On this, my first day of law school, I’ve decided to spare all of you a law-related post. And since I went to undergrad at Ohio, a school with quite a large population of indie kids, I thought I’d write about Pitchfork instead. Wired has an interesting article this month about the “Pitchfork Effect,” a phenomenon by which relatively obscure (OK, so the more obscure the better…) bands become big overnight due to exposure in Pitchfork. In short, when it comes to indie rock, street cred is worth more than any advertising budget could buy.

You may remember last summer’s economic experiment by the name of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!. The 5-piece band did not rely on advertisements or large scale distribution. Instead, they burned a few CD’s (which quickly spread across the globe), played a few shows, and sat back, waiting for the self-generating hype machine to do its work. And it did; the band became the summer’s biggest band in virtually no time. The same logic has worked for other independent successes like the Arcade Fire and TV on the Radio.

This phenomenon, part social networking, part bloodthirsty marketing has even caught the eye of Rupert Murdoch, who recently acquired the website MySpace.com for its revenue generating potential.

Where’s the line between solicited marketing and “real” word-of-mouth? Is there a line to begin with?

In one of my PR classes, my professor told us about cell phone companies who would pay “undercover” sales reps to stand at public gathering places and loudly sing their praises for the product. Ever since, I’ve been at least slightly more skeptical of the ringing endorsements I hear. But at the same time, I want to have a “filter” like Pitchfork Media because it helps me sort through the best and worst of an area in which I’m interested but not an expert.

Daniel Corbett

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