/How To: Start Your Own Music Press

How To: Start Your Own Music Press

 The distribution of local music press is an art form that has been carried out for decades, across the world, and permeating through different genres and cultures.

Music press is a great way to get your opinion out there (usually without much argument from a higher entity within your community), as well as produce a piece of work which people enjoy reading. This creation of your own personal magazine to distribute to friends and throughout a record store could take you on a journey – Some local free music press distributions have turned into magazines that now have readerships of millions.

So consider this a little music history lesson, and quick ‘how to’ produce your own free music press magazine.

It has been suggested that the free music press that we see lying around our music stores, train stations, and gig locations started with the humble newsletter. Everyone’s seen those naff newsletters that float around after community readings, or your kid gets sent home with one from school. Full of updates on the local community, as well as important dates, and competitions; these are the conventions of music press that hold the article together.

Probably the most well known music press that started off as a free fanzine, which then turned huge tabloid conglomerate is that of Creem magazine.

The first edition of Creem was published in March of 1969. It has been stated that Creem was originally a street press magazine that was constructed for the purposes of perpetuating the local music scene without paying for an ad in a newspaper, or posters. After the magazine was picked up and turned into a full-page selling magazine, it gained popularity quickly.

The magazine also coined the term ‘punk-rock’ which took over the world shortly after the change of editors to the infamous Lester Bangs. ‘Heavy-metal’ was another phrase that was first published throughout the magazine.

Lester Bangs was an enigmatic writer and editor, who has been famously portrayed through the cult rock-movie Almost Famous. His big ideas and large appreciation for music was that which pushed the magazine forward.

During the hiatus of publishing, the magazine took a few years off and recreated itself into a glossy tabloid magazine in 1989.

From these humble beginnings, the magazine grew into a huge empire that has now made its way through society, not only through popculture, but that of the educated music fanatics.

In the mid ’70s, through to the 80s, street press took a huge turn towards prevalence, with its inclusion of punk street press. These fan-zines were often constructed by huge die-hard fans, who were wishing to write articles, fictional stories, post pictures (despite the copyright infringement), song lyrics, and upcoming tour information. The most famous of followers would have to be Minor Threat’s fan allegiance, who have reportedly created the most fanzines out of any other fan legion in the world.

These magazines would typically be an A4 size page folded in half to create a booklet, which was often passed around throughout their fan community, and traded with other people as a form of currency throughout the group.

Within these little magazines, the contributors had the right to say whatever they felt, without feeling the pressure of a higher entity which enabled the press of their magazine in the first place. Without an editor and a commission of regulatory standards to report to, the writers of these magazines found it easy to create their magazines without any backlash.

These free street press magazines are made on a local and more broad scale. In Australia alone, there are hundreds of free street press magazines, that are paid for by the cities themselves in order to encourage cultural and musical inclusion. With these magazines, reporters are paid to write articles, reviews and interviews about their chosen genre of music. Unfortunately for these types of magazines, there is a regulatory board and each submission must be of a certain standard. In order to write for these magazines, it helps to have a demonstrated ability of journalistic integrity, as well as a passion for music.

The other kind of free street press is the self-made community entitled brand. These are like the traditional punk fanzines that used to be thrown around in the 70s and 80s. People, often with an open mind and the ability to want to get their thoughts out, these new zines are created, and traded with other zine makers. Often it becomes an open forum for discussion regarding a music related topic, as well as an artistic outlet. While the availibility of these magazines may not be as available as other street press, there is a large world-wide community that trades these magazines with each other as an art form, and another source of entertainment.

So you want to start your own fanzine?

The most important thing you’re going to need is dedication. If you’re incredibly keen on writing a fanzine, you need to make sure you’ve got the willpower to follow it through. Sometimes it can take a few days to compile a little fanzine, or weeks to get the formatting, the content, and the copyright infringement policies right.

1. Content:

You’re going to need something to write about.Whether it’s a band review, an interview with a local musician or an open topic on a relevant music related issue, you’re going to have to be able to write. It’s not uncommon to ask your mates to bang out an article or two for you, so don’t be afraid to ask! After you’ve decided how big you want your magazine to be, and you’ve got your articles covered you need to format.

2. Format

Now that your content’s all written and (hopefully) well polished, you can get to work on formatting. You may need photoshop, or some other photo editor for this step, as you need to be able to set out your page as you want it to be read. With formatting, you also need to remember what kind of paper you’re using and what scale. An A4 page folded in half into a booklet is probably the easiest way to accomplish this.

Piece together your front page of your Zine. This should typically be something that’s going to exemplify what your reader is going to see inside the pages. Make sure to include headlines, as well as some graphics and give it a catchy name! A catchy name is what’s going to help catch your future reader’s eyes.

Now that the cover is done, pop your articles in your desired order, perhaps with a few pictures and graphics to give the zine some jazz.

3. Copyright Infringement

If you’ve chosen to include excerpts from interviews, or pictures that you don’t legally own, you need to state so somewhere throughout your zine. This will need to include where you got the pictures from, the artist, the photographer, and who technically owns it. Same goes for interviews. Try and include as much information as possible – kind of like writing a university level bibliography for an exam. Provided you’re not going to physically sell your magazine for money, this should keep you covered for all infringement rights. If you’re aiming to get cash for your work, then you need to physically by the photos and information used, as it’s copyright infringement.

Definitely make sure to check out all policies on this matter before publishing your zine, as you may end up in more trouble that’s worth the effort.

4. Printing

Once you’ve sorted out all the minor details, do a test-run on printing and see how it turns out. Give it one final edit, and then begin the printing process. Whether this includes using your own home computer, or taking it to a print shop, is entirely up to you. A print shop will probably be the most economical and quick way of doing so, so definitely consider it.  That printing will cost you just as much, if not a little bit less than printing at home, so take everything into consideration.

5. Distribution

Regarding what’s in the content, is how you’re going to distribute. Think about it like you would if you were an advertising executive. Where do you want people to see this? What kinds of people are going to read this? Who is actually going to let me put it in their shops? Think about demographics carefully before aiming to distribute your magazine. You may want it to just be a community based press, or you may want to go broader and hand it out to more music shops, and gig centers. Be very careful with how you approach people if you want to put things in their shop – If they say no, then leave it. Most of the time if they say no, it’s because they’re not required to say yes by their companies. Some companies have rights bought exclusively which pertains to what street press is allowed in their shops.

Now that you’ve distributed, you see who enjoys it, and if it’s worth putting out another edition! Also consider how often you want to release your work, whether it’s on a weekly or monthly basis.

Fanzines and free street press are a great way to get the word out there, while also doing what you love doing – and that’s writing about music.

If you’ve got any fanzines you’d like to trade, I write for iLLZiNE, leave me a comment and we’ll talk trading!