Newsletter Selects: Lost And Sound

A quiet explosion is creeping into electronic music journalism, and you can find it in your inbox. With Elon Musk burying Twitter under his X rebrand, and clip-based TikTok and Instagram Reels now dominating social media discourse, many of electronic music’s sharpest writers have found a new platform to share their music writing: Newsletters-based platforms like Substack.

We’re curious to hear what some of our favourite voices have to say for themselves when given the opportunity to set their own goalposts and write however they want about music using these direct-to-reader subscription platforms with less throttling intervention from the Meta and Musk crowd.

For our new monthly series, Rob Smith cues up some of our favourite newsletters and chats with their authors about what to expect. First up, is Berlin-based podcaster, Coming To Berlin author and Bowie-head Paul Hanford and his new newsletter, Lost And Sound.

The Lost And Sound newsletter is pretty new, what have you got planned for it?

Early days, I’m the new kid at school here. But basically, I’m a writer and I do a podcast every week. Recently I reached episode 100 of the show, I felt like that was a bit of a milestone. I started to reflect on how I’d spoken with over 100 artists and how I’d noticed similarities in outlooks and creative approaches between what might seem like a really disparate bunch of people.

On a weekly basis, I go from meeting techno DJs and electronic figures like Roman Flügel and Suzzane Cianni to people like Thurston Moore or Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier. Last week I had Mykki Blanco on! Despite the obvious genre differences, to me, there’s so much stuff that connects everyone together.

I think really good artists, particularly ones that don’t really give too much of a fuck about mainstream culture have a lot in common in terms of their creative approaches and outlooks on life. When thinking on this, I realised I’d had a bunch of thoughts that would suit being written down long-form.

In short, the idea for starting a Lost And Sound newsletter is to publish writing that goes deep on the podcast’s themes around the intersection between music, creativity and life. Either that or some days I’ll just write something about not getting into Berghain.

Has writing longer-form online felt new and exciting, or a step back to what music writing used to be like?

I’ve never really felt like a music journalist, I do too many other things like the podcast. I’m a university lecturer too, teaching music cultural theory at BIMM Berlin, so I’ve never really felt I’ve got into the flow of being a journo or even a consistent music writer, despite writing my book.

I have so much respect for people who’re able to get up in the morning, come up with a bunch of pitches and get enough of them commissioned to pay the rent but that’s never been me. So, subsequently, I’ve never felt wired into any continuum of particular music journalism discourse. I’ve always felt very connected to the artists I talk with, and way more at home when writing about music from the point of view of the people that make the work.

I grew up being in semi-successful or pretty under-the-radar or just obscure bands and then DJing on the circuit in London for years. I didn’t spend that time being a journalist or even really engaging with journalism. Even Coming To Berlin was written to feel like reading a novel as opposed to being an analytical authoritative piece. It’s fluid and it’s dreamy and inspired by the music I surround myself with.

I think I’ve veered well off on a tangent in trying to answer you here, but Substack allows me to write about music from experiences I have with guests independently in a way that doesn’t need to be timed in with the considerations of a regular commission for a magazine.

What freedom as a writer does a Substack newsletter give you versus social media platforms?

I deleted my Twitter last year to protect my mental health because it felt like being stuck in a lift with a bunch of people all mouthing off about stuff. No matter how worthy or how trivial each individual opinion can be, I felt like I was being suffocated. I like the idea that with Substack newsletters you can just go and write some shit and not get distracted.

Any other newsletters you enjoy?

I enjoy Shawn Reynaldo’s First Floor and Todd L. Burns’ Music Journalism Insider.

Although your podcast covers all corners of electronic sounds, from electro-pop to ambient music, newsletters have been enthusiastically embraced by writers focusing on electronic dance music and club culture. Any idea why this is? Something in the code?

On one hand, I feel that maybe writers’ need to express themselves isn’t being met by contemporary press outlets, and the sales needs that go with them. On the other, without going all Adorno about it or getting too involved in the BusinessTechno discourse – but by me a drink and I might – electronic music culture has this perception of its roots coming out of the underground. Utopian ideals are seemingly in its DNA.

I think this DNA is in a lot of us music writers too, and the need to write creatively in an environment where ideas can be expanded on freely isn’t too different from having the need to dance creatively in a free environment. Plus, this cultural DNA by nature is a breeding ground for discourse.

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