First Floor is what happens when music journalism arrives in your email inbox, unfiltered

Journalism is often a nomadic field, as outlets come and go — music journalism, doubly so. But Shawn Reynaldo reinvented his homeless radio show as a mailing list, and the results are refreshing.

The odd thing is, reading through First Floor feels more intimate than the days of print writing. Don’t get me wrong – I love reading things on paper, there are publications that only make sense this way, and I’ve cherished those times my own byline showed up on dead trees. But it’s an oddly lonely endeavor.

The Web resolved this – for a while. Then we got social media, algorithms dictating what we see to maximize engagement and Facebook profits, botnets and explosions of trolls, until most big-name artists and music journalists I know started to just tune out. Instead of reading and communicating, we manage our Instagram stories, argue with some random strangers who turn out to be propaganda plants, monologue about our pet issues and how our last flight connection was annoying, and then shut off. That’s … depressing.

So back to First Floor. Shawn Reynaldo helmed this widely appreciated radio show for Red Bull Music Academy, before that entire project was shelved. Shawn still has bylines elsewhere – I first got to know his podcasts and writing when he was at XLR8R, and now he’s on the likes of DJ Mag and Pitchfork. Check his recent profile of Barker, to complement the interview Sam did on CDM, or his review of the stellar new Floating Points album.

But First Floor itself has been reborn as a newsletter. (Good thing, too, as it seems unless I’m mistaken, Red Bull annihilated all their archives. Cute.)

Having everyone writing in your inbox wouldn’t be journalism, exactly – we’d be back to the social media problem. But Shawn’s first take on the newsletter is already a rich and varied read. It’s like the conversations you with music journalists and expert aficionados in person, over a couple of beers or coffee. That’s just the sort of communication we’ve lost when those same people are at the perpetual mercy of commerce.

See, ladies and gentlemen, he’s really like you – he even hates the term conceptronica, as you do.

It’s also frankly useful even to have a mailer from Shawn where he keeps you posted on what he’s writing for the other publications (even if that means we should all have a look at redesigning our site navigation).

This also allows something else social media was supposed to do. Shawn Reynaldo, like me and many other authors, is also involved in music. (What a thought!) So he talks about his DJ gigs.

Plus, you get links to Buy Music Club – another recent coping mechanism for our broken musical Internet, which I’ve been meaning to write about and start using more actively. Initiated by Avalon Emerson, the site was a simple hack that lets people post links to Bandcamp. It’s designed so you can both discover new music via human-selected, non-corporate-algorithm lists, and actually buy the music, as the name suggests. It supports humans choosing what they love in music rather than algorithms choosing what their business masters thinks will make them rich and powerful, and it supports the artists and labels putting the stuff out. For example:

https://buymusic.club/list/shawn-reynaldo-first-floor-6

I know, I know – apart from making readers of this site blow their money on gear, I also make you blow it on music. But, hey, you’re happier for it, right, and life is short?

Shawn also tackles this problem of drowning in promos, which I had just discussed with Emily Bick of The Wire, another writer whose work I follow. It’s clear we’re all on the same page, but sometimes that page gets lost in Twitter chaos. (Well, I’m knocking social media, but I’ve noticed people are having the same conversations there, too, so maybe we are making headway.)

Direct link:

Drowning in Promos

Oh yeah, and he’s thinking about streaming, too, of course. Here’s that link:

https://firstfloor.substack.com/p/first-floor-4-streaming-blues

— and he gets to comment on another DJ Mag story:

https://djmag.com/longreads/how-producers-can-get-paid-through-streaming-services

I’ve become an addict of The New York Times‘ podcast, The Daily. This is text, not audio, but the idea is similar. Even as it seems we don’t have enough time, hearing directly from the journalists actually helps us to understand the journalism and paradoxically gives us more time to focus on their work.

Shawn also mentions another project I think has some promise – Support Organize Sustain is a project by DVS1 dedicated to supporting music culture. This isn’t a fly-by-night operation, either – it’s got some heavy hitters in the industry already involved. I wasn’t in Amsterdam for the ADE event this week, so I’ve no idea how that first installment went, but I presume I’ll hear soon.

https://www.supportorganizesustain.org/

All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven. Perhaps after all this short-form chaos, we can ignore what the apps and corporations want us to do, and read and listen the way we want.

https://firstfloor.substack.com/

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