The slow return of Drowned in Sound continues. As 2024 coughs and splutters into action, this 'note from the editor' is a little different to my usual newsletters that oscillate between exploring the future of music and sharing music recommendations...
Firstly, you might be wondering what you've signed up for. If you forgot or we've been going into your junkbox, hello, this is Sean from Drowned in Sound, a music blog (or online magazine) that ran from 2000-2019 that's now back as a newsletter, a podcast from 2005-2006 that was recently rebooted with a focus on speaking to experts addressing injustice and evolving music's future, a record label from 2003-2009 that's also back, and an online community that started in 2000 and never went away.
I am emailing today to remind you we exist, that you're subscribed, and before I start emailing you again, I wanted to share the plan for our newsletter in 2024, which is as follows:
- You'll get one email per week
- currently on a Thursday
- I might experiment on timing, as I think longer pieces maybe make more sense to arrive on a Sunday morning... thoughts?
- Once a month, you'll receive a music recommendations newsletter
- This will be personal picks from me of both new releases and some 21st century gems.
- As I know our forums are hard to keep up with, I will also surface some recommendations from our community (did you see they named Young Fathers album of the year? Full top 80 here)
- Supporters will receive an essay a month by me
- it might sound quite meta and existential but I am currently working on a deep dive into the future of music journalism. It's a piece I started in December before the huge changes announced last week at Pitchfork. This will include things I've learnt on the Drowned in Sound podcast from my guests, bits from the post-P4K discourse, but also a lot of what is happening in the wider media landscape
- due to the 'joys' of my neurodiverse magpie brain, there are lots of tangent ideas for future articles coming off of this piece, from the value of humans in a time of AI/algorithms (keen to read Kyle Chayka's new book Filterworld after a fascinating conversation on Ezra Klein's podcast) to how much harder it is to promote concerts without local and national media outlets
- much like the podcast, I'm really keen to do less reactive pieces and more evergreen investigative work about music as an ecosystem, covering intersectional topics and ideas
- I would love to know what topics you're keen to hear DiS explore in 2024
- Starting from March, with your support, we'll commission one new essay a month
- the ambition, if the support and interest is there, is to commission 50 new pieces next year
- there are some incredible journalists with fewer spaces to reach an audience. I really hope DiS can continue to introduce you to great writers with fantastic taste and insightful analysis
- the longer term goal is to begin publishing a print magazine that I hope will be more like a journal or essay collection
- rather than a pivot to video, I am also looking at how we can evolve some of these commissions to reach audiences as audio essays (think: talking books) and to take our first steps into video essays
- Each month, there will also be a shorter more column-like newsletter with links to articles, podcasts, Youtubes, etc that I think the sorts of people who subscribe to this newsletter who care about music - maybe work in music or are musicians - would find valuable.
Sound good? If you're passionate about the future of music and care about journalism, you can support this un-pausing of DiS. Your ongoing contribution will allow us to commission insightful writers whilst also turning up the volume on a range of musicians that the pink robots wot run the corporate machines are hiding from you...
(Psst! there's an early bird offer here)
To get involved, head to our new Drowned in Sound homepage and click subscribe. There's a £1 month basic subscription, as well as the free option - if this landed in your inbox, you're already signed up to and reading the free version right now.
Please note: We have moved platforms. Those of you who were supporting our Substack have been ported across. Thank you for your continued support.
Why did we leave Substack?
In short, I've always tried to live my values, and it didn't feel like Substack was a place Drowned in Sound should stay given a myriad of newsletter tools are available to reach your inbox. Over recent weeks, you may have seen media coverage about what 'content' Substack would continue to monetise - there's some reporting here if you missed it.
Since we went on pause in 2019, DiS became a solo project for me but I am yet to write my 'In The Air Tonight' and I'm more interested in starting a Broken Social Scene-style collective tbh. Currently, I am doing the podcast and newsletter alongside my work managing musicians (Charlotte Church and The Anchoress) and a range of freelance consultancy work, as well as volunteering time on some other projects.
As hopefully is clear in the plan for the year(s) ahead, I'm really keen to sustainably rebuild DiS and that process starts at a platform level.
One of our first ever tours we promoted back in early 2000s was in support of Love Music, Hate Racism. With the global rise of a far right being aided and funded by platforms (orgs like Check My Ads and Stop Funding Hate are doing a great job to address this), leaving wasn't a hard decision, and it felt in keeping with our past and future mission. Going forward, I have plan for DiS is to become a force for change that amplifies the musicians, initiatives and people 'doing the work' to address the multitude of interconnected challenges of our time.
As a reader, the tools we use doesn't make much difference to you but to keep this long, admin-filled, story short... I took the decision to research all the options and have moved Drowned in Sound's newsletter across to a platform called Ghost.
The upside is, they seem like a decent company (a carbon neutral non-profit which grew from a Kickstarter) and from the recommendations from other publishers who have far more time and resource to look into options, the tech works great.
The only downside is with our current subscriber base it's going to cost around £1000 a year to host DiS and send out emails (whereas Substack was free). However, Ghost will allow me to provide premium services to our supporters and they can host our entire website. I'm going to trial Ghost for at least 6 months (your feedback is also very welcome, especially if I missed anything about the platform when doing my due diligence) and then decide if I want to look for a cheaper option or move across the entire 19 year archive of articles and reviews to our new home at drownedinsound.org.
Beyond the newsletter...
Drowned in Sound's podcast will continue to be free for the foreseeable and move to a quarterly season format (ideally ramping up to more seasons next year). I am also starting to talk to sponsors and advertisers as the time investment required to do it "properly" is huge, and the costs of providing the pod for free incrementally add up.
Each season will focus on a big topic and I'll continue to track down experts and people impacted by injustice/inequality or those striving for change. The current season about the future of the music press will continue next week (been a gap in weekly episodes as I've been sickly).
Coming soon will be series three exploring climate justice and music - already recorded the first episode of this season, which was really enlightening conversation about the vinyl industry that I can't wait to share.
Our independent Drowned in Sound record label is an ongoing project (find us on Bandcamp here), but as you might have gathered, the industry is more challenging than ever.
It's started well though. Our first album release, Versions by The Anchoress, has not only had incredible reviews across the press, massive support from BBC Wales and even some end of year list love, but almost sold out of the limited to 1000 copies eco-mix vinyl - thank you to everyone who supported the release. Grab one quick from our Bandcamp or select independent stores if you wanted a copy.
We're also thrilled that the year has begun with our first by sync placement, as Tiffany & Co have featured the silhouette version of 'Cold Hearted Woman' by The Faux Faux on their new campaign (see a clip on Insta here).
Whoops! This is waaaay over my 1000 word target now and I wonder if anyone even read to the end?!