Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts


Media Studies


Dr. Matt Stahl


This thesis explores recent transformations in the way mainstream popular music is valorized in online indie music publication Pitchfork. Indie music culture has traditionally defined itself in opposition to mainstream popular taste, through social and aesthetic differentiation mechanisms grounded in connoisseurship and DIY ethics. This thesis argues that the increased popularity and commodification of indie music has altered the culture’s exclusionary taste boundaries, selectively welcoming mainstream performers. To explore these changes, I analyze Pitchfork reviews of albums that appear in the top 20 of the Billboard 200 Year-End Chart, 2006-2011. My findings show that Pitchfork critics tend to privilege modernist conceptions of rock authenticity in their evaluation of albums produced by mainstream performers; reviewers' willingness to perceive positively-valued musical innovation and artistic ambition counterbalances the potentially negative effects performers' commercial and economic success might otherwise have had on their evaluation by this resolutely "indie" publication.