The use of DIY media to promote underground music is definitely something taken for granted in this day and age. With millions of online music blogs available in a few clicks, you don’t have to be a professional or have a huge piggy bank to get yourself going.
Despite this recent boom in the popularity of online blogging, perhaps with the aid of social media, rewind 40-odd years and, surprisingly, the alternative media and music scene wasn’t too different.
Yes, there was no internet. But the rise of zines revolutionised the way media was consumed away from the mainstream and how people got the word out there about underground music (witness the influence of the late Brendon Annesley's Negative Guestlist as profiled in our feature Brisbane Noise).
A zine is a small printed publication, often self-made and generally printed out on a photocopier to keep costs as low as possible. During the 1970s in particular they charged punk culture and music with a sense of ownership and community through many of these new small scale alternative forms of print sprouting up and causing a stir.
1975 saw the publication Punk in New York, and, just a year later, Sniffin Glue was started in the UK. From this many more stemmed, and slowly they broke down existing codes and allowed an output for music not heard in the mainstream media to be given a platform of expression. The variety of content was popular which was mainly to do with punk bands such as the Sex Pistols and the Ramones.
Zines were riddled with the sense of teen rebellion, and the underground music scene thrived because of their subcultural appeal. Not only did they promote music, they defined the very terms used by record companies, such as ‘indie’ or ‘alternative’. Even now in some record shops you can find sections devoted to zines.
What’s so great about them is seeing the freedom they gave to the average, untrained amateur who wanted to draw attention to music that wasn’t getting much mainstream attention. There were no constraints from bureaucracy or commercial interests to limit the publications. From this it’s easy to draw similarities to our own modern day alternative platform of online blogging.
Even today zines still continue to be produced, so the final word should go to one such entity. Zine Fest from Sheffield in the UK, which has been running for four years, described the point of zines as being a way to "to share your knowledge, or your feeling, or your experiences in a way that's more tangible than blogging, less commercial, and more immediate than print media".