Newsletter Selects: Line Noise

A quiet explosion is creeping into electronic music journalism, and you can find it in your inbox. In our Newsletter Selects series, Rob Smith chats to some of electronic music’s strongest voices about moving away from established social media platforms like Twitter and turning to newsletters to directly share their work.

As head of programming for Barcelona’s Primavera Sound, and author of Daft Punk’s Discovery, music writer and podcaster Ben Cardew always has plenty to say about electronic music. To accompany his Line Noise podcast Ben has recently started a Line Noise Substack, so we checked in with him to find out what to expect…

Any features you’ve been able to write and share on your Substack that you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise?
I imagine someone in the vast world of internet commentary would have taken most of them, given the sheer volume of people out there. But the great thing about a Substack is being able to string together something quickly out of a couple of thoughts and get it out there without too much pressure e.g. the recent Coldplay piece I did (Coldplay are not your electronic saviours (although this week I thought they might be). It’s a little silly, maybe, but I enjoyed it.

Any similarities between running an electronic-music-focused podcast and assembling an electronic-music-focused newsletter?
One of the things I love about the Line Noise podcast is being able to interview who the hell I want (on the whole) and the same thing applies to the substack. It’s freedom. And you can utterly indulge yourself too.

Favourite guest on Line Noise to date?
There are loads. But for the moment a tie between Wolfgang Flür and Karl Bartos on the grounds that they were IN KRAFTWERK! Lovely pair of people also. Oh and Moritz Von Oswald, who never does interviews. And Photek. Goldie. Etc etc etc and so on. I’ve had more than 100 guests on Line Noise and the vast majority have been great. I only had trouble with one. And if I get 1,000 extra Substack subscribers this week, I will tell you who…

How will you curate your Substack around the Line Noise podcast and your radio work with Primavera?
The original idea for the substack was basically a tool to promote my other work, as social media collapsed. So it was a list of stuff I had done, with Line Noise, Radio Primavera Sound and elsewhere. But it has expanded from there, with a big original piece of writing every week. Basically because I couldn’t resist.

Without stepping too heavily into revival narratives, has writing longer form online felt new and exciting, or a step back to what music writing used to be like?
Longform writing has always thrived online, I think. You just need to go looking for it. Obviously there’s loads of clickbait-y nonsense online. But you can also find 5k word pieces on 90s techno and Kraftwerk in India, which you can’t really argue with.

Have you found any limitations of the Substack/newsletter platform yet?
Not yet. Which isn’t to say it’s perfect. Just that it kind of does what it needs to, I haven’t opened up paid subscriptions yet. That might be interesting but I doubt I would get enough cash to keep my children fed, watered and in new shoes.

What freedom as a writer does a Substack/newsletter give you versus other ‘traditional’ platforms like Twitter/x, Meta etc?
As I said, I started a Substack because I wanted to try to get off social media. Basically, I use social media to promote my work (which probably isn’t the right way to use it with any degree of success…) and if it doesn’t work for that – and recently it really doesn’t – then I don’t see much point in it. I started to Substack when it briefly looked like people were abandoning Twitter for Threads. I was about to start a Threads account but the idea so deeply depressed me I started a Substack instead. Sadly, the Substack isn’t successful enough (hopefully yet) for me to be able to completely abandon socials. So, er, do please like and subscribe.

Any newsletters from other writers you enjoyed being subscribed to?
Philip Sherburne’s Futurism Restated and Shawn Reynaldo’s First Floor. All very electronic music. AND they didn’t get annoyed when I started my own Substack, which is very nice of them. Simon Napier-Bell’s is interesting too – basically extracts from his books.

Do you think there are any corners of electronic music the mainline music press currently isn’t giving enough attention?
I am constantly going on about this – I even Substacked about it – but the work of house pioneers like Ten City, Louie Vega and Inner City is so overlooked in most music media. As I said in the newsletter, a few years ago, I found myself frantically pitching the 2020 Inner City album We All Move Together – their first in almost three decades – to music editors on the grounds that Inner City are AT LEAST as important as Joy Division. But no dice. It’s not exactly a corner, I suppose.

Any idea what’s gonna happen to Fred Again? Will he endure the wrath of music writers everywhere or fizzle out?
Fred Again is going to be just fine! A long, happy and very successful life awaits him. I don’t imagine he cares the slightest that music writers don’t really like him. Which, in many ways, is how it should be. I still stand by my criticisms of him, though.