty. It was completely refreshing in the world of the stale, boardroom-approved reviews found in the likes of the modern day Rolling Stone and Spin magazines. For years I defended Pitchfork to friends, co-workers, drunk dudes at bars, etc. who always bitched that you guys were all pretentious, self-important pricks. "No," I always said, "it's not the staff themselves, it's the readers’ fault for taking their reviews too damn seriously." Well, either things have changed, or I've just been flat out wrong this whole time. You've still got a great thing going on over there at the 'Fork, and judging by the massive crowd that you drew to your festival, I don't think you're in danger of becoming irrelevant any time soon. So don't fuck it up by getting all insular and cocky atop your little indie rock empire. Otherwise you're in serious danger of just becoming that same type of bullying big media outlet that you once seemingly rallied so hard against.