Carrie Brownstein—former Portlander, Sleater-Kinney guitarist, and Phish fan—conducted an excellent round-table interview with a few of today's most influential independent record labels for her Monitor Mix blog.
The loose conversational format is essential reading and the contributors—Mac McCaughan from Merge, Maggie Vail and Portia Sabin from Kill Rock Stars, Gerard Cosloy from Matador, Chris Swanson and Darius Van Arman from Jagjaguwar/Secretly Canadian/Dead Oceans, Robb Nansel from Saddle Creek—shed a lot of light on the state of the modern record label, and what the future holds. While it's not all doom and gloom (hooray for vinyl), this line is a bit frightening:
Carrie Brownstein: Does a Pitchfork 9.1 help?
Maggie Vail : Absolutely.
Gerard Cosloy: Sadly, yes. A Pitchfork 9.1 is more influential to the audience and the retailers than a Rolling Stone or New York Times review.
Carrie Brownstein: What does a Pitchfork 4.5 do?
Portia Sabin: A 4.5 can kill a record. Unfortunately.
Mac McCaughan: Agree on the Pitchfork thing, though I do think that a 9.1 helps more than an average number hurts.
Robb Nansel: I'd be inclined to say a high Pitchfork number helps; a low Pitchfork number is irrelevant.
Gerard Cosloy: There remain great things that aren't even on the Pitchfork radar.
Mac McCaughan: Impossible!