Writing First Floor Volume 1

Written by veteran journalist Shawn Reynaldo, First Floor is a weekly newsletter focusing on electronic music and the culture and industry surrounding it. Over just a few years, it’s become one of electronic music’s most influential platforms, routinely putting many of the genre’s thorniest issues under the microscope while reckoning with changes in the culture during a time of profound transformation.

A collection of Reynaldo’s most thought-provoking essays, First Floor Volume 1 provides a wide-ranging look at contemporary electronic music culture, with a particular focus on systemic issues that often go undiscussed. In this blog post, the author reveals the newsletter’s origins and what to expect when we publish the book in July. Pre-order now and you’ll receive it first in June.

First Floor started small.

Back in 2019, I’d been working as a music journalist for more than a decade (and had logged nearly another decade in radio before that), and when my primary gig suddenly evaporated, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do next. I did, however, want to do something, and a newsletter seemed like a manageable project that I could control – not having to pitch editors was a big part of the appeal – and continue to do until the next proper job came along.

A weekly digest that included a round-up of electronic music news, some track recommendations and a little bit of my own commentary, First Floor wasn’t launched with any real expectations. The first edition only went out to 89 people. Within a few months, however, those numbers had climbed significantly, and I gradually came to a realization: people were actually reading this thing. At some point, First Floor basically became my full-time job, and in an era when music journalism is often whittled down to whatever works best in a social media post, the newsletter has found a robust audience, one that still appreciates long-form writing and thoughtful consideration of not just electronic music, but the culture and industry that surround it.

Admittedly, many of the articles and essays I’ve put together have been critical – a fact that isn’t always appreciated, especially by folks working in the music industry—but even at their harshest, my words are driven by one thing: a genuine passion for electronic music. Having spent more than half my life immersed in various facets of independent music culture, I’ve seen a lot of artists, trends, scenes, hype cycles and operating practices come and go. Electronic music – and dance music in particular – has always been a highly transient space, and there’s something undeniably exciting about that, but when even the most engaged participants frequently tend to drop out of the scene after a few years, it does often feel like historical perspective and institutional knowledge are in short supply.

First Floor does its best to counter that, and over the past three and a half years, I’ve tackled a wide variety of topics, including the evolving nature of electronic music fandom and artistry, value shifts brought on by the current changing of the generational guard, the shortcomings of the modern music press, the inequities of the streaming economy and the growing gap between electronic music’s foundational rhetoric and the genre’s present-day norms. These individual pieces aren’t necessarily meant to provide a definitive final word – oftentimes, asking questions is just as important as providing actionable solutions—but taken together, they do provide something of a comprehensive look at contemporary electronic music culture during a time of profound change.

That, at its essence, is the point of First Floor Volume 1. A collection of my most thought-provoking essays from the newsletter (all of which have been updated), the book – which also includes a foreword from veteran artist and 3024 label founder Martyn – is a nuanced, wide-ranging exploration of electronic music. Informed by the past and enmeshed in the present, its contents also cast a keen eye toward the future, pondering where the culture and industry could (and should) go in the years to come. It may not have all the answers, but for anyone with an interest in electronic music, the issues raised all merit serious discussion.