After a promising first edition, the festival created by the indie music bible Pitchfork is going to the next level: 3 days, 2 stages and 40 bands including Animal Collective, M83 or Sébastien Tellier. At a time where music is dematerialized, does a digital media like Pitchfork has to organize a physical event to reach a new audience? How does the communication of a festival adapt to the ever-growing influence of the social networks? Joint interview with Chris Kaskie, president of Pitchfork and Julie Bathelier, in charge of the communication at Super, the agency which co-organizes the festival.
Why did you choose Paris to establish Pitchfork festival in Europe ?
Julie: It’s actually Julien Catala, the president of Super who first approached Pitchfork two years ago and offered to create a an european version of their summer festival in Chicago.
Chris: Paris is not only a city we all love, but it also feels like the perfect balance between our two home towns in the US – NYC and Chicago. The music we cover and love tends to really have an impact in France, in ways different from other parts of Europe. And seeing as how most of the world has huge music festivals throughout the summer/during warmer months – it felt like a fun idea to do something when there was less going on.
Is Pitchfork a powerful brand in France?
Julie: In only a year, the Pitchfork label found its place. Welcoming almost 20,000 people (compared to 8,000 last year) with a line-up that edgy shows to which extent the brand has established itself in the French musical landscape.
Is organizing a music festival a natural extension for a webzine like Pitchfork ?
Chris: Yes, absolutely. It’s kind of a way for us to think about what we do daily on our site in a more tangible way. Both celebrate the music we love and engage with our audience in a more “IRL not URL” way.
Festivals like this, especially with the type of focus we bring to our programming, are a wonderful entry-point for discovery, enjoyment, and context.
Julie: It’s also a great occasion to meet the readers of the website, and not only French, since, last year, 40% of the audience came from abroad.
How do you approach the communication of an event like the festival now that there are so many leaks on social networks and that the audience expectations are multiplied?
Julie: All the annoucements were made in ccordination with the Pitchfork team in Chicago. To meet the public expectations, we’ve announced the bands as they were confirmed, with a first round as early as May. Also, because of our large foreign audience, we did our best to communicate in both French and English.
Chris: Pitchfork doesn’t have commenting or any real on-site community, so social networks allow us the opportunity to speak with our audience, and for our audience to comment on/converse with each other. We try to create a permanent dialog like our friends at Primavera.
Lots of festivals are streaming some of their gigs, you did it last summer with your US festival. Aren’t you afraid that it may depreciate the festival experience?
Chris: Not at all. There really isn’t anything like seeing music live, but it’s also not possible for everyone to do so. Streaming enables folks to experience the music as it’s happening, feel like they’re a part of it, enjoy in a different way. But it’s not a depreciative effect, much more additive.
Julie: The first edition was not available online but this year, 20 concerts will be live streamed on the iconcerts website.
Some criticisms have been made on Pitchfork being an instrument for the standardization of the indie music. What is your opinion?
Chris: I mostly just think we’ve worked hard over the last 15 years to develop a voice that matters, and to be a place that people can trust and turn to for comprehensive, honest, and high quality music journalism. Our audience trusts us and believes in what we say, which we’ve worked hard to both protect and build, so any effect it has on the outside world is ultimately in their hands not ours. Only a good thing. But we’re one piece of a much larger conversation. After all, we’re talking about music, not politics.
Pitchfork Festival Paris, November 1 to 3 at the Grande Halle de la Villette (Paris) with M83, James Blake, Sebastien Tellier, Chromatics, Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Twin Shadow, Simian Mobile Disco…
More infos on Pitchfork.