Pitchfork: Ryan Schreiber - Transcripts

June 06, 2022

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While working at his local record store at age 20, Ryan Schreiber dreamt that his scrappy music review webpage might one day grow into an influential music publication. Working out of his parents’ house, he wrote about indie music because he loved it, and recruited like-minded friends to do the same. In 2000, a rhapsodic review of Radiohead’s “Kid A” got huge attention online, and soon Ryan’s site began to attract tens of thousands of users—building a reputation for pointed reviews that could make or break careers. In 2015, Pitchfork joined The New Yorker and Vogue when it was acquired by Condé Nast, one of the most prestigious magazine publishers in the world. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.


I'm Gregory Warner, host of the podcast, rough translation on our new season. Were telling stories about the cultures of work the 9-5. It's a myth and rest around the world. I came into this totally prepared to defend my American productivity at work. The new season of the NPR podcast. Rough translation. Many of you might already use slack to make work happen, but for those who don't, I want to share an example of how slack has empowered us here at how I built this. So slack is kind of our digital headquarters. The how I built this team has used slack to communicate for years because we're a distributed team and it's become essential to us, especially during Covid when we all began working from home. But it's not just us. Companies big and small use slack to achieve pretty impossible feats and you can watch those stories over at slack dot com slash stories again, that's slack dot com slash stories slack where the future and how I built this works.

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I love doing the creative side of this so much that I like never focus on the business. Um but I did have one advertiser who had like actually reached out to me and said, hey, we want to advertise at the top of your site, how much will it cost?

What was the advertiser?

Um They were an online record store called in Sound

and what would they pay you a month to remember?

Um They asked me to name a price and so I went, oh my God, I wonder how much. So I just pulled out the biggest number that I could think of, Which was $500 a month,

Wow, How about $500?

I was like, oh my God, that will pay almost, that'll almost pay my rent each month.

And they're sitting there going, no problem,


Welcome to how I built this a show about innovators, entrepreneurs, idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built. Mm, I'm Guy Raz. And on the show today, how Ryan Schreiber taught himself how to write reviews about the music he loved and grew that into pitchfork, one of the most influential music publications in the world. If you met Ryan Schreiber in 1995, you'd be hard pressed to predict that his web page of his own music reviews would one day become a powerful media company for the first few years, hardly anyone noticed what he called pitchfork. In fact, Ryan's day job was as a clerk at a local record store outside Minneapolis, but slowly in fits and starts with a few near death moments, Ryan built pitchfork into a multimedia company that could make or break new artists. Ryan was just 20 years old when he started posting reviews on a website. He had no training or formal experience as a writer or a critic. He was just a music fan and in many ways that lack of experience served him well. He wasn't trying to build something big or profitable or influential, at least at the start. But eventually, pitchfork was reaching millions of readers a month and employed an army of reviewers, writers, producers, and event planners. In 2015, pitchfork was purchased by the media giant Conde Nast. And all of a sudden Ryan Schreiber found himself sitting in meetings with some of the most powerful figures in media people like Anna Winter of vogue and David Remnick of the new yorker.

It was an unexpected path for a guy whose main ambition in life was to work at a record store. Ryan grew up in the suburbs outside Minneapolis. His parents were realtors and not surprisingly from an early age, music was a central part of his life.

From the earliest point in my life before my memory, my mom tells me about, you know, how


music on would make me just like if I was like throwing a tantrum or crying in the crib or something like that she figured out that if she put on music like I would just be silent and listen. So even though they weren't you know they were very into the arts or music or anything like that they were you know casual music fans. We had some country music records around some like three dog night and Captain and Tennille and whatever else they liked. Um But once they saw how um enamored I was of music and that I would just sit in front of the stereo all day and just listen and listen. Um They just started bringing me records and I wasn't really particular about the records that they brought. The it was sort of a quantity over quality thing at that point I just wanted to absorb as much as I

could in terms of like the school side of things. How are you? Was school hard for you? Did you not care?

School was very hard for me? I was neither a good student nor was I like at all socially adept. So I was definitely you know kind of a loner. I was also sort of a I was like sort of textbook A. D. H. D. Case. So I was always sort of acting out a bad combination in general but you know but at the same time you know I was actually also really fortunate because my parents actually really instilled a lot of self confidence in me. So if I would get rejection from my classmates, I always kind of had a sense. It's like we're not close, you don't know me, you don't know what, you don't see the parts of me that I see.

Did you as a kid, Did you play any sports?

No, completely unathletic. I played, I did play piano, kind of a sport, a musical sport, but I knew that I was gonna do something in music and unfortunately just going to public high school, the programs weren't amazing. Most of the programs that you could take I took, but it wasn't, it wasn't teaching me anything. I didn't know. I was very much a self learner when it came to music and I mean, and then socially things got much better in high school, but I was still definitely on the fringe. Um, and there was definitely a point where I considered going to college, but you know, I didn't have the nearly have the grades, like I kind of barely graduated.

Yeah. Tell me about, because you really, this is the early nineties in the suburbs of Minneapolis. Minneapolis. Obviously legendary music town Prince husker du the replacements. Um, and and others.

Yeah, I was really fortunate to grow up in Minneapolis because Music is such a big part of the culture there and alternative music in particular was very, very well nurtured in the city at that time and very appreciated. We had FM radio stations in 1990 that would play Jesus and Mary chain and I mean youtube but nick cave and I mean stuff that you know, a very rare format at that time. And those were stations that like honestly kind of taught me, you know, here's a way to take music that is really subcultural and really kind of deep into alternative culture and make this presentable, you know, for sort of a wider audience. Because, you know, a lot of independent alternative music was also quite experimental.

Did you, would you hang out at record stores in high school?

Oh constantly. Oh my God. It was like the only place I ever went and I would spend hours hours of the record stores. I got to know all the people at the record stores. You know, I'm like 15 16 like asking them for recommendations and I like this, what should I listen to next? And how's this? Have you heard this new album by the Cure? How's that? And just constantly digging And you know, looking at all the artwork and they had like actually at my local record record store in Minnetonka we had at that time, it's no longer there. But there's a big record store chain um in Minneapolis called cheapo. And um I just I spent all my time there. They had a listening station in the back.

Yeah. If it was, if it was used and it was already open, they would just like, let you bring stacks back there and just listen.


yeah, eventually. I mean they were just a little, you know, cd boombox.


But eventually I kind of was like, okay, this has a tape deck on it. Um, so eventually I started bringing in tapes and making mixtapes in the record store from just

hit record and record record

tracks. Yeah, I would, I was, I was sneaking it and it was, I'm sure very conspicuous. And I would guess that probably they'd seen me do it, you know, once or twice and turned a blind eye sometimes. I did get caught and they were like, you can't do that. Come on.

This is like stealing music before napster.

Yeah, it is actually, now that you mention it, it was so valuable. I mean, it was hard to get, it was expensive. You know,

people don't realize, people of a certain age don't realize that there was a time when people would hit record and play on their boom box to catch a song on the radio so that they could hear it later on.


you would just wait and you would time

it, yep. You would time it. And you know, um yeah, press that applause, just sit by the radio and wait. You know, wait for that

song, come

around on the hour.

It's no fun anymore. Quick, quick record record on the boombox.

Yeah, I mean in a sense, it's hard to be too nostalgic about it. I think the art of the mix tape is like one of the main things I'm more nostalgic about because there was such a, you're like hand crafting an object. It's not just like a collection of songs you're putting together on tape. It's like the whole

package is not the same.


Um all right. So you graduate, you're 18 and you're not going to go to college. Um, So what, what did you do? I mean, where did you, did you get a job right away.

I did, I graduated and then I applied at this very like cool local record store and I was very adamant about my application and like calling, did you get it? You know? And they got back to me a couple of weeks later and they said, hey, we really appreciate your enthusiasm, but you need to have some prior record store experience to get this job. So I said,


can I get that? Where can I get that where I can also get a job. But the mall of America had just opened. So I went down to the Mall of America. I applied at the music land store. I was in like that and worked there for the minimum amount of time, six months before I went and reapplied at the other, You know, what

was the name of that record shop by the way?

It was called down in the valley. It's still there?

And was it like in high fidelity, was it like that? Like, you were a bunch of like, sort of music snobs who were also working in a record shop, was it? Or is that completely off base?

No, it was it was a lot like that. It was a lot like that. The store itself was, you know, it was a record store slash head shop was one of these, you know, with a counter in the back and lots of grateful dead stuff around pink Floyd incense burning like the whole nine by

the way, were you into any of that?

No, I wasn't. What's so funny is I was not like, I would sometimes have to go back and work the head shop counter and they would, they're just slinging terminology, you know? And I'm like, they're like, give me that dugout and that one hitter and I'm like,


you, could you just point that out to me to me, like, I was insane. But yeah, so we had people who were like, into all kinds of music working there, lots of, you know, personalities of course were like, all snobby. You know, like, I don't think we were like snobby to the customers. Like, you know, that's sort of a record store record clerk stereotype? And for good reason, because I've been, I know I've experienced it too? Like, no end also, right? Like being on the other side.


You know, are you sure about this? You know, or just, you know, a light grown or a

Yeah, by this point, I mean there was obviously there was Rolling Stone, there was spin, there were other publications, music magazines, they were they were already changing, right? Um but there were still some really good music magazines coming out of the UK, like Melody Maker and nme, would you ever go to newsstands in Minneapolis and like, find look for those?

Yeah, I mean, that's another thing I would do, I would go to like the local borders or Barnes and noble where they had just like infinite magazines, every subject. Um and the music magazine section was so deep. I would just sit and read, I would like listen to my headphones and read. I mean really actually loved Q at that time. Que was so

sardonic. Great.

Um It was really thick too. I mean, they did so much coverage. Their captions on all their images were hilarious, like it was so biting and that I think that that kind of UK sensibility of of the UK music press was one of the things that really influenced me to kind of be catty are, or more vicious early on.

And were you, I mean, this is a time when like the mid nineties when um this is like the kind of golden age and the beginning of like alternative weeklies in, in cities really kind of start to blow up and zines, people would make zines, people would like to use word page Maker, a cork Express and a Mac and print out pretty nice layout pages and then you could photocopy them into zines and then sell them. Were you ever were you into into those?

I was I was very into zines, you know, most of them were really interviews with artists and record reviews. I mean, you know, the indian community was very like there was a deep camaraderie, like we're all sort of outsiders were all kind of in this together. Um and we all support kind of, you know, people in the scene, so there wasn't a lot of negativity in the reviews, which I think in hindsight, you know, kind of kind of a nice thing. Um but at the same time, you know, you can always kind of detect well if you're into this or that you might like this blah, blah, blah. Um I was like, where's the negativity? Like we're all music fans too, you know, and music fans have, we just, we have strong opinions, so it's like kind of the, you know, that's one of the most fun things about engaging and having conversations with other music fans is this heated debate about, you know, what matters, what's good, what's not and having not seen any of that in a lot of the local scenes or the Indies scenes, I was like, we need to shake this up.

You see these kind of like, this scene kind of seen pop Up around you, I mean, how did you, I mean, did you start to think, you know, I want to make one myself?

Yeah, I was actually really drawn to the idea, but I just I had no, I mean, working in a record store, doesn't, you know, I was fortunate to be able to live at home while I did that. So my expendable income, I could, you know, whatever was, there was not much um it's certainly not enough to support even something like creating 203 100 copies of something to distribute around town. The overhead was just kind of out of reach for me. Um so yeah, there was always kind of like an instinct like, oh, I could do this, look at this, look at these kids doing this, they got like 10 minutes on the phone, with like, you know, Ian MacKaye

from Fugazi. Yeah, but but he's a guy, you could actually call up, he would answer the phone.

Exactly. But, you know, there would also be, you know, they got David byrne, you know, and people who were like, less accessible. I saw that they were getting that kind of access and they were just local scenes. So I knew that there was a way,

what was the genesis of, of how you came to the idea of starting your own zine like thing.

So while I was working at the record store, this is 1994, um I had already been on local bulletin board systems, these like, services that you could call up, that a person would host a computer and it would be sort of like a local regional message board. But in 1994 1 of these people introduced me to the internet. He was online already and showing me all, you know, websites and showing me how everything worked. And he had made a website and I was like, how do you do this? You know, he's like, it's actually really super easy if you know, Photoshop, which I'll teach you and, you know, five html tags and you have an FTP client. I'm like, this is the sounds complicated. He's like, no. So he actually walked me through it and it didn't take long to learn. So I basically started learning that software and you don't even really need to know that, frankly. I just wanted to make sure that we had images and you know, that it was visual as well as text. And then I started to see other publications kind of popping up online. So

you set up a website basically. And I think you called a turntable initially. Right? And and and this was just a static website maybe with like a photo and just like text links. And then what do you remember writing on on it? Like what would I have found on turntable.

Um You would have found first, you would have found interviews because the first thing that I did was try to talk to artists. Um It's like you can't have a scene without interviews. That was actually the big draw for me. At first my first interview was with Low Believe It or not, but they at that time were just, you know, a local band starting out in Duluth Minnesota who would come to the city all the time in play.

And did you just call them and say, hey, can I interview you for my, my zine, my website or do you remember how you pitched it?

So I actually called the record labels because I didn't know how to reach the bands. You know, I mean, nobody had a website at that point. Not even the labels had websites. So in order to find the in order to get in touch with the label. What I would do is I would call the Minneapolis public libraries information desk and I would ask them for, can you find, is there a phone number for Matador Records in new york? Is there a phone number for an UP records in Seattle or in Washington? Um And I would hang on the phone for like a half an hour while this wonderful librarian lady would go and look through, I don't know,

God bless public libraries going

seriously. And and so yeah, it would take a while and then she'd finally come back though, and she would have two of the three phone numbers for me. And at first I don't even know what department I'm looking for, I'm like um so I have a zine and I want to do like an interview with this artist, do you know who I talk to about that? They're like uh you want publicity, hold on. Um And so I would finally get in touch with the publicist and I'd be like, I mean, all I would want is like, can I get 10 minutes on the phone with this person? It doesn't have to be big, you know, like I had no interview skills at that point anyway, and I was kind of novel, I mean, there were definitely interviews that I got really early on. Like, I did get to talk to David Byrne really early on, like 1998 I mean, for me, early on, um and I got to actually meet him at, you know, it was something like the State theater in ST paul before his show. And like, I'm sitting down with David Byrne like asking him about the Supes eating or whatever, you know? And

and what would you ask them? I mean, would you just ask them, I don't know about how they made the record or how would you conduct the interviews

often. I wouldn't I wouldn't talk that much about the music. I want to know again, I just kind of want to have like a friendly conversation. Um, and so I would kind of come up with a list of questions in case there was not necessarily like any form of chemistry, but often there would be some of the questions were also just joke questions. I think I asked king coffee of the butthole surfers, do you have any naked pictures of your mother? Which he said no. And I said, do you want to buy some? And that was the end of the interview,

wow. Yeah,

but like, I mean the music present at that time was also so irreverent and just, you know, I mean it was, that was sort of gen X slacker culture. I

mean you have this natural confidence, which is incredible. I mean, you're very lucky that you had that because being young is hard. I mean, you remember this being like 18 1920, 21. It's hard. It's scary like you don't you you know that there are things you can do, but you don't quite have the language and the experience to express that to people who are older in positions of power. But somehow you were like, you would just go out and and just see if somebody would do an interview with you.

Yeah. When it came to music, I knew that I knew what I was doing, I knew that I knew what I was talking about, even if I didn't necessarily have the skill set yet. I was like there's only one way to do this you know and that's diggin. Um So after the first couple of interviews I hit on an artist who who's new record was coming out but hadn't been released yet. And when I asked to do the interview and I had set the interview up they're like oh do you want to hear the record? I'm like well isn't it not out for another month? They're like well we'll send it to you. I'm like you'll just send it like for free like you'll just send it to me for free like before it's out. And once I found out that that was that was what happened at music publications that you get on a mailing list and they just send you piles of free music, everything that's not out yet or something just come out across every genre and listen to whatever it was I wanted to listen to and then like start writing about it. But yeah once that started to happen I started to go I have so much music here that I can't cover myself. Maybe if I put out like you know a post on the website I can find other people I can send these C. D.

S to they can write about it and maybe we can like really amp up our output and that's what happened

but how did you know how to talk about music, even how to break down the instruments or how to talk about how it was recorded on multi track or how did you even have that language? Where did, where did that come from? How did you learn about it?

Well that came from reading, you know, all the music publications, that's where I got, you know, I mean I read so much, I read every piece of music press that I could get my hands on from the time that I was 13. So by the time that I was 17 I had kind of a pretty strong handle of at least the terminology and you know, the handy um rock critic cliches or turns of phrase or you know, so I had and I had a really strong knowledge just from self educating, you know, 24 7

I know that what was the reason called Turntable? You, I think very quickly had to change the name because you, there was another company called Turntable, right?

Yeah, they were called Turntable Media and they, I think they did make like sort of magazine cd ROMs or like they did video interviews and things like that. I remember like, oh, I don't know, six months into me doing it and they said they sent a cease and desist, which

scared you, you

scared the hell out of me, You know, like what league? This is from a lawyer, what's going on, I guess, you know, I'll just change the name, we'll kind of just circumvent this entirely.

So how did you come up with pitchfork?

I came up with pitchfork, I was, I was watching scarface as teenagers do and there's a scene in the movie where al pacino's being interrogated by the feds or something and they noticed this pitchfork tattoo on his arm and they're like, oh what does that mean? That means assassin. And I'm like, oh that's cool, that's cool. Like I needed a new name and I needed a new, a new name pretty fast, you know, I'm like living in rural Minnesota, I kind of like the angry mob connotations which at that time were not so tea party affiliated, it was more just general angry villagers kind of vibe, but I liked, I liked all the connotations and I thought, you know, it's sort of like it's sharp and I really wanted pitch worked to be more aggressive in its review style to be harder on music and I don't know, have a higher bar.

Alright, so you kind of rebrand this as pitchfork, this is still a hobby, right? And I want to, I want to illustrate this by reading your, the first review you wrote on pitchfork. It's, it's of the amps, it's a record, it was a kIM deal from the breeders from the pixies, she puts out this record and I want to basically wanna read, written by you give it an 8.2, you say initially I wasn't sure if their record was for me it seemed so low fi that it was barely audible. The songs didn't stand out immediately and I was just like jesus compared to the breeders. This is terrible. After a couple more lessons. I couldn't believe I wasn't pulled into the awesome rock melodies and the brilliant lyrics from the beginning. And you go on to explain it with a few more words and then you right at the end it won't leave my discman for at least three days. Well that's kind of a long time I guess. That is great. It's very short.


to the point this is not um robert Christgau or jim DeRogatis style review. It's a it's the review of a of a you know a young guy who's just starting out. But unselfconscious,

let me tell you when you read it in that voice. It gives it a lot more character than I think it it leaps off the page with naturally. So thank you

when we come back in just a moment how Ryan begins to grow pitchfork out of his parents house telling them to please never answer the phone because you never know when it might be David Byrne stay with us listening to how I built this, how I built, this is brought to you by whoop the world's most powerful, wearable health and fitness coach isn't like other fitness trackers, it measures your vital signs including heart rate variability or H. R. V. Resting heart rate and your nightly sleep cycles. There are algorithms process all those data points to provide you with a daily personalized recovery score. This guide can help you know how you should approach your day. In fact I spent a few weeks wearing the tracker while I exercised and throughout the day and it was amazing to see all of the data that it gave me every single day sleep better, recover faster and work out smarter with the all new device is free. When you sign up for a membership, go to dot com. W H. 00 P dot com and enter built at checkout to save 15%. Today. There's power in getting together with the people you love and today your family isn't just about people with shared D.

N. A. It's also about the chosen family you found who like what you like and know what you've been through. Maybe getting together with your people means reconnecting with your childhood friends or watching the game with your college teammates or seeing your new baby, meet your best friend's baby for the first time. Or maybe it's about reuniting with the whole crew or laughing until you can't breathe or big sister real talk or just sitting in silence with someone who truly understands you. One thing is clear. Today's families don't often live in the same city, let alone have a single place to come home to, verb o knows the best places with your people with millions of vacation homes, your place can be anything from a charming mountain cabin or lakeside lodge to a city apartment or luxury home with private pools, hot tubs, full kitchens and extra bedrooms, verbal homes provide the space and comfort. You need to focus on the people who matter visit verbose dot com or download the verbal app to find the perfect vacation home for your people verbal a place for together. Hey, welcome back to how I built this. I'm guy raz. So it's the mid 19 nineties and Ryan Schreiber is working out of his parents house, writing, pithy and unpretentious reviews about indie music for his new online publication pitchfork, I

Started Writing two reviews a day after a while. At that point, it was really uncommon for websites to be updated daily. I mean, in this, at this point, you know, 1995-96, when I started publishing almost everything out, there was static. There were just a few publications like Mcsweeney's, I think was already around, There are a couple of others that would update and they'd have something every day. And of course, I'm like, oh well, these are the ones that are kind of becoming established and like getting a reputation. Um if we start, if I start doing something every weekday, I can build a daily audience And you know, but I mean when they're like that, when they're that short that quick they're just so easy to knock out but you know, I was very fortunate to be able to establish pitch work at a time when there was zero competition, there was nothing on the web for these artists. So so again by the time that people did start to log on 1999, these search results would lead so many people to pitchfork and that's that really helped it get a get a strong footing.

Um I mean the first two years it was just you kind of writing really what I would describe as like almost like a public diary of the music you're listening to and you were working at the record shop and also I think you got like you're doing some telemarketing also to earn some

cash. Yes,

which you were good at, right? You were pretty good

at, I was kind of good at it. Yeah, the record store kind of stopped cutting it, you know, I wanted to move out,

you want to move out of your parents place

of course. And uh I needed to support myself in some way and when I did apply to the job and I got in really easily, I mean this is a room full of like 30 or 40 people who come in from 5 to 9 p.m. We do cold calls from these cards that we get issued from the mortgage company. Um and we just call these numbers and the idea was to call them, ask them you know, a series of questions about their home. I was you know, such a kid, I know I sounded young um and so I'm calling people you know at dinner like after work and there's this child asking them about their 15 year adjustable rate mortgage or whatever you know. And so um the way that it actually worked was that it was totally commission based. So you set an appointment with them, you got $5 if they came in for the appointment, you get an extra $10 if they ended up submitting to a mortgage proposal or submitting a mortgage, you get 25 if they close you get $50. So like off one call you could reasonably make like you know almost $100. Um I started to actually make kind of like really good money doing that in the evenings, you know and that would free me up during the day to do pitch work from like 9 to 5, I would be able to work on it as a full time job,

but this is not a business, you're not thinking of this as a business? I mean did you see this is like your future, were your parents like this is your future Ryan or was it just like like this little kind of side project,

I actually did see it as my future,

wow and by the way I wasn't trying to be what sort of condescending. I'm like, I'm really trying to understand how you saw it because you probably weren't one of the few people who did see it as your future.

Yeah, I think so. I mean, I definitely was one of the few people, my parents did not understand the internet. They didn't understand what I was doing in my room on my computer all day. I was telling them about it. They would get strange phone calls like, hey Ryan, somebody is calling you from, you know, Sony music, David

burns on the phone.

I mean exactly. You know, mom don't answer that phone. Like, you know, I got my, my set up, my tape recorder okay. But to her great credit, she paid that phone bill every month and was, I didn't hear about it until many years later. But,

but you, but you did see this thing that you were doing as, as what, like when you say you saw this as your future, what did you, 1997 the internet, I mean, yeah, I mean there was, there was a big boom happening in California and people were making lots of money in yahoo, you know, but, but you had this little basically block

yeah. Um, you know, look, it didn't take a lot of foresight to see that people were going to be logging on in mass numbers in short order that that was going to be happening. There was already like, it was growing just at an insane pace exponential. And so, you know, I'm looking at like how much time I spend online versus how much time I read magazines and I'm like, well look, if you know, all of these, all of these magazines transition online or have an online presence, like, you know, I was already asking myself those questions like, am I going to continue to buy the magazine, I'm just going to do this. But for me, I was also like, well look, they have advertising in magazines, we can have advertising on websites. Um, so even though I knew that I did not yet have a readership enough to support actual real ads. Um, but I did start looking at how other zines and you know, sort of the like mid tier kind of indie magazines like magnet and Reagan and I actually in some cases would write their, their sales department and be like, oh, I'm interested in advertising. Can I get like a cop and just like learning and figuring out how they did it,

wow. So you, you would write to some of these music magazines say, hey, I'm potentially in advertising and they would send you their rate

card. So

you could learn about how they were making money

right? And I would go, okay, this is what their distribution is, You know, this is the audience that are reaching, this is what they're charging for. A full page ad, oh, wow, they

charge. So the gears were turning in your head, you were thinking, how can I turn this thing into something that actually could be my

job? Yes,

But but you were not, you had not only were you not making any money from it, you had no money to get people to help you out. Right? I mean, so how did you eventually, eventually you did get a couple more people, you know, writing reviews, It's just friends who just kind of did it for fun for free.

The first writer who started writing was my was my best friend at the time, was still one of my best friends, Jason, joseph's and, and it was just like a hobby for us, It was fine. I was like, I'll give you some cds and you write about them. He's like, okay, great. You know, because again, the reviews were so short, like it was effortless and and it was clearly all kids, you know, I mean, I don't think we had a writer who was older than 24 at that point,

and how would you find the writers, you would post where

I posted on the main page of the site and I said, hey, you know, we're looking,


looking for writers, you know, send the submissions and your examples and I got kind of amazing, like a huge number of submissions, even as early as 1998 and in fact a lot of people in the 1st and 2nd sort of group of writers who kind of came on board. You know, ended up becoming sort of like pitchfork lifers. Like I mean most of these people were way better writers than I was. So I was like, oh this is incredible. You know, people want to write about music, it's a good way to get experience or whatever. Um And so Mark Richardson, who became the editor in chief for many, many years and probably one of the most well known names associated with pitchfork,

He just answered this post from your your little blog,

March 1990

eight, Wow. You know, I'm wondering, I mean as you sort of really begin to think about this as a potential business. Um did you file like an L. L. C. Did you, I mean in 1998 1999 was pitchfork like a registered business. Did you have like, no, not

Even close. No. I had I had not the first idea about how or why to do that. Um and in fact, I don't think we were even incorporated officially until like 2004, it was a very long

time. What was the impetus that gave you the confidence to jump into a full time because I think, You know, you were doing record store or telemarketing, but by 1999 you decide to move to Chicago to leave Minneapolis. Was that for a job or was that just because you want to live in Chicago or what was why?

Yeah I had made um road trips a series of road trips to Chicago where like I mean the very first road trip I took and I'm like in the city for the first time. I mean I'm not actually in the city limits for 30 minutes before I decide like oh this is exciting, I would love to live here, I wonder if I could figure out how to do this, you know? Um And and so I actually just started saving up and at the same time um Ebay had just kind of come out and um I noticed that people were selling music and selling bootleg thing C. D. S. And you could get, I mean just absurd amounts of money on you know the auction block was Ebay for you know things that you could just go buy at your local record store practically. So I just started selling the stuff that I already had in my collection kind of like whittling it down and what can I get rid of and what's worth a lot and through doing that I made I don't know probably five grand but I moved to Chicago with that much money in my hand and was determined. I was like look I love doing the creative side of this so much that I like never focus on my business. I'm gonna not give myself an opportunity to mess up. Like, I'm gonna have to work on this as a business. Um I did have one advertiser who had like, actually reached out to me and said, hey, we want to advertise at the top of your site, how much will it cost?

What was the advertiser?

There were an online record store called in Sound, which no longer exists, but was kind of a force at the time,

and what would they pay you a month? Remember?

Um They asked me to name a price and so I went, oh my God, I wonder how much? Um So I just pulled out the biggest number that I could think of, Which was $500 a month,

wow, How about $500?

I was like, oh my God, that'll pay almost, that will almost pay my rent each month.

And there's no problem.

Yes. I mean, because they're at the top of every single page of the website, you know, everybody and I mean, 1500 L a day. People who are completely obsessed with music. People who are looking to buy music on. Yeah,

so you go down to Chicago and I have my theories as to why, I mean, Chicago was hugely fertile place for amazing music in the 90s. I mean, just we go on and on Wilco and and tortoise and uh probably forgetting a million bands. I mean, okay, go came out there, but so many bands coming out of Chicago.

Yeah, I mean The Touch and Go was out of their drag city was out of there. Um, and so, you know, it was an extremely fertile music scene and, and that to me was really exciting and really inspiring. You know, I just wanted to be in the middle of, what

did you get an office or no, presumably you were just doing this out of the apartment you are renting? Right.

Yes. I rented this apartment. I mean it was $600 a month, totally cockroach infested. But like that was my HQ. Yeah.

And and were the costs of running the site high at all like the server costs or anything like that? Or was it relatively cheap?

No, it was actually dirt cheap. It was crazy. There was like no overhead whatsoever. So, you know, it was all upside. Which was very fortunate because I wouldn't have been, you know, if it hadn't been, I wouldn't have been able to make it work any other way.

And I guess one of the things that is important to emphasize here is that the reason why so many of these turns out to be incredibly talented writers, we're writing for free was because It was really, really hard to get published in a, in a print publication in the early 2000s. I mean, it was a very, even an alternative weekly. Like these were, you know, these were really, really like buttoned up places in a lot of ways, and it was really hard to break in. And so, uh and then the big websites, the salons, the slates, also really hard to get into. So this was a way for people to just kind of get their name out

there. Yeah. And also, I mean, pitchfork had, even from, you know, the late nineties on pitch work had, you know, among those whatever, 1500 people who read it every day, you know, had quite a lot of credibility in the music space. Um even though a lot of our reviews were so not review, like some of them were, I mean, especially with a lot of these other writers started writing out a lot better, a lot more quickly, but because we're turning out such massive quantities review is kind of like the review factory. Um you know, there it was something that people who were really true music heads and were online and especially if they were, you know, interested in independent music followed pretty closely. So it had a certain cachet, even maybe that some of the other publications might not have, even though certainly you get paid at those publications,

so you're in Chicago still, I mean, this is still a labor of love for everyone involved. Um you're living off your savings. Um and it's late 99 when he moved there. And I think one of the first really, what I guess in hindsight was a real turning point was a review that this guy Brent de Crescenzo writes about the new Radiohead album today.


And so, so here's here's here's just a lot a couple lines, kid a makes rock and roll, childish considerations on its merits as rock are pointless comparing this to other albums is like comparing an aquarium to blue construction paper. This review gave the album 8 10, essentially calling this the greatest, you know, record ever. And I wouldn't disagree with him by the way, this is probably one of my two or three favorite albums ever. It's an amazing review and I guess that got you a little bit of attention.

It did. I mean, it's funny, you know, when I look back on that review, there was, there was a time I think for a little while there where I was kind of like, oh my gosh, that was because the review spawned such polarizing because

it's over the top, really, over the top, but but but beautifully written,

it's probably one of the most over the top reviews I've ever read in my life. Um and at the same time, this is how we both felt about this record. We were both like, I mean, we were awestruck. This record was Transcendent.

I mean he writes this review so unself consciously and and again, we should emphasize pitchfork is still small potatoes at this point. Like it is a tiny, like really tiny place where a tiny group of people go to, but like, the writing of this review is is so unselfconscious that it's just wonderful and I don't know, Brent de Crescenzo, but thank you Brent for that review.

Yeah, I mean really? Thank you Brent, because that review totally, I mean, like pinch work was growing really quickly at that point, we had probably something like an average 3000, maybe 3500 readers a day, but I was like really gunning for that. You know, it was kind of like, it was weird how like analytics at that time it was sort of like gamifying it for me, I'm like, okay, I gotta push this number higher and higher, how can I do that? What can we, can we write, what can we say, this outrageous, you know? Um and and how can we grow in a way that like lends further authority but also grows the readership. And that like, that record was I actually for that, I went out and I enter like sent a bunch of emails to all the Radiohead fan sites, which I knew also had huge readership. Um And so I was like, hey, we're gonna be running this review tomorrow, just f y I heads up if you want to like it, that'd be awesome, whatever, just so you know, So they brought in a staggering amount of traffic ease handily broke that 5000 mark in the day, that review came out, but um yeah, and um you know, for so many people, that is their very first impression of what pitchfork is. Um So and because it reads nothing like anything else in the music writing space, people are like what is this? This is so hyperbolic, it's so purple um and it's so like unrestrained, like, wow, that's so un cool. You know what I mean? Like just to rein it in, you know, um if that had just been, you know, a pretty straight face, you know, if it had read like any other music journalism, I don't think people would have even really necessarily noticed us.

Alright, so let's talk for a moment about the business. It's you you've got some writers you've got but clearly you're trying to branch out, like you're very strategically doing smart things like when a Radiohead review comes out, you're emailing all the Radiohead fan sites and probably doing this with other reviews too, which is driving traffic, You've got an advertiser, Were you going out and seeking out other potential advertisers too at the same time? Were you, were you like the biz dev guy too?

Yeah, I mean I was the everything guy like everything, I mean I just worked on pitchfork like nonstop, but by that point um I had gone through this period where like I had, you know failed Chicago my first year and I had to move back to this cabin, my parents had in rural Minnesota.

What do you mean? You failed in Chicago? What? How did you fail?

Well, I mean what, I couldn't make my rent because even though I gave myself like no alternative but to turn pitch work into a successful business, I couldn't do it that quickly and you know, even though I was like calling record labels and trying to get them to advertise, like not everyone was biting, it wasn't enough to sustain, you know,

to pay your rent

to pay the rent, you know, and, and two for me to eat, you know, for example, so I was something like four months behind in rent and Just like I had to go home. Um I called my folks and fortunately had like a lake cabin way rural Minnesota, I mean an hour and a half, two hours outside the city. Um like little 600 square foot thing. And basically I got to go up there for six months and kind of get my grounding again.

Did you, did you spend the winter, did you spend the winter there?

No, no, no, I spent, I spent the summer there because the place wasn't winterized. So I actually only had from april to october at latest to get out of there and I was like determined, dead set to go back to Chicago. I was like, I'm gonna make this work

when we come back in just a moment, how pitchfork got profitable and stayed proudly independent until a changing media landscape. Put it on a very different path. Stay with us. I'm guy raz and you're listening to how I built this. How do you go from punching a monkey to founding a billion dollar business with just 30 employees? Just ask the founder of this new york city based Fintech Unicorn. You remember those banner ads where you punch the monkey and win a free ipod? Well that simple idea became one of the most visited sites on the internet. Thanks to Porter's five forces model with its emphasis on finding areas with a lack of competition and utilizing an early understanding of ad tech. Masterworks quickly blossomed into over 100 employees helmed by its founder who at this point was wrapping up his senior year of high school But now there's an even bigger market that he's disrupting one valued at an estimated $1.7 trillion masterworks.com. Promo code built. That's Masterworks dot com Code built.

See important regulation a disclosures at masterworks dot io slash cD. Everyone needs a VPN. Internet service providers know every single website you visit. They can sell this information to add companies and tech giants who use your data to target you. Express VPN is easy to use and doesn't slow your internet connection, you won't even realize you have it on. Plus Express VPN engineered all their servers to run only in RAM all user data gets wiped on every reboot, making it impossible for their VPN servers to store your info even if they wanted to. I use VPN all the time, especially when I'm on public wifi is at airports or in coffee shops because it gives me the comfort of knowing that my data is secure, secure your online activity by visiting Express VPN dot com slash built today. That's e X P R E S S V P N dot com slash built and you can get an extra three months free Express VPN dot com slash built. Hey welcome back to how I built this. I'm guy raz. So it's the summer of 2000 and Ryan is holed up in a cabin in rural Minnesota, trying to figure out how to make pitchfork work as a business. I

started to work as much on the ad sales as I did on the copy so that I could just reach that next step. And so that's how I spent that summer, like really just doubling down on, like actually getting a a stable of regular advertisers and rotation.

So you go back to Minnesota for what almost a year,

Probably 6, 6-8 months, something like that.

Right? And and then you head back to Chicago, just kind of start up again with a few more advertisers can you estimate like roughly how much you were bringing in and ad revenue at that point?

You know, I don't have a firm recollection of exactly how much I was bringing in at that point, it was probably 1000 to 12, something like that.

So when did you first get like a brick and mortar space where you, where you could work out of, you remember what year was that?

That was 2003?

And what was the, what was the turning point? How were you able to do that? Because that's gotta pay rent and you've got to get office equipment and internet connections and phone lines. What, how did you have the cash to do that?

Well, by the end of 2001 I had a very healthy network of advertisers and so I started to be able to put some of that money back into the business. But the first thing I wanted off my plate was the thing that I liked doing the least, which is the ad sales and once we already had a client roster, sort of, you know, we had a lot of people in rotation. Um I was kind of like, okay, I think I could afford to pay one person a salary. I actually offered one of my writer friends from philadelphia who had wanted to move to Chicago, I like offered it to him because I was like, he would be fun to work with not because I thought he would necessarily be great at selling ads. I was like, it would be fun to work with him. So he came, he came out to Chicago, I got us an office. I gave him a little salary we did that for, I guess almost a year.

So he's your first employee, real employee. Um but sort of because you weren't, you hadn't even incorporated as a business yet, like this is still, it's still like friends, kind of just just write them a check. Here's your check for the

week, not paying taxes by the way either.

And meantime you have the stable of writers who are writing reviews. So we're I mean from the business side, was it stressful or was it just like, you know what? This is fine, we got it. I'm editing these things and we were paying our rent and we've got, you know, a couple 1000 bucks coming in in advertising revenue.

Oh my God, life was good. I mean like the point that I was at with pitchfork, like being a like I can support, you know, I'm like working with somebody, we have like a real office, like we get to go to concerts every night, like we have artists will stop by our office and like hang out, we'll interview them and

because you start because you had built a reputation now.


You know, it's important to point out that because I think some people hearing this would be like, well how did you get, are these all these artists interested or record labels? And we're not talking about like stadium arena artists? These are like indie artists. But the reason why is because no one else was doing this right, Like Rolling Stone and spin, like the big players kind of ceded that ground to whoever else was doing it, which was you they

did, they sort of seeded it. I mean there was there was it's not like they weren't covering this music, they were, but I think they were covering such a wider array of music, but also most of them didn't have websites still and also just like were younger and you know, kids, like reading stuff by kids their own age. Um and you know, also being able to put a lot of those bands forward to a larger audience was one of the single most rewarding things, I think that the things that I loved about running pitch work the most, it's not that these artists wouldn't have been heard or discovered, it's that if you're kind of able to provide more broader coverage or maybe help it happen faster than it might have happened, but also just to be able to champion artists who deserve it. Artists who are doing things, you know, that are that are progressive, there

Was a review that came out in 2004, which is like probably one of the if not the most, one of the most infamous reviews ever posted by by Pitchfork and it's of a a record by an artist named Travis Morrison who was part of a pan that was buzzy for awhile called Dismemberment Plan. And the the writer of that review crystal and gave it 0.0 on a 10 point scale saying it fails so bizarrely that it's hard to guess what Morrison wanted to accomplish in the first place. It was a devastating review. And needless to say, Travis Morrison is not an artist anymore. I don't believe he makes music anymore. Today,

he's a writer now.

Okay. Um that had a huge impact. I mean, right, record stores weren't selling the record and it was, I think one of the first moments where it was clear that you could actually make or break artists. Do you remember that moment?

I do. I mean, I actually kind of remember very early on trying to um write reviews of artists that like, we're not in the press at all, like going sorting through the stack of promos that we would get to find something deeply obscure, but that looked interesting and I would pull out and just listen to these cds like really poor through this stack, try to find something nobody else was covering. But we're also still kind of tied up with this kind of, you know, super your reverence, naughty goofy publication at the same time. And so we like to do things that would, You know, get attention or be outrageous in a way. And that was one of those moments that was like, you know, we haven't given a 0.0, like, have we ever done it? We should do it, you know? And and unfortunately that was also the point at which I realized when I realized that pitch work could, could break careers, could like break artists in the bad way. I was


that really gave me pause because the reaction to that I did not, I mean, I didn't expect it to end his career for God's sake, you know what I mean? So when that happened, we took a beat, you know, and we're like, okay, we need to reevaluate how we're using this authority that we've managed to accumulate and we've got to be a little more responsible with this because that, you know, that doesn't feel, it doesn't feel right

as you were growing right and able to hire one person. How did you figure out how to be a manager of people? I mean, before you answer that question, when was when were you started when were you able to hire additional people? Like on payroll?

So what happened was in early 2004, um Eric Carr who had been selling ads was like, I actually hate doing this. I don't think I can do this anymore. But Eric had managed to like expand it even a little bit more like the base, right? So where I was kind of comfortable, I was like okay if I actually hire a person who's really good at this Will really be set, we can really grow from there because at this point the readership is I mean 30,000 readers a day or something, you know, I mean it's a

Day by 2004

easily probably much higher than that, it might have been you know 75,000 readers a day or something like it started to get enormous and I mean probably around 2000 and one was when it started to just skyrocket just completely boom

$75,000 a day, that's a medium sized daily.

Exactly yeah it was it was staggering to watch this number just like explode.

Did you were you, I mean did you start to become actually profitable?

Yes. Uh started to become quite profitable uh quite profitable so you know I was like okay well I can afford to hire the right person for this job now and once again I just went the same route that I always did which is putting out you know a call on the site saying hey you know um we're looking for a person who's an ad salesperson and let us know you know apply here on your resume and then I found um the very last application that came in was from a salesperson at the onion and he had in his resume, all these like benchmarks and like I took sales revenue from you know I increased it like 25% and this way and I did this and that and there and like he actually could be quantified his results in the resume which I was like oh this is it, this is the guy like don't even need an interview like this is him. So yeah and his name is Chris Cassidy and he went on to basically become like he ran the entire business of pitchfork from that point on. And so once he came on board he was so good at what he did and he was able to like branch out beyond you know indie record labels which had been our primary target before to get like I mean you know american apparel started advertising and you know like huge companies with a real marketing budget, started advertising

as you start to hire more and more people right? And finally you can do this 2005, 2006 you can finally start to hire 234 people. This is a this is a business. You know you probably what I mean. Can you estimate what you were bringing in a year, more than $200,000 a year in revenue?

Yeah it would it would have been something like that because by 2005 yeah we probably had something like six employees at that

point. So I'm curious like in terms of leading and leadership and you were the editor and you were doing everything but now you've got like four or five people, six people. I mean how did you because managing once you have multiple people can start to get tricky.

Yeah I mean people were like everybody was there was really on board it didn't require like I wasn't having to breathe down anyone's neck about anything. Um And but but leadership was definitely not at that point at all. A natural skill. I mean you know when you think about my background and like the kind of my social ineptitude from you know from the earliest days that like that ever went away. You know what I mean? That was a big that's always was a huge learning curve for me but I did end up learning so much about leadership from watching chris chris had an innate ability to lead

and this is your ad guy who was basically your business operations guy.

He was. Yeah I mean he was I mean from the time that he joined the org chart of the company was me and chris side by side and everybody else.

So without him it's very likely would not have ever become really a professional business. He kind of the fact that his resume was the last one that you pulled up was kind of a stroke of luck.

It was a stroke of luck to a large degree. I mean there was I could have, you know, if I kept searching if chris hadn't come along and I kept searching, I'd like, because I already had like, we're already kind of on a roll at that point, I think it would have been able to become, you know, a much bigger business, but it would not be anything like what we know, pitch work as today

and, and so I mean as you, you know, as you sort of became more and more influential right, with this sort of the pitchfork effect, right? You start to get attention, media attention, even national media attention. Did you ever, did you ever think about like raising money and and turning it into like a massive media operation?

Yeah, you know, um at a certain point we started to see people who had kind of come up alongside us start to do that. Um I remember when I was in Minneapolis, you know, Vice started out as a Montreal operation,

We had him on the show in on season one

and I remember getting, you know, a copy of Vice that was still a newsprint and thought it was the funniest thing I've ever seen in my life. Um and I just didn't see another issue again for a while, but like then they started to kind of like, once again, like the web came along, they started to have like a really strong presence and they like, I mean they just skyrocketed, like they had so much investment. Um they were so good at raising capital. That like, it was almost insane to watch. But but at the same time, like pitch work was growing so well, like we didn't, we didn't really have that many aspirations beyond being the music publication, Right? That's what I really wanted because I didn't have a lot of interesting culture beyond that. I just didn't have it. If we had started for movies, like, I would have been pretty hopeless. And so we love being independent so much. We love not having to answer to anybody. And, and God, we're making so much money from advertising by that point. It was just like, you know what, This is good, this is comfortable.

We don't need to, we don't need to go that route.

You guys got into the festival business in 2005. There was a festival called the Intonation Music Festival and you were you guys were hired to curate it, which was a chance for you to kind of get your feet in your fingers into that business because that's a complex business.

Yeah, we were very fortunate that intonation kind of came to us that we were, I mean, again, this was an advantage of being in Chicago. This would never happened if I hadn't moved there. So they asked us to join up and just ask us if we wanted to choose, choose the pants were like, yeah, that sounds amazing. Obviously. Yeah, let's do that. You guys run it and we'll just choose the artists and promote it. Uh That sounds like a good deal, sir, let's do that. Um we ended up selling that first year, I think something like 12,000 tickets for two days or something, maybe maybe 13, That was a lot a lot a lot of tickets. And so um fortunately, essentially, the festival director whose name is Mike Reid was a really, I mean, just incredible promoter, producer, and we worked with him every step of the way on putting this thing together. But I mean, he was really leading that side of it, and then Mike actually ended up leaving parting ways with the company that that founded intonation because essentially we just wanted to do that together, We're like, this is great, we love working with you, we don't know about these other guys, you're having problems with them, like let's just go in on this and you know, and work together on building this and as the pitchfork music festival from here on.

And and just I'm just curious like from a business perspective, was that good for your business? I mean, it's good in the sense that you really become a cultural, well known festival, but is it possible to make money relatively easily on a festival.

You know, we found out kind of the hard way pretty early on that first year. Um I mean, Mike already had understood like, you know, the finances of it the first year and kind of explained it to us and walked us through P and L. For that. Um So we were always kind of like, okay, this is clearly not going to be the major revenue driver that you would think it would be. Um There's so much overhead that it's also like kind of a delicate dance where all of these things have to just happen just right, you know, you have to have reasonable artist budget with which you can attract talent that's not going to the competing festivals, say Lollapalooza riot fest etcetera. Um You've got to, you know, make sure that the ticket sales are like fair reasonable that you can attract a big enough crowd. Um You've got security concerns, vendors, um There's just there's so many moving parts, if one of those things doesn't come together, if you have like inclement weather all weekend because it's an outdoor festival. I mean, these things can really crash the festival enterprise altogether, like kill the business. So it's a very very high risk Business and one that we fortunately by staying mid sized and not trying to scale up and not trying to compete with the Lollapalooza and Coachella and Bonnaroo, whose um we were able to manage to make it profitable break even. So. No, it wasn't a big, it was probably, it might have been 10% of our overall revenue,

you you eventually moved to new york I think, um, and the editorial office state in Chicago for a while would eventually move to new york, but I think by by like 2010 you had 20 full time staffers in new york and Chicago, like, you know, freelancers as well. Um you're doing like 2.5 million unique visitors a month, 400,000 visitors a day. So you're really on the map, you're really major force in music journalism, but there were competitors right there. Obviously a lot of these upstart news media websites that now are out in the world, right? Um we know that Buzzfeed and Huffington Post is out there. Some of these publications are branching into music, NPR launched, NPR music, I can't remember when, but that was becoming a pretty important force. Were there people kind of saying to you, hey, we've got to like protect our turf or we've got to look out for these competitors because we're, we can get eaten alive. I mean, you can just see what happened in newspapers and that could happen to us too.

Yeah, I mean, we were cognizant of that. Um, we're like, we're very cognizant of that. I mean, christmas stressed out all the time, You know, we did start to see the writing on the wall a little bit and we did kind of like, as not necessarily as a direct result, but sort of, we did try to kind of like branch out into other directions and attempt, you know, a couple of other sort of arms of the company. One was of course was like pitchfork tv, the video arm, which did quite well. We also tried to put a movie site together and a couple of other things, but

they didn't work,

they, we didn't really have enough resources by ourselves to put into all of the things that we wanted to do, frankly, it was just a little bit too, I don't know, it's kind of like at that point, you know, the band's been together for 15 years and everybody sort of wants to start their own side projects, you know, there was a little bit of that to it. Um so it wasn't our strategy wasn't the best, but at the same time because we're trying to do too many things at once, without any you know. without any help.

There are many things that you guys tried tried to print magazine, you tried pitchfork tv, there were, there's even got into like games and collaborations with a bunch of different publications. All these things are I think are smart, right? You want to try things and a lot of those things didn't work out, but I mean year on year until you were acquired, which we'll get to in a moment, were you growing every single year, were you, were you growing was your revenue growing every year, were there years was up and down up and down.

The revenue was growing year over year. Um, but our expenses, you know, varied, I think it really wasn't until probably, yeah, something like 2013, that we started to kind of feel the effects of what would become kind of the influencer model of marketing and that kind of shifting the entire landscape from, you know, a banner ad driven economy to a totally social media focused like marketing economy.

When you were approached by Conde Nast in 2015, who eventually acquired you? Um, to purchase pitchfork? I mean, I'm sure sure for you, it was incredible. It was your publication was valued, um, must have been valued quite high at that point. But I wonder also was a calculation in your mind that you were looking at the future and at competitors and at media consolidation and maybe were concerned that without, you know, without being part of a bigger organization, like Conde Nast pitchfork might not Survive for another 10 or 20 years because it was 20 years at that point, that you've been right?

Yes. Yeah. I mean, again, we could see very clearly what was coming down the path and, you know, seeing where we are today, where if you don't have a paywall, you're struggling. You know, it was clear that the whole model was going to change or was already changing on one hand, I was like, look at how this business is going here and like the future of this business, and how difficult it's going to be to continue to adapt with what is still ultimately a niche publication, you know, a well read, but ultimately still very niche. You know, that's that's that's gonna become harder and harder to do. We're gonna have to start making difficult decisions, we're gonna have to probably downsize a little bit, you know, or there's this offer on the table that I'm not likely to ever see anything like this again, if we do follow that road, and at the same time, being met with these the promises that kind of, offered of, you know, investing in the business and helping to grow it. And at the same time, being able to tap into their huge network of, like, luxury brand advertisers and things of that nature. So it was kind of like, okay, they've been doing this forever. There's 32 brands, like, we're not only is this something that, like, kind of elevates as further escalates pitchfork and is more of like, a success story kind of approach. It feels like we're going to need to ban these publications are going to need to band together in order to make this work going forward.

And you had a lot of people that depended on it for employment. So, I'm sure that was a lot of pressure.

Oh my God. By that time we had 50 some employees.


I'm also kind of, I don't know, uh superstitious in ways like things in my life have tended to happen at the right time for certain reasons and that just seemed to be one of those moments where like this wouldn't have fallen out of the sky if it wasn't the path I was supposed to take.

You stayed on as an editor for another few years and then stayed on with Conde Nast I think for four years after the acquisition, how did you adapt to that environment? Its corporate, you were moved to the World Trade Center in new york. The Conde Nast offices, you're part of like, I don't know, like I think I'd be scared as hell to be in a conference room with anna Wintour. But yeah,

I mean on one hand on one hand it was intimidating to be, you know, like having come from the background that I came from where I've never gone to school for, you know, for journalism or editorial and I'm in a room where, you know, my peers are


Remnick, multi Pulitzer, winning genius editor of the new yorker and and and a winter who is the Creative director of Conde Nast, so who you interface with regularly about your business um you know, and among numerous other legends like W magazine, like Vanity Fair, GQ, Jim nelson and GQ. I mean these are genius, genius people and not to denigrate, you know myself, but like, you know, yes, it was deeply intimidating going into, especially with my general like social awkwardness that I already innately have when I'm nervous and nervous situations. So like that didn't help. Um but you know, at the same time it was also kind of like this crazy like media college campus, like there were so many amazing journalists, amazing amazing business minds there as well that you could kind of go to and tap whenever you needed to. And like that was all open. And that was another big reason why this made sense to do. It's like if we all kind of bring our knowledge together, you know, moving forward together, it's gonna be a lot easier. Um But you know, at the same time, obviously when we got to conde Nast, Conde started to make decisions as to what should you know what we should continue to focus on and what we should.

So they didn't want to support like all the different projects that you guys had going, like the film publication or the print version of pitchfork, whatever. Like they didn't want to pursue those things.

Yeah, these were both things that Conde decided weren't worth, you know, the the R. O. I. Basically um you know, they when we when we got to conde Nast like they were very much like, oh yeah, this is a niche, you know, business and for very complicated reasons and machinations behind how candy operates even though you would think a print publication would be something they would embrace with Arms wide Open. Not exactly. So um so yeah, these were things that were on their way up. They were, you know, I mean had really good reputations, had really had a strong leadership but were not able to be nurtured to the degree that we wanted to nurture them, especially at at that point

you are no longer part of pitchfork You, I think officially left in 2019. I know that you're writing a book written history of the pitchfork, which will come out a couple of years. Do you miss that daily interaction, all those people being steeped in that world meetings? Talking about, I don't know, ideas. Do you miss that day to day?

Oh, it's it's hard not to miss, you know, like all the activity and excitement of a newsroom. Yeah, I mean, it's the most thrilling for me. It's like, it's the most thrilling thing in the world at the same time. You know, kind of like having this sort of more isolated, like for one thing I stopped writing and 2004 just mostly stop doing it publicly. Um and stopped doing it almost period. So it took a while to kind of get back into the swing when I started kind of writing kind of mapping out like if I was to write a book, what would it look like? Um and writing is something that I've just recently realized it's kind of, it's totally my calling, but also, you know, the idea of running businesses that are innovative that do help kind of changing the landscape, I mean, is just as much a part of who I am and what my interests are as it's been since the beginning of of the

web, I think I might know the answer to this question, but I'm still gonna ask it because I'm curious, you knew that this was going to be the thing you wanted to do, you knew that this was at a certain point a year or two into this blog, you knew that this was what you wanted to do with your life, But if you, if you could see yourself in 1995-96 and have seen that journey, would, would you, do you think you would have been like, yep, I can see that happening, I can see building this into a multimillion dollar business and selling it to a massive media, you know, just huge media organization. Do you think? You would have been surprised?

I think um I would have would have been elated, I would have been thrilled just to the very core to see everything that pitch work has been able to accomplish, not quite beyond my wildest dreams, because I absolutely dreamt that something like that could happen with it and I tried every day to make it be that, I mean, considering most people interact with and engage with new music discovery now through algorithms, primarily that it still has significant influence in the world of music journalism and music listeners. It's incredible. Yes, it is, it is wild that that we all and I say we because I naturally, I mean there's many more people who are just as crucial and pivotal to this story as me, um, but and just as responsible for its success, but it's um, you know, and now it's, it's kind of like, it's like a kid that, you know, you have a kid and it grows up and goes away to school and then it starts making its own decision. It's an it's an adult now and you kind of like, you know, you can't, you know, you no longer have the input that you used to have. It's going to go out and make its own mistakes and you know, you'll just idly stand by, you go, I might disagree with that, but you know what I'm really proud of you anyway,

that's Ryan Schreiber, the founder of pitchfork, by the way, what's your, your favorite album of all time?

It's impossible. It's an impossible question. I mean, think of all the music that you listened to in your life, can you say at any given day,

Alright, Top five, No Order Just Just five Great Records, No Order.

Okay, five great, great records. No order DJ shadow introducing

Yes, that sounds Yeah,

it's good. I like

it Marvin Gaye, what's going on

that was gonna be the next one. I was gonna say actually Marvin Gaye, what's going on? You can not have it.


that's certainly one of my favorite albums. Um Talking Heads remain in light uh record by um a UK duo called the K L. F. It's a record called chill out

Prince Science Times.

Oh my God, why did you even have to ask me? Purple Rain is my favorite album of all time. Princes Princes, my number one of all

time. Hey, thanks so much for listening to the show this week. If you want to hear every episode one week early, check out amazon music. If you want to listen one week early and ad free subscribe to wondering plus in the apple podcasts or on the wondering app, please do follow us on your podcast app. So you always have the latest episode downloaded. And another way to support the show is by filling out a survey at one dory dot com slash survey. If you want to contact the team, our email address is H I B T at I D 10.0.1 dri dot com. If you want to follow us on twitter or instagram, our account is at how I built this and mine is at Guy raz and on instagram, I'm at Guy dot raz. This episode was produced by Liz Metzger with music composed by Rammstein Arab louis. It was edited by neva Grant with research help from Farrah Safari. Our audio engineer was brian Jarboe. Our production staff also includes J.

C. Howard Casey Herman, josh lash Alex, chung carrie, Thompson sam Paulson, Catherine, cipher. Elaine coats, john Isabella chris mancini and carla estevez. I'm guy raz and you've been listening to how I built this. Hey everyone, so I wanna make sure you know all of the different ways you can listen to how I built this as you probably know, you can follow the show on amazon music, apple podcasts or wherever you're listening right now. But I wanna let you know that you can actually listen to the next episode of how I built this today, one week early on amazon music. You can also listen to it early and ad free by subscribing to one theory plus an apple podcasts or on the wondering app, please do follow us on your podcast app. So you always have the latest episode downloaded in another way to support the show is by filling out a survey at one dory dot com slash survey and thanks hi does today feel fast most days do, It's just how the world is wired. We're always pushing and in some ways that's good as our lives get busier. We have to give ourselves a little time a space to unwind. That's why we created, become become as a podcast. Sure we like to think of it like an audio, vitamin a small thing you can do for yourself, a daily dose of relaxation and mindfulness.

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