Pitchfork President Chris Kaskie on the Origins of Conde Nast's Acquisition
"It doesn't suddenly become, 'Let's do what everything we want,' but now there's a greater support system in place. That might mean any number of things. Growing is marked by any number of things to us."
The decidedly small world of indie music journalism and critique was rocked this morning when news broke of Pitchfork's acquisition by Vanity Fair publisher Conde Nast. The buy was an unexpected move for the prestigious publisher, but it now owns two successful music festivals and the eyeballs of a music-adoring, and very young, audience.
In a short Q&A, Pitchfork president Chris Kaskie explains to Billboard the origins of the deal and what it means for his very-curated company.
Did you get any sleep last night?
Got most of the heavy lifting done late last week. But my son is having allergies.
You guys must have been approached many times over the years about an acquisition.
There's always conversations happening, at every level of seriousness — for years. But it never made a whole [lot] of sense for us.
But when Conde Nast approaches you ...
We were working with them, outside of the context of this deal, for video syndication — and started talking about the way our brand is, how they approach what they do, how they operate their brands with independent voices. Getting a feel for how they think about the world of media. It came up pretty naturally. Last November, in the most casual of ways, the conversation was struck. There hadn't been a whole lot of stuff that made sense for us, for what we wanted to be doing, but they seemed to understand. We're very instinctual and romantic people here, in the sense that it needed to feel right.
How much did the successful festival business play into this deal?
The festival played into it in the sense of that it's a important piece of what we do — how Pitchfork has done what it's done, all the great things we've been able to do. It's more than a website. Having two festivals that we've been doing for a long time, it was a working example of a brand that's approaching things from a comprehensive viewpoint — that type of diversification. That was our version of "print."
How many offices does Pitchfork operate now?
Chicago, New York, a satellite office in L.A. that our founder works out of sometimes. In Paris, we have close partners that we work with.
So how does the amalgamation begin?
There's not going to be some watershed moment — we stay in Chicago, we stay in New York. The overarching goal for both companies is to maintain minimal disruption and make sure things feel comfortable. It'll be a refinement of what we're doing. Pitchfork is the same.
What can Conde Nast, with its vast resources, offer Pitchfork going forward?
As a business we need to be responsible, do what we do and maintain that focus. With regards to how we could utilize their resources and grow ... we know where we want to be going, and we're maxed out across the board. So we'll be finding ways to do more concurrently. It doesn't suddenly become, "Let's do what everything we want," but now there's a greater support system in place. That might mean any number of things. Growing is marked by any number of things to us.
What does this say about the media industry more generally?
Y'know, the thing that makes me really proud is that we've built a brand that we feel passionate about. Our audiences trust in that, and it's reflective of our feelings. There's so much information flooding the media world generally, and there's only so many brands you trust. Achieving that on our own has been a challenge, and exciting. When you think about what really matters, what you trust — Conde Nast has a history of incubating brands you really trust, so this is something that we did not just for opportunity — it bucks the trend of growth for growth's sake. It becomes something more than a brand, when you take a long view approach -— but when you consider the context of the Internet, its not super conventional.
Will it be a church and state situation?
They protect their editorial. Their philosophy aligns completely with ours. It's an interesting time to say, "Wow, a brand I care about, or haven't cared about for a long time, is taking steps to better what it's doing."
This article originally appeared on Billboard.com.