In a time of disposable art and music within the online world, we at So Young Magazine have found that a DIY ethic and the creation of a physical product has started resonating with people. Paralleled with the resurgence in vinyl, music fans are yearning for something tangible and personal. We started out as a paper fanzine and found in our own naïve way that it was an effective strategy to build a brand and grow as music journalists.
There’s a certain liberation when you put a zine out into the world. Not having to watch your followers go up and down and see how many reads or views your article has, allows you to feel a sense of completion. Designing, writing and releasing a zine comes with a sense of accomplishment rarely found these days when starting out as a music journalist.
Knowing you’ve created a relic that’ll live out in the world amongst someone’s record collection or on someone’s bookshelf feels way more meaningful than writing an online article that inevitably gets lost in the never ending feed, needing a click bait title to make anyone take notice.
A physical artefact with a few ink stained fingerprints on, left to pick up in the corner of a record shop or venue has some tangibility to it that actually feels human. It also forces some conviction and passion from you because it can’t be deleted, edited or forced out of people’s thoughts by a second barrage of posts.
Starting a fanzine allows you to very quickly learn some of the most important ins and outs of working for a magazine and any future editorial roles. Getting out into the real world and liaising with printers, designers and stockists quickly puts your organisational skills to the test whilst allowing you to make important mistakes early doors.
Some of this may still be achieved with an online blog but I urge you to create something physical. The personal attachment to an item you are producing brings a level of accountability and pride that I feel is somewhat lost online.
People trust fanzines because there’s no ulterior motive, reading them is like talking to a friend. There’s no marketing strategy behind the bands you’re talking about, they may not be signed or have a management team and there’s no big publisher to answer to. These bands are in your zine because you love them, which is the most genuine way to discover new music; through friends and word of mouth.
If you can create this sense of trust between you and your readers at an early stage in your career, future employers will be chomping at the bit to get you on their side. Any big publication you may end up working for wants to create the priceless illusion of being authentic and sincere…
There are many parallels you can now draw between bands, artists and music journalists, and a DIY ethic is key to all of them. To be successful you have to view your once stand-alone profession as a multi-faceted business.
You need to build a brand, and I feel that unpaid, personal projects are vital to starting out. You can build a repertoire out in the real world that has real world consequences whilst creating conditions where your hard work won’t be overlooked.