Pitchfork Publishes “People's List,” Confirms that “People” are White Dudes

Pitchfork released its People’s List of the top albums since 1996 today, and it is chocked fuller o’ white males than the Augusta National. Now, saying that you’re surprised Pitchfork readers like Radiohead is like saying you’re surprised Todd Akin doesn’t have a uterus, but lists like this one still reinforce the notion that indie music—and the street cred that comes with it—is Just For Men.

Here is Pitchfork’s top ten by points distribution, according to the 27,891 readers who voted in the poll:

pie chart of the top ten artists, nine of whom are white and all of whom are male
Hey dudes.

For those of you keeping score at home, every single group member or solo artist in the top ten is male with the exception of the two women in Arcade Fire (thanks Régine and Sarah!), and the overwhelming majority of them are white as well (nice to see you though, Kanye). If we expand our reach to the top 20, well, not much changes. In fact, out of Pitchfork readers’ top 20 picks of the past 15 years, none are by female solo artists and there are just two bands with female members: Arcade Fire and the xx, and both of those bands have more men in them than women.

This isn’t to say that Pitchfork’s readers are all douchebags, or that they have bad taste in music, or that they’re actively misogynistic or something. I happen to like most of the top 20 picks on that list, and chances are a lot of you do too. What this list does do, though, is underscore how heavily male the music industry still skews, especially when it comes to higher-minded “indie” fare. If we look at album sales during this same 15-year period, many more women top the charts, but since they’re pop artists like Beyoncé, Britney Spears, and Carrie Underwood, they aren’t considered when it comes to lists like this one.

a screen shot from the peoples list that shows the album cover for the strokes is this it
Not a welcoming space for women? Why would you say that?

Of the 27,981 respondents to this survey, just 12% identified themselves as women. Considering that Pitchfork, and music journalism in general, are dominated by men, this is not a shocker. But considering that women make tons of music, lots of it really fucking good, the question remains: Why do we keep seeing dudely lists like this one? Are music fans so stuck in their white male ways that when someone asks them what they’re listening to they STILL default to Radiohead? Or does sexism have nothing to do with it and Radiohead is just THAT good? (Sexism does have something to do with it; Radiohead isn’t that good.)

My theory is that white dudes have dominated the rock and rock criticism scenes for so long that even now, in 2012, when plenty of women and people of color and queer people are making great music, it’s still the white cis dudes that get the attention. Somehow, when a site like Pitchfork asks readers for their favorite albums, all anyone can think of is Radiohead, Wilco, Radiohead, and Radiohead.

We’ve likely all been mansplained too by some rock-loving dude, or felt like we had to bow out of a music conversation with a bunch of hypereducated guys because we couldn’t remember the names of all of the Broken Social Scene side projects (that really happened to me, btw). The music scene as it exists in these spaces isn’t very accepting of women, or feminists, or people who just like what they like but don’t have the liner notes memorized. This Pitchfork list is no exception and no surprise, but it is a sad reminder that 15 years may have passed, but the scene has stayed pretty much the same.

Shameless plug time: Bitch has also been around for 15 years, and every single album we review has at least one woman behind it. Subscribe now!

H/T Jessica Luther for the Strokes screen cap.

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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39 Comments Have Been Posted

I don't disagree with the

I don't disagree with the premise, but I thought it was funny that this referred to indie music as both "higher-minded" and providing "street cred."

Hand in hand

Don't you think the two go hand in hand though? In my experience, musical "street cred" comes with an appreciation for "higher-minded" work (e.g., you won't get a ton of street cred for unironically digging the new Katy Perry single).

That said, the concept of high- and low-minded culture is completely subjective and arbitrary, so there's that.

I'd say in this case, plain

I'd say in this case, plain old "cred" might be more appropriate, since to me "street" (grounded, gritty, emotional) is the direct opposite of "higher-minded" (intellectual, idealized, detached).

But really, I'm just quibbling, because you're using "street cred" as a metaphor as opposed to actual rep.

I don't agree.

This doesn't work for many genres. If you look at rap, -the- story of hipster taste in rap music in the 2000s has been a wholehearted embrace of the mainstream -- and, depending on your take, a reactionary dismissal of nearly every artist seen as underground/indie/backpacker. It's a legacy of the 90s, when indie dudes used terms like "hip-hop" to distinguish from rap and associate artists in the post-Native Tongues period with certain deeply subjective characteristics they found valuable: variously "intelligence," "consciousness," quirky lyrics, more aggressive or throwback rhythms, etc. It's only been in the last few years of internet cultural exchange that we've reached this state where a lot of rappers and producers are in-between notions like mainstream and underground ... barriers have become permeable again and critics feel like it's okay to profess appreciation for Deltron or Anti-Pop Consortium or whatever. Another way to put this is that "higher-minded" is a useless, empty signifier.

That is because Katy Perry

That is because Katy Perry makes music for children. It's sentimental and predictable and boring for many adults. Neko Case, Tamaryn, Sharon Van Etten and a few other women are on my list but not because they are women. I need to love the songs Does anyone really listen to music based on gender of the performer? There may be a lot of women making challenging music, but their numbers just don't compare to the number if men.

So is Radiohead

Radiohead lyrics are just as sentimental and predictable as Kary Perry's. The gender of the performer determines how seriously they are taken, so when a woman is sentimental no one looks for a deeper meaning, but when Radiohead is everyone pulls out their microscopes and tries to find any meaning at all too it. Society considers most female musicians to be vacuous and devoid of any real intellect or value simply because they are female, and if a male had written the same lyrics they would be deep and emotionally important.

Stuff & Junk

Radiohead never fired whip cream from their breasts and tried to push the mindless 'everyone can be everything if you just have enough magic shooting up your ass' ideal.

I am really impressed by this

I am really impressed by this blog!Very clear explanation of issues is given and it is open to everyone

I think you're right

I do think you're right, and it's hard to deny given the numbers above.

I myself am a white dude music blogger. It's a strange catch-22 when thinking about things like gender, and race, when it comes to talking about music. For me, I don't want to write about a woman musician just because I haven't done it in a while in a reactionary way. I want to write about her work because it touches me in some way, or I think I have something to say about it as a listener.

And YET! There is a tendency to be distracted by this idea that when it comes to indie music, or rock music, and even jazz, it's the guys that are considered to be the titans. Sure there are the Joni Mitchells, the Ella Fitzgeralds, the Kate Bushs,the Chrissie Hyndes, etc, who all made a unique mark in the history of music. But, culturally, it's always been harder to talk about women artists without referencing the work of a male one. It really is absurd. So, in some ways when I write about the music that I genuinely love, there is some part of it that is done to rebel against that, to buck the system.

I will say this; it seems to me that because women musicians seem to have to work a lot harder to get attention, I find the best pitches I've ever received, and the best pieces that have come out of them have all been from women musicians championing their own work. They GET IT. I guess this is because they HAVE to.

Thanks for the post!

That's the point...

You are correct, but you're stating the main point of the article without noticing. The music industry in our culture - as with many other aspects of advertising/marketing - is focused not just on males, but on the male stereotype. And so male-dominant and male-exclusive bands/songwriters/etc. are presented as being great musicians, while females of the same category are presented as sexual objects. So while people like Beyonce might have made this list (much further down), it is man-heavy because men it is a list of "great musicians," and most people who would have voted on this list have been educated by our society to believe that only men are considered in that category. Females are rarely promoted in the same way as males in the music industry, and nominally are promoted as being sexy first and musicians second. Therefore; a) female musicians who do not fit our culture's definition of "sexually attractive" are not promoted by the industry, and have to be so phenomenal they are impossible to ignore in order for many people to be aware of them at all, and b) even in the cases of the aforementioned phenomenal female musicians, it is built into our cultural identity (hailing from the inherently sexist mindset that has been systemic to our culture since before our ancestors even knew the Earth was round, much less had colonized this continent) to conclude things like "oh, yeah, Regina Spektor is awesome, but she's no Radiohead." In other words, there is a natural tendency because of systemic sexism that permeates our culture in all levels/genres/etc. to consider the talent of female musicians relative to the talent of male musicians and never on their own. So it is no surprise that you feel like you have to sometimes include a review of a female-heavy band into your blog posts just "because you haven't done it in a while." You are not presented with many options by our cultures music industry to consider. And that's not even going into what the cultural chauvinism does to prevent women from pursuing music in the first place...

"In fact, out of Pitchfork

"In fact, out of Pitchfork readers' top 20 picks of the past 15 years, none are by female solo artists and there are just two bands with female members: Arcade Fire and the xx, and both of those bands have more men in them than women."

While this may be true in a technical sense, it is a very misleading statement. Why?

-Sufjan Stevens has:
collaborated with Rosie Thomas
had Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) in his touring band
played guitar, percussion, and other instruments for Shannon Stephens' band, Marzuki
performed with Danielson, a family band that includes no less than five female members
as head of Asthmatic Kitty records, signed Cryptacize (co-founded by Nedelle Torrisi), My Brightest Diamond (Shara Worden), and the Welcome Wagon, a husband/wife duo who also tour with Sarah Fullen Gregory and Kelley McRae
-Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" album featured Laura Carter on zanzitophone, Marissa Bissinger on saxophone and flugelhorn, and Michelle Anderson on Uilleann pipes. NMH is part of the Elephant Six collective, which includes the aforementioned Laura Carter (Nana Grizol; Elf Power), Nina Barnes (former bassist, Of Montreal), Dottie Alexander (keyboards, Of Montreal), Hilarie Sidney (drums/vocals for the Apples in Stereo from 1992-2006), and last but not least, Suzanne Allison & Heather McIntosh of Circulatory System. There is constant collaboration going on between all of the members of Elephant Six.
-Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Fantasy featured vocal work from Fergie of the Black-Eyed Peas, Elly Jackson of La Roux, Alicia Keys, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Amber Rose, Salma Kenas, and Teyana Taylor. It also featured the poetry of Khloe Mitchell, flute by Chloe Vincent, violin by Jenny Sacha, viola by Rachel Robson, and cello by Rosie Danvers (who was also responsible for conducting/orchestration on this album).
-Bon Iver's "For Emma, Forever Ago" album featured drums and vocals by Christy Smith.
-When James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem plays live, Nancy Whang sings and plays keyboard/synths along with him.
-Animal Collective does not have female members of their band, but they did an EP with Vashti Bunyan.

It's okay not to have the liner notes memorized for a casual conversation, but a good journalist really ought to go more in-depth before publishing an article.

Are you kidding? You make it

Are you kidding? You make it sound like this list deserves a free pass because the males on it deigned to collaborate with women, none of whom ostensibly had strong enough work to make it onto the list without a hand up. It's kind of like saying "It's okay that we've never had a female president because LOTS of presidents collaborated with women."

The fact is the list doesn't laud certain songs, projects, or collaborations. It seems clear to me that the Bitch writeup isn't going after the artists for being exclusively male, but the list itself (as a comment on music industry and culture).


Couldn't have said it better myself, ladiesadvicebureau. While it's great that the artists on this list have collaborated with women and I hope they continue to do so, that doesn't change the malecentricness of the list itself (or list culture like this in general), which is what I was talking about in this post.

"list culture"

Will you kindly explain what "list culture" is and why it is "malecentric" to make lists?

List culture

Jessica H.,

In my experience, a big part of indie rock music fandom and criticism is an encyclopedic knowledge used for list making (e.g., <em>High Fidelity</em>). There are many sites, Pitchfork being one of the biggest, that traffic in lists like this one. That's what I meant by list culture.

It's also my experience that this cataloging and list making is a part of a white-male-dominated industry and that "Best of" music lists tend to be malecentric.

Hope that helps!

The list does laud specific

The list does laud specific albums, and several of them in the top 20 featured the work of female musicians. I thought that was relevant.

Obviously all these bands

Obviously all these bands have musically interacted with female musicians at one point or another in their career. That's not the point though. None of the people on the list (who wrote the albums and essentially own them) are women.

Re: Pitchfork being male dominated

You make plenty of good points. But regarding your comment that "Pitchfork in general is dominated by men..." it is worth pointing out the clear strides that the website has made in the recent year or so to get more women -- specifically, more feminists -- writing: Lindsay Zoladz, Jenn Pelly, Carrie Battan, Laura Snapes ... In the past week alone, they've had excellent coverage of Pussy Riot, a badass interview with Kathleen Hanna, an interview with the singer of White Lung about feminism. There are many great female writers contributing to Pitchfork on a regular basis, writing some of the best articles on the site recently, from a distinctly feminist perspective. In any article published by Bitch criticizing Pitchfork in 2012, it would seem obvious and necessary to at least acknowledge that.


I agree Liz, there are far more women writing for Pitchfork now than there used to be. There are also many female-fronted bands that have gotten great press from the site (something I tried to mention in my post but maybe didn't state clearly enough) which is why I was somewhat surprised to see this list dominated by dudes.

Thanks for your comment!

I voted for what I like and got outvoted, just like in elections

1. Pitchfork has a stylistically narrow-minded idea of what music is worth considering.

I quit reading Pitchfork regularly in the mid-'00s because I concluded that, while they write well and knowledgeably, they care more about hipness than they do about music. They're so indifferent to music as such that I usually didn't even know what an album sounded like after reading their review of it. I was far more likely to learn the reviewer's opinion of the hipness of the band or, even more irrelevantly, of its stereotypical fans. But nonetheless I voted in their poll using the Facebook app they supplied, and I had two albums by female solo artists in my top 10, Ani and M.I.A. I thought that was shamefully few, but I figured it was probably because I listen to a lot of extreme metal, which has almost no women (I can only think of one, Angela Gossow from Arch Enemy, whose grunts and growls are indistinguishable from those of male death metal vocalists). But then the results came out looking about as white and male as a meeting of major Hollywood directors.

Anyway, the way the voting worked was that I'd type in the name of an album and then Pitchfork's voting app would go find a picture of that album's cover in their database. Here's the funny thing: just over half the albums I submitted weren't in their database at all and thus had no cover. I take this to mean that these were albums which they thought nobody in the poll would ever pick. Now these were largely metal albums, and I understand that Pitchfork scorns metal as being unhip (and metalheads for their part often hate hipsters anyway and territorially resent their recent interest in black metal), but there were also a lot of non-metal albums which were really big in their genres but which I guess just aren't the kind of music that Pitchfork thinks you should like:

Tool - AEnima
Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come
Ani DiFranco - Living in Clip; Dilate
Sublime - Sublime
Flogging Molly - Drunken Lullabies

My point is that I think that the people who designed this poll and the bulk of the people who voted in it have equally narrow taste in music, to the point that the people running the thing pretty much knew how it would come out before anybody even voted (a little like real elections in the two-party system).

2. 59% of Pitchfork writers were women in one week last March.

In the article above, Kelsey Wallace writes that, "Pitchfork, and music journalism in general, are dominated by men." Now maybe that's true in terms of who runs Pitchfork (founder Ryan Schreiber is a dude), but it may not be true of the site's writers. This past March, GOOD Magazine did a small study where for one week they recorded the percentage of all front page content which was written by women at several websites which they thought to be influential among millennials. Link:


Pitchfork actually acquitted themselves quite well that week, with 59% female bylines, compared to 45% at McSweeney's, 32% at Gawker, 27% at Vice and 18% at Wired. Now like I said they only counted for one week, so there could be lots of sampling error, and also they didn't say how many articles were on Pitchfork's front page that week, which one would need in order to calculate a confidence interval around the proportion point estimate they obtained.

But based on that result I'd speculate that maybe the overwhelming maleness of their albums list has less to do with who's currently writing for Pitchfork than with male predominance among musicians and male bias in canon formation. Like I can't think of any woman whom I'd confidently expect Pitchfork to laud as a "genius" other than Patti Smith; *maybe* they'd apply that implicitly gendered word to Kim Gordon, Kim Deal, Kathleen Hanna or the late Poly Styrene? I doubt it though. And of course the voters were 88% male. Even the Oscars aren't quite that bad, with 77% male voters. Finally, I wonder if the reason they had a female majority among their writers could be that they consciously strove for some gender balance because they were embarrassed five years ago when Gawker noted that at that time they were literally publishing half as many reviews by women as by guys named Mark:


>>>If we look at album sales

>>>If we look at album sales during this same 15-year period, many more women top the charts, but since they're pop artists like Beyoncé, Britney Spears, and Carrie Underwood, they aren't considered when it comes to lists like this one.

While I love beyonce, this list is titled the last 15 years of pitchfork -- which is an indie music website.

>>> Of the 27,981 respondents to this survey, just 12% identified themselves as women. Considering that Pitchfork, and music journalism in general, are dominated by men, this is not a shocker.

Pitchfork has a bunch of talented feminists writing for them. You should cite where you got the 'music journalism is dominated by men' statistic from.

>>>We've likely all been mansplained too by some rock-loving dude, or felt like we had to bow out of a music conversation with a bunch of hypereducated guys because we couldn't remember the names of all of the Broken Social Scene side projects (that really happened to me, btw). The music scene as it exists in these spaces isn't very accepting of women, or feminists, or people who just like what they like but don't have the liner notes memorized. This Pitchfork list is no exception and no surprise, but it is a sad reminder that 15 years may have passed, but the scene has stayed pretty much the same.

not accepting of feminists? are you kidding me? I dont know where you are from, but I am consistently surrounded by feminists at shows + pitchfork has been on top of pussy riot among other feminist related articles/news.

>>>Shameless plug time: Bitch has also been around for 15 years, and every single album we review has at least one woman behind it

seems unfair to slight a record if the band doesnt have a femme in it

Gee, way cool observation

Gee, way cool observation you've got there, Anonymous *side eye*.

So then what are the top

So then what are the top albums by women from 1996 - present?

"Dominated by men"

It seems a few people have misunderstood what I meant when I said Pitchfork is "dominated by men." I don't mean that Pitchfork is exclusively for men, or that the site never produces feminist or women-friendly content. However, of the 18 editorial staff members working for the site, <a href="http://pitchfork.com/staff/">just five are women</a>. I appreciate that they wrote about Pussy Riot, but the majority of the site's content is written by men and the majority of the site's readers are male: hence, "dominated by men."

"the majority of the site's

"the majority of the site's content is written by men"

in 2012 this is just blindly false

No actually, it isn't.


Like I said in my earlier comment, 13 of 18 staff writers at Pitchfork are men. 28 out of the 34 contributors listed on the staff page are also men. 88% of the respondents to the reader survey identified as men.

How, exactly, is what I said about the site being dominated by males "blindly false"?

Suppose I posted a poll from

Suppose I posted a poll from a hip hop/rap focused magazine (rather than Pitchfork, a rock focused magazine), you would find very different results. Would you dare write the following after the results were announced:

"But considering that white people make tons of music, lots of it really fucking good, the question remains: Why do we keep seeing black dudely lists like this one? Are music fans so stuck in their black male ways that when someone asks them what they're listening to they STILL default to Nas? Or does racism have nothing to do with it and Nas is just THAT good? (Racism does have something to do with it; Nas isn't that good.)"

Hey guys! What if we just...

Hey guys! What if we just... MADE OUR OWN LIST?

Karen O! Metric! Kimya Dawson! Jenny Lewis! Santigold! M.I.A.! Carrie Brownstein! Regina Spektor! The Blow! Janelle Monae! ALL THE LADIES!

(Probably some of those listed aren't strictly "indie" or strictly "rock", but I don't care. I was going for "lady musicians who are a little different and aren't all white)

I have stopped buying

I have stopped buying so-called music magazines a while ago, because they all operate on the premise that the majority of their readers are white males - thereby presenting contents that (based on some stereotypical assessment of that 'target group') would appeal to those readers.
I'm really into music myself and I used to by guitar magazines - but I got so fed up that they are just chock full of - sometimes overrated - male acts, while completely ingoring the fact that there is actually fantastic female guitarists it would be worth writing about. And if they do, then only if the female in question is 'hot' (ie caters to the mainstream interpretation of 'beauty' - now, maybe if Elizabeth Wurtzel played guitar...)
I've always been really baffled by the fact that some guys actually seem to think women can't play guitar. What is it that would diminish a woman's potential to play guitar well? The lack of a penis?
There should be more magazines like bitch, especially in the UK, I've not found anything comparable over here.

The "People's" List does

The "People's" List does allow for you to see the Top 20's for each gender. Using the same weighted statistics employed in the overall poll, the Top 20 albums chosen by those who identified themselves as female only had three albums by artists/bands prominently featuring women, xx, Arcade Fire, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. What do we make of that?

Also, what can be said about the lack of other musical traditions/scenes from around the world? In that case, is there a line between eclectic taste and appropriation? Is there a similar line for men and music created by women? I don't ask these questions because I presume to have the answers, or because want to start battles. I'm genuinely curious, and these are things I think about.

My own list for the curious. The only caveat is that after the top 15 or so, the ordering is pretty random.


"Sexism does have something

"Sexism does have something to do with it; Radiohead isn't that good." THANK YOU. Really, Radiohead are mediocre at best and abysmal at worst.

Yeah, I said it. Whatcha gonna do about it?

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Pitchfork Publishes "People's List," Confirms that "People" are

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Late to the party

I've been a Pitchfork fan for years and recently read their People's List. It was rather bland, in that I didn't find the overall rankings very interesting; they were more or less exactly what I expected from a list voted on by Pitchfork readers. That 88% of the voters were male was also unsurprising, and I think it's safe to assume that they're mostly white as well, although this isn't stated in Pitchfork's data. So from one perspective, the top-ranked artists mirror Pitchfork's readership. Not exciting.

I found some of their other statistics more interesting. For example, the female voters produced the same top 5 albums as the male voters (albeit in a different order), and very similar top 20 lists. Pitchfork readers, regardless of their gender, seem to canonize the same artists and records. This could, of course, be due to the heavy promotion of these mostly white and male groups by Pitchfork itself. At a glance, the artists who received far more votes from women than men either have prominent female members or are exclusively female. This suggests to me that the female Pitchfork fans value female artists more than Pitchfork's male fans, but not more than they value the same canonical albums adored by the male voters.

With respect to the role of artists' race and ethnicity in music criticism, one piece of arithmetic seems extremely important to me: around two-thirds of U.S. residents (and an even higher percentage in the U.K. and Canada) self-identify as white and European-descended. If a person lives in the U.S., the overwhelming majority of her/his music exposure probably comes from these countries, whether that person gets music from obscure webzines or Top 40 stations. Even if the popularity and critical acclaim of artists were entirely independent of their racial or ethnic background, I'd still expect that the majority of acclaimed musicians would be white because it appears that most people in these countries are white. This is certainly myopic of the listening public, but I hesitate to connect it directly with racism. White musicians are definitely over-represented in the indie music canon, but the disparity might not be as great as it appears on the surface.

What a sexist article this

What a sexist article this is...

it's the source

it's pitchfork. people are going to listen to what they relate to. if your publication did the same thing, it would likely be dominated by female-fronted indie rock. and, if you went to a hip-hop site, it would be dominated by black musicians. it's just a flawed premise to expect a site that caters specifically to middle class white teenage boys to move that far out of it's demographic.

so, expand the debate - should pitchfork pay more attention to other types of music? i don't know, do they think they can build a readership on it? i mean, it's a blog, it's not a social service. it's not like it has some kind of social responsibility to appeal to the entire universe, or something. when we talked about mtv or whatever in the past, it had a monopoly on a specific service. but, if you don't like pitchfork, you can just go to a different site. pitchfork's sole responsibility is to convert clicks into ad revenue, and it does that by appealing to a specific group of people.

you could mmmmmmaybe get upset about something like this if it was a newspaper poll, because you'd expect a more varied readership. but, pitchfork is what it is, and has no reason to be something else. and, the results speak for themselves.

(fwiw, i think the list is awful. ok computer is ok computer. the rest is trash.)

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