NewsLetter Selects: Digital Waste

To Seb Wheeler, one of electronic music’s leading strategists, there is nothing more punk at the moment than a Substack newsletter… Having helmed the digital departments of Mixmag, Defected and Universal Music over the last decade, we reckon Seb knows what he’s talking about. For our blog, Seb gave Rob Smith the full debrief about his newsletter Digital Waste, and how a track’s journey into the digital wasteland can be as creative as the music itself…

Digital Waste stands out from other music newsletters in that it focuses on a release’s journey into the digital world. When did you realise you wanted to focus on these ‘pull-back-and-reveal’ strategy moments?

There’s a lot of really creative digital strategies being used in the music scenes I’m interested in and no one seems to be documenting them. I thought I’d have a go at doing it myself. Digital Waste is a way of celebrating the work that goes into getting underground music heard, as well as forming a toolkit that people can draw from for their own campaigns and projects.

Why did a newsletter seem the best way to share the digital strategy journeys the newsletter delves into?

Mailers are an amazing way to build your own audience and be able to publish ideas quickly and creatively. There’s also an amazing newsletter scene at the moment; it takes me back to being a kid and making zines and acting on a DIY impulse. Newsletters are punk.

What can our readers expect to find in Digital Waste?

Exciting and inspiring digital strategies, activations and pieces of content from artists, labels and teams working in underground music. Trends, headlines and insights from the wider world of digital: All that good, nerdy stuff.

Is ‘underground’ a loose term to describe music in 2023, or does it hold a specific meaning in the digital age?

The first issue of Digital Waste led with a case study of Chase & Status’ recent mixtape campaign, which is an amazing example of impactful digital strategy. They’re not ‘underground’ compared to Tim Reaper, but they are in relation to Elton, Ed and Taylor!

Who did the graphic/photo for Digital Waste? The font has a real early 00’s Techno tip and that’s a serious range of eyewear on display!

The logo is by my friend and collaborator Lawrence Abbott. It’s a custom typeface that he made especially for Digital Waste. It’s so clean and communicates what the project is all about perfectly – he’s an incredible designer. The picture you’re talking about is the lead image of the first issue of Digital Waste. It’s a press shot of Chase & Status and some of their recent collaborators, which I fed through the Distortion Machine, a device that Lawrence also built. It warps images into the future.

Is there any one aspect of digital strategy you think all creatives should know more about to help promote their work?

Honestly? Don’t be shy. If something pops off, you’ll reap the rewards. If it doesn’t, no one’s seen it anyway.

What was the last release that changed your perspective on how a tune could be creatively jettisoned into the world?

I like what Surusinghe’s doing at the moment. She’s steadily building a community and rewarding them with brilliant music and tight creative direction. She’s got vision and it’s going to really come alive next year.

Any other newsletters, music-related or otherwise, you’re enjoying being subscribed to currently?

Burn After Reading, untitled 909, Vittles, Zine, No Tags.

What does the future hold for Digital Waste? Any events planned?

I’m just going to have fun with it. Digital Waste fits into a larger Waste World that also includes Tropical Waste, my party and radio show, and Waste Mail, my music recommendation mailer.