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A Student’s Perspective: Chris Kaskie Keynote with SoundCtrl’s Creating Music for the Social Web


Nikhita Venugopa is a student at Columbia’s School of Journalism. She is one of ten students providing on the ground coverage of SMWNYC- all from the student’s perspective. She is providing her report from Keynote: Chris Kaskie, President of Pitchfork Media followed by SoundCtrl’s Creating Music for the Social Web.

Day Three of Social Media Weekend began at the Hearst Arts and Culture Hub with the keynote speech by Chris Kaskie, President of Pitchfork Media, a Chicago-based webzine and guide devoted to music criticism and news. Kaskie commented on social media’s role in music today and what Pitchfork hopes to achieve through Twitter and Tumblr.

“When it comes to social media, I find myself spending more time trying to figure out how to use it than actually using it,” he said. Kaskie also highlighted the importance of maintaining Pitchfork’s role as a trusted source for music journalism, regardless of their platform of communication.

“The biggest challenge that Pitchfork faces today is the expanding world of music online,” said Kaskie. It’s increasingly common to see people discover music through peer-to-peer interaction and recommendation. “I’m really bummed that when I die, I have to leave my kids logins to my Cloud account and not record collections,” said Kaskie.

The Internet is filled with opinions and comments on music but Kaskie said he hopes that Pitchfork can provide context to “all the noise,” whether it’s on Spotify or Twitter or Facebook. “To me, it’s very social that we’re interacting with people’s social music experience,” said Kaskie.

After Kaskie’s talk, a panel discussion commenced on social media’s effect on the creative process of the music industry. The panel included Kaskie; Maura Johnston, music editor of the Village Voice; Josh Deutsch, co-founder of Downtown Records; rap-artist Asher Roth and moderated by Jesse Kirshbaum, co-founder of Sound Control. In speaking on the role of social media, Deutsch emphasized maintaining the image of a trusted brand, echoing Kaskie’s keynote speech. The panel discussed the differences between creating an album for a major label and a mixed tape for the web. Asher Roth said social media had rewarded music artists by letting them be free. “It’s a more enjoyable experience to create music for just your fan-base,” he said.

From a journalistic perspective, both Johnston and Kaskie agreed that the music’s format does not affect their critique and commentary. “People can make some of the best music in world in their bedroom. It’s a level playing field,” said Kaskie.

Johnston believed that music is visceral and it’s that feeling determines the strength, regardless of whether it’s online or on an album. “It’s the way it hits you,” she added.

However, in response to what they felt was missing from social media, Kaskie said it lacked an editorial, personalized voice. Johnston also commented on the myopic view that can come from the digital world, referring to Spotify, an online music streaming service. She said social media users often forget that there’s more to music than what you can find online.

All four panelists agreed that while social media was a valuable platform for communication, people should step away from it once in a while and explore a world outside Facebook and Twitter. “Go for a walk. Ride a bike,” said Roth. “It’s going to make you a more interesting person. A better tweeter.”

Nikhita Venugopal grew up in Bangalore, India. She moved to New York in July 2011 to attend Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she is currently pursuing a master’s degree. Nikhita studied Media and Communications, Psychology and Literature in India and has interned at Ogilvy as a copywriter and Macmillan Publishers as an editor. She is interested in writing on subjects like education, science, music, arts, social issues and the general eccentricities of the city. You can can follow her on Twitter at @niks_90.

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