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Newsletter Selects: Untitled 909

Having managed some of electronic music’s biggest PR agencies, and now heading up Boiler Room’s press team, Chanel Kadir knows a fair bit about connecting with electronic music audiences.

But what writing does a PR master reserve for their personal blog and newsletter? When offered the freedom to pursue her own multi-disciplinary interests, what niches of electronic music culture does Chanel want to write about? To finish off our Newsletter Selects series for the year, Rob Smith chatted to Chanel about her Untitled 909 blog to find out.

While we’ve seen a boom in music-adjacent newsletters over the last few years, you’ve actually been running Untitled 909 since 2017, why did newsletters seem like a good platform for the publication then? Has this changed at all?

Untitled 909 has been running since 2017 as a music blog, hosted on WordPress and when the Substack boom started in 2019/2020, I started noticing how easy it was to get information to readers via email. It’s become my favourite way to read interviews and recommendations and I realised it could be a good way to get 909’s features to readers directly instead of relying on social media and click-through links. Substack is an amazing platform for newsletters. It allows you to build a community feeling around it from recommending your favourite Substacks to the Chats which allows you to start a discussion with your readers tied to a topic you are writing about.

If you could pick out one feature you’ve run in the newsletter that sums up what Untitled 909 is about to our readers, what would it be?

Doing takeovers with festivals and labels has been one of my favourite features I’ve launched in the last year. This year, for one of the takeovers I teamed up with Floorless Festival to host a bunch of mixes from their residents and interviewed the team behind the event series to round it up. It’s a great way of telling a story around an event or label through a multimedia approach. Being able to give a spotlight to smaller artists who are just breaking through and new/independent festivals who are really adding value to the community is what Untitled 909 is all about.

For 2024 the newsletter is continuing as a recommended tracklist, what can your readers expect from this?

I’ll be taking a break from some of the longer-form features such as interviews and mixes in the new year but will still be doing the monthly recommendations newsletter. It will be the same format as usual where I round up some of my favourite releases, mixes and reading material from the month, with an overview of what I’ve been engaging with IRL for the intro and/or any observations and thoughts on the music landscape.

While Untitled 909 focuses on electronic music, your journalism has a pretty multi-disciplinary approach often delving into which books artists like reading, was this a conscious choice from the start?

It wasn’t at all. What I’ve enjoyed witnessing over the last few years is seeing how Untitled 909 has evolved and how people have engaged with new features/additions to the platform. The Book Club, for example, started because I was sharing my reading lists on my personal Instagram and ended up chatting with people a lot in my DMs about what they were reading and other recommendations.

A lot of people within the creative industry are avid readers and that’s where the idea for Book Club came from – I was curious to learn more about other people’s reading history and habits. It’s also nice to give people an option to talk about something else outside of the discipline they specialise in. It can give an insight into their other outside of music.

I’ll be launching another series soon which will see a friend and I tap into another love of ours, connecting it with music – very excited to share more news soon!

Any other newsletters you’re a big fan of at the minute?

Herb Sundays, Perfectly Imperfect, Digital Waste, Futurism Restated, Four Things, No Tags, Dirt and Why is this interesting?

Any artists/DJs or other music writers you want to shout out here?

So many! When something becomes your full-time job, you end up having moments of falling out of love with it which I think is something I experienced with music over the last few years. This year has been one of the most inspiring yet; from the dancefloor moments to new music discoveries and the friends I’ve made along the way; it’s really reignited my love and reminded me why I work in this silly industry.

Some of these discoveries and moments include Draaimolen, Horst, Beatrice M., Donato Dozzy, Woody92 and everyone else who is pushing this really sick ‘freetek’ sound. Verraco blowing my mind with both his Voam release and REEF after-party set this summer, Climate Of Fear, Lenxi’s dreamy hybrid set at Draaimolen, ISAbella + Eris Drew at De School, DJ Voices, Simo Cell, amenthia recordings, and recently inspired by the Honcho Campout set recordings that have been published online, most notably Razrbark, Lis Dalton, CCL, Lychee and Yumi.

Where did the Untitled 909 name come from? Sounds like a sample?

Lol, I knew I really wanted to start a music blog but I couldn’t think of a name. It was the only thing getting in the way of launching it so that’s where ‘Untitled’ came from. The 909 part came from Jeff Mills – I think I saw him play around the same time the blog was coming to life and he closed the night jamming on his 909 way past when the lights came up. Such a special thing to catch Millsy in his element.

Did you have a clear vision of what you wanted the newsletter to look and read like before you started it? Or has it found its voice as the project has gone on?

Not really. I knew I wanted it to be a place where I shared the 909 features and mixes but didn’t launch the Recommendations feature until much later. It’s become a nice and easy way to share things I’ve loved and discovered each month as well as a checkpoint of what’s happening in both my life and the music industry at that time. Next year I want to bring my friends into the fold more as they’re all super creative and inspiring and I often get a lot of tips from them. I launched this earlier this year with one of my BFFs. Frankie but haven’t managed to keep up with it.

Any standout parties you’ve been to this year? What made them memorable?

So so many! It’s been an incredible year for parties and festivals. The best festival I went to this year, and probably ever, is Draaimolen. The intersection of music and art is done to perfection on-site with installations and insane visuals marrying the DJ sets and the environment so well. The festival really utilised the environment it was in as well and playfully experimented with the natural elements.

Climate Of Fear for a crazy 24-hour party in an offbeat location with a lake you can swim in for a mid-dance refresher – Kia and Bitter Babe’s sets that day were unreal. REEF, always. I try to fly over to Berlin each time REEF is on. I will never get over hearing bass music in Berghain with the cutest crowd and the sickest lineups every time.

A new London party was launched recently called playbody which is reimagining how we engage with parties and club spaces in general – it’s a place for exploration and experimentation. It’s really exciting to see new spots like that crop up in an oversaturated city that is adding something different to the space. The first event was very special.

Oh and maybe one last shoutout would be Groovy Groovy in New York. A very cute party run by Akanbi and DJ Temporary.

As electronic music fans we have more access to artists than ever through social media, what can we, as listeners, gain from this?

I really appreciate it when artists talk about the process behind making a record or putting together a mix – it gives us a deeper insight into how they work and what inspires them without relying on a traditional interview or feature in the media. This insight into the way artists’ work is such a precious and oftentimes vulnerable thing – it can help an artist make sense of why they do what they do as well as inspire others through different techniques, approaches and being more confident in their own approach.

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