Wednesday, August 10, 2005

How Message Boards Killed Zines

Okay, so this was written back in April of 2003. I believe I might'a "submitted" it to MRR, but I don't really remember. Anyway, eventially, the fucker did run in Troy Canady's "Panic Action" zine.


The late 80's were a golden age for 'zines. Several people were writing them, everybody was buying them; and shockingly, people actually paid attention to what was being written. More so than even the bands themselves, the zines of that era helped form the scene, and guide the ideals of individuals involved in it.

The zines of the late 80's are the one's that crammed feminism; anarchism; the acceptance of homosexuals and several other agenda's down the more than willing throat of "punk". Indeed, especially in this time, punk became less a specific musical style and more a loose conglomeration of bands, journalists, artists and performers who shared the same basic set of ethics and morals.

But not everything was quite so cheery back then, because you see, they had the COMMUNITY of the zines, but music began to suffer. In the late 80's, fucking GRUNGE was even considered "punk", that's how pitiful things had become. The focus was on building consensus and WORDS, so of COURSE the music would fall by the wayside.

This sorriful trend reached it's zenith with the popularity of Nirvana's "Nevermind", a record that was heartely approved of by many Maximum Rock'n'Roll staffers. With the musical boundaries of "punk" almost completely distroyed, all it took was one band with vague lyrics and even vaguer ideals to breakthrough to the mainstream.

Not surprisingly, around this same time, an anti-indie rock, anti-grunge backlash was well underway. Bands such as Supercharger and the Mummies were reclaiming rock'n'roll and punk rock for what they truly were. They made abnoxious, short, fun songs that didn't even make the slightest pretense of being "art". These new bands did NOT bow down at the Sonic Youth altar like all the other indie rock schmucks.

Things became even further sudivided, more and more genre's branched out and then off. The "scene" had become too big, and it was more than time to further segregate things into smaller groups. Remarkably, it wasn't just "horrible" bands that were being excluded anymore, even "okay" groups, and mediocre bands were being left out in the cold. The Rip Off Records crowd rejected the Lookout Records bunch because their bands were NOT good enough, even though both labels spotlighted bands that were kinda similiar.

Slowly, the garage-punk of bands like the aforementioned Mummies began to permiate further and further into certain zine zeigeists. As the early 90's cranked into the mid-90's, even Maximum Rock'n'Roll itself instituted a new musical coverage policy which basically stated, "No emo, no indie rock, no major labels". More than anything else, this editorial direction change damaged MRR and it's credibility. No longer were people hailing it as "THE zine", or "the punk bible". In those days, the most often heard verbiage in reguards to MRR was, bluntly, "MRR Sucks".

The backlash started in the late eighties had basically won. People weren't taking zines so seriously anymore, and most of the new titles that sprung up didn't have half the passion or wit of older publications. Truly, in the mid-90's, zines were in trouble. But then it got worse.

The internet entered the mass public conscieness somewheres about 97-98 and it radically changed things. Simply put, people just stopped reading paper zines when the same info was easily available over the internet. People questioned why they should put in time and money to order zines when it was all there, at their fingertips, for free.

Once, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of paperzines, but the internet killed it all off more quickly than you could imagine. In those first five years, many e-zines sprung up, but even they themselves had trouble being noticed or even surviving for very long.

Attention spans shortened, and anymore, people had trouble reading anything that would take more than five minutes to finish. Paper zines gave way to e-zines and e-zines gave way to message boards. Any over-arching community that had been created by the late 80's zines had pretty much been annilated.

Sure, there were as many great bands as there's ever been, but there were a million more shitty-ones. Of course though, people now had genre specific message boards and discussion groups to point them in the right direction. And music sharing programs such as, Audiogalaxy; Napster and Soulseek made finding a lot of that music VERY easy. Suddenly, you could download the unreleased demo of a Dutch hardcore band from '81 in about fifteen minutes time, even with a slow connection. This is a feet that would've seemed impossible to people even ten years earlier. "I searched twenty years for that record and you got it in twenty minutes, fuck you!".

Times had certainly changed, and sadly, the obsolete and costly format of the old paper-zine had all but gone by the wayside. Sure, paper zines were still made and distributed, but their influence was just a pale shadow of what it used to be. It was apparent to zinesters in the know that it was time to either evolve or die off.

Things were ripe for a brand new backlash...............