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🔑 Key Takeaways

  1. Pursue your passions and take risks, even without formal qualifications or experience, as they can lead to unexpected success and opportunities.
  2. Ryan's experience demonstrates how exposure to alternative music culture, record stores, and recommendations can fuel a passion for music and inspire individuals to become self-learners.
  3. The convenience of digital platforms like Spotify has transformed the way we listen to music, but it has also diminished the personal touch and nostalgia of handcrafting mixtapes. Digitalization has revolutionized the music industry, but it has also changed our connection to music.
  4. Ryan Schreiber was inspired by the music community's camaraderie but felt the need to shake things up and create his own space for passionate conversations about music. Despite financial limitations, he paved the way for his future success in music publishing.
  5. Even with limited resources and lacking skills, beginners can create engaging online content and connect with influential figures through determination and resourcefulness.
  6. Age and experience should never hinder one's pursuit of passion. With curiosity, confidence, and self-education, anyone can succeed in their chosen field.
  7. Adaptability and finding a unique angle are crucial in standing out and succeeding in a crowded market, as showcased by Pitchfork's journey.
  8. Starting early, staying committed, and being willing to take on various roles are key components to achieving success, even in the face of skepticism.
  9. Ryan Schreiber's early recognition of the internet's potential and proactive learning from traditional magazines were crucial factors in Pitchfork's success.
  10. Starting as a passion project, Pitchfork transformed into a successful business with a boost from selling bootleg CDs on eBay and securing a major advertiser, showcasing its potential for growth.
  11. Pitchfork's low-cost operation and commitment to showcasing talented writers allowed them to gain credibility and become a trusted source for music lovers, solidifying their reputation with a rave review of Radiohead's "Kid A" album.
  12. Taking risks, standing out, and persevering through setbacks are essential strategies for growth and establishing authority, as exemplified by Pitchfork's success story.
  13. By prioritizing and doubling down on ad sales, Ryan Schreiber was able to generate enough revenue to invest back into the business and focus on growing and expanding Pitchfork.
  14. Pitchfork's focused coverage and championing of progressive artists had a significant impact on the success and recognition of indie musicians, ultimately shaping the indie music landscape.
  15. Recognizing the need for responsibility, Pitchfork adapted their approach, attracting big companies and achieving success. Continuous reassessment is vital as influence grows.
  16. Staying focused on your passion and building a solid team are key factors in achieving long-term success in business.
  17. Running a music festival comes with financial challenges, including artist budgets, ticket sales, security concerns, and weather conditions. It's important to focus on sustainability and realistic goals to maintain profitability.
  18. Pitchfork recognized the need to diversify and adapt to stay relevant in a competitive industry, ultimately securing their future by joining forces with a larger organization.
  19. Adapting to a changing industry and embracing collaboration are crucial for the success and growth of media publications in today's evolving landscape.
  20. The success of Pitchfork stems from a collective knowledge and a passion for innovation. Despite challenges, it has become a multi-million dollar business and a respected voice in music journalism.
  21. Ryan Schreiber is proud of Pitchfork's growth and success, emphasizing the platform's ability to make independent decisions. His passion for music shines through as he lists five iconic albums that have had a significant impact on him.

📝 Podcast Summary

Building a Music Empire: Ryan Schreiber's Journey with Pitchfork

Ryan Schreiber's passion for music and determination to share his love for it led him to build Pitchfork, a highly influential music publication. Despite having no formal training as a writer or critic, Ryan's lack of experience actually worked in his favor. He began posting his own music reviews on a website, initially with no intentions of creating something big or profitable. But over time, Pitchfork gained millions of readers and became a multimedia company that could make or break new artists. This unexpected path eventually led Ryan to sit in meetings with powerful figures in media. Ryan's story highlights the importance of pursuing your passions and taking risks, even if you lack formal qualifications or experience.

Finding Music Passion Through External Influences and Opportunities

Ryan Schreiber's experience in public high school lacked strong music programs. Despite taking the available programs, he found them ineffective and became a self-learner when it came to music. However, growing up in Minneapolis proved to be fortunate for Ryan, as the city had a strong music culture, particularly in alternative music. FM radio stations played subcultural and experimental music, exposing Ryan to a wider range of genres and artists. Ryan's love for music led him to spend countless hours at record stores, where he formed relationships with the staff and discovered new music through recommendations. He even made mixtapes in the store, showcasing his passion for music exploration. This experience highlights the importance of external influences and opportunities in nurturing one's passions.

The evolution of music consumption: From mixtapes to digital platforms.

The experience of creating and listening to music has drastically changed over time. Back in the day, people would eagerly wait by the radio, ready to press pause and record their favorite songs onto a tape. It was a labor of love, handcrafting a collection of songs into a tangible object. However, with the advent of digital platforms like Spotify, the process has become more convenient but less personal. The nostalgia for the art of making mixtapes lies in the whole package of songs and the effort put into creating them. Additionally, the culture of record stores, with their snobby music snobs and unique personalities, added to the overall experience. The shift towards digital platforms has brought its set of advantages, but it has also changed the way we connect with music.

Building a New Voice in the Music Publishing Industry

Ryan Schreiber's love for music magazines and alternative weeklies influenced his desire to create his own scene. He found deep camaraderie among the music community and wanted to engage in conversations with others who had strong opinions about music. However, he noticed a lack of negativity and heated debates in local zines and indie publications, which prompted him to shake things up. Despite not having the financial means to start his own zine at the time, Schreiber saw the accessibility and success of other local zines and knew that there was a way for him to have his own voice. This experience planted the seed for his future endeavors in the music publishing industry.

Building a website, conducting interviews, and connecting with influential figures in the early days of the internet was simpler than it seemed.

Starting a website and conducting interviews in the early days of the internet was not as complicated as it may have seemed. Ryan Schreiber learned the basics of website building and reached out to artists for interviews by utilizing resources like Photoshop, HTML tags, FTP clients, and public libraries. He called up record labels and asked for phone numbers, eventually connecting with publicists to arrange interviews. Despite lacking interview skills initially, he successfully conducted interviews, including one with David Byrne. This demonstrates that with determination and resourcefulness, even beginners can create engaging online content and connect with influential figures in their respective fields.

Pursuing passion through curiosity, confidence, and self-education

Ryan Schreiber's success in conducting interviews and talking about music stemmed from his natural curiosity and confidence. Despite being young and lacking experience, he fearlessly reached out to artists for conversations, relying on friendly conversations rather than solely discussing the music. He didn't let age or perceived limitations hold him back. Additionally, his deep knowledge of music and terminology came from voraciously reading music publications since he was 13. This self-education allowed him to develop a strong understanding of the industry and articulate his thoughts effectively. It highlights the importance of being bold, self-motivated, and continuously educating oneself to pursue passion successfully.

Ryan Schreiber's Journey with Pitchfork: From Name Change to Leading Music Reviews

Ryan Schreiber's journey with Pitchfork started with a simple name change. He was forced to change the original name, Turntable, due to another company with a similar name. Inspired by a scene in the movie Scarface, he came up with the name Pitchfork, liking its connotations of an angry mob. With this rebranding, Pitchfork aimed to be more aggressive in its review style and set a higher bar for music. Starting as a hobby, Pitchfork became one of the first websites to update daily with music reviews, standing out in a time when most websites were static. This journey showcases the importance of adaptability and finding a unique angle in a crowded market.

Ryan Schreiber's early start and unique approach allowed him to build a successful music platform, despite skepticism and competition.

Ryan Schreiber's success with Pitchfork was driven by his early start in the industry and the lack of competition at the time. By establishing Pitchfork as a prominent music platform before others entered the scene, Schreiber was able to attract a large audience. His commitment to consistently creating content, even if it was short and quick, allowed him to build a daily following. Additionally, Schreiber's willingness to take on different jobs, like telemarketing, to support himself financially while working on Pitchfork proved crucial. Despite facing skepticism from his parents and others who didn't understand his vision, Schreiber saw his website as his future and persevered to make it successful.

Recognizing the internet's potential and learning from traditional media

Ryan Schreiber recognized the potential of the internet early on and saw it as the future of media. He realized that people would soon be logging on in mass numbers and that magazines would transition online. He understood that advertising could be a source of revenue for online platforms, just like in magazines. To learn more about monetization strategies, he reached out to music magazines, studied their rate cards, and examined their distribution and audience reach. Despite not having any money or resources initially, he managed to attract writers to contribute to his website simply by posting a call for submissions. This early recognition of the internet's potential and proactive approach to learning from established magazines played a significant role in the success of Pitchfork.

From eBay to Success: The Journey of Pitchfork

Pitchfork began as a passion project for Ryan Schreiber, without any intention of becoming a registered business. It wasn't until 2004 that they officially incorporated. Schreiber's confidence in pursuing Pitchfork as a full-time endeavor stemmed from his fascination with Chicago and the potential to live there. He seized an opportunity to make some money through eBay by selling bootleg CDs from his collection, ultimately earning around $5,000. With this money in hand, he made the move to Chicago, determined to approach Pitchfork as a business. The first major advertiser came in the form of an online record store called in sound, offering to pay $500 a month for prime advertising space on the site. This unexpected success bolstered Schreiber's belief in the business potential of Pitchfork.

Pitchfork: From Humble Beginnings to Music Lover's Go-To Source

Chicago was a thriving hub for music in the nineties, with numerous influential bands emerging from the city. The music scene in Chicago was extremely fertile and inspiring, attracting musicians and enthusiasts alike. Despite starting out with a humble apartment-based operation, Pitchfork, helmed by Ryan Schreiber, managed to keep their costs low and operate with minimal overhead. The website provided a platform for talented writers to showcase their work at a time when getting published in print publications was challenging. Pitchfork gained credibility and became a go-to source for music lovers, even though their reviews were sometimes criticized for their quantity. A turning point for the website was a rave review of Radiohead's "Kid A" album, which cemented Pitchfork's reputation and set them apart from other publications.

Boldness and Polarization: The Catalysts Behind Pitchfork's Success

Pitchfork's success was fueled by a bold and polarizing review. Despite being a small platform with limited readership, Pitchfork caught attention with a wildly exaggerated review that resonated with a dedicated fanbase. The review not only drew in a staggering amount of traffic but also became the defining impression of Pitchfork for many readers. The key lesson here is that taking risks and standing out from the crowd can be a powerful strategy for growth and establishing authority. By relentlessly pushing for higher numbers and seeking out strategic partnerships, Pitchfork was able to expand its readership and attract advertisers. Furthermore, the story highlights the importance of perseverance and dedication even after initial setbacks.

Overcoming Financial Struggles and Building Pitchfork's Success

Ryan Schreiber faced financial struggles in the early days of Pitchfork, unable to make his rent and struggling to sustain himself. This led him to temporarily move back to rural Minnesota and reassess his approach. During this time, he focused on doubling down on ad sales and building a stable roster of regular advertisers. Eventually, he was able to generate enough revenue to invest back into the business. The turning point came in 2003 when he secured a brick and mortar space for Pitchfork. By prioritizing the areas of the business he enjoyed the least, such as ad sales, and hiring someone to handle it, he was able to focus on growing and expanding Pitchfork.

Pitchfork: Shaping the Indie Music Landscape

Pitchfork's ability to provide more focused and in-depth coverage of indie artists gave them the power to make or break careers. While established music publications like Rolling Stone and Spin covered a wider range of music, they often overlooked the emerging indie scene. Pitchfork recognized the demand for this type of coverage and filled the gap. By championing progressive artists and providing broader exposure, their reviews and features had a significant impact on the success and recognition of these musicians. This was evident in the infamous 0.0 review of Travis Morrison's record, which ultimately affected his career trajectory. Pitchfork's dedication to discovering and promoting lesser-known artists created a platform that shaped the indie music landscape.

Pitchfork's Evolution: From Controversial Power to Responsible Influence

Pitchfork, under the leadership of Ryan Schreiber, realized the power and responsibility they had as an influential music publication. After a controversial review resulted in unexpected negative consequences for an artist's career, Schreiber and his team took a moment to reevaluate their approach. They recognized the need to be more responsible with the authority they had accumulated. As Pitchfork continued to grow and become profitable, they made strategic hires, like Chris Caskey, who ran the entire business and expanded their reach beyond indie record labels. This expansion attracted big companies with marketing budgets, leading to further success. This highlights the importance of continuously reassessing and adapting one's approach as they grow and gain influence.

Leadership and Team Building: Lessons from Pitchfork's Success

Leadership and building a successful business can be a learning curve, even for someone with social ineptitude like Ryan Schreiber. As Pitchfork started to grow and hire more employees, managing them became a challenge. However, key to their success was Chris, Ryan's business operations guy, who had a natural talent for leadership. Without Chris, Pitchfork may not have become the professional business it is today. While other media organizations were raising capital and expanding into massive operations, Pitchfork stayed true to its core mission as a music publication. This demonstrates that staying focused on your passion and building a solid team can lead to long-term success.

The Challenges of Running a Music Festival: Overhead, Factors, and Sustainability

Running a music festival is not as lucrative as it may seem. Despite the initial success and popularity of the Pitchfork music festival, Ryan Schreiber and his team quickly realized the financial challenges that come with organizing such an event. They learned early on that there is significant overhead and numerous factors that can make or break the festival's success, such as artist budgets, ticket sales, security concerns, and even weather conditions. While larger festivals like Lollapalooza and Coachella may generate substantial profits, Schreiber and his team opted to stay mid-sized and focus on sustainability rather than compete with the giants. By doing so, they were able to break even and keep the festival profitable, even if it only accounted for about 10% of their overall revenue.

Adapting and Growing: Pitchfork's Journey in the Music Journalism Industry

Pitchfork faced fierce competition in the music journalism industry and was aware of the potential threat from upstart news websites and established publications branching into music coverage. They recognized the need to protect their turf and expand into other areas to stay relevant and competitive. However, their attempts to branch out, such as creating a movie site and Pitchfork TV, were limited by their lack of resources and support. Despite these challenges, Pitchfork's revenue continued to grow, but they started feeling the effects of the influencer model and the shift towards social media-focused marketing. Ultimately, when approached by Conde Nast for acquisition, Pitchfork saw the opportunity to secure their future and navigate the evolving media landscape by becoming part of a larger organization.

Embracing Change and Collaboration in Media and Journalism

The landscape of media and journalism is constantly evolving, and adapting to these changes can be a challenge. Ryan Schreiber, the founder of Pitchfork, realized that the traditional model of publishing was shifting, with paywalls becoming necessary for sustainability. He faced the dilemma of either downsizing his publication or accepting an acquisition offer that promised growth and access to a vast network of advertisers. Ultimately, he chose the latter, recognizing the need for publications to band together in order to thrive in the changing industry. This decision was both intimidating and exciting, as Schreiber found himself surrounded by renowned journalists and business minds at Conde Nast. This experience taught him the importance of embracing new opportunities and embracing collaboration in the face of uncertainty.

Nurturing growth and influence in music journalism.

The success of Pitchfork is a result of bringing together collective knowledge and moving forward together. Despite facing challenges and limitations from Conde Nast, Pitchfork had strong readership and reputation for its film publication and print version. However, they were not given the nurturing they desired. Amidst this, Ryan Schreiber, the founder of Pitchfork, acknowledged that running innovative businesses and changing the landscape was just as important as his passion for writing. His journey and the growth of Pitchfork into a multi-million dollar business would have surprised and thrilled him in 1995-96. Despite algorithms dominating the music discovery scene, Pitchfork continues to hold significant influence in the realm of music journalism and listeners.

Pitchfork's Founder Reflects on the Growth and Success of the Platform, Comparing it to a Child Making its Own Choices.

The founder of Pitchfork, Ryan Schreiber, is proud of the growth and independent decisions made by the platform. He likens it to a child growing up and making its own choices. Despite no longer having the same level of input, Schreiber expresses pride in Pitchfork's success. When asked about his favorite album, he finds it impossible to choose just one and instead lists five great records, including DJ Shadow's "Introducing" and Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On." This takeaway highlights the impact and influence of music on Schreiber and reflects his passion for diverse and iconic albums throughout history.