The Jakarta Post
Fanzines, which used to symbolize free spirit, non-commercialism and the underground scene, have evolved into popular, Internet-friendly and ads-magnet media.
The term fanzine is derived from two words: fan and magazine. It’s basically a cheap publication dedicated to indie music fans. It is also known as the DIY (Do It Yourself) magazine, which involves glue, scissors, a copy-paste layout design and photocopy machines to take care of the distribution.
Fanzines flourished quite late in Indonesia, in the mid-1990s, two decades after they first appeared in Europe. There were initially dedicated to supporting underground music bands, which unfortunately do not get much coverage from local mainstream media.
Revograms is Indonesia’s first fanzine that appeared in Bandung, West Java, in 1995. Dinan, the
vocalist of local hardcore band Sonic Torment, pioneered this publication.
Another fanzine popped up at the same time in Malang bearing the name Mindblast followed by Brainwashed in 1996 in Jakarta, known as the most successful fanzine in Indonesian history with a circulation of more than 5,000.
The first changes in local fanzines occurred during the 1998 national uprising.
Much political content demanding reforms from the corrupt government found a place in fanzines.
After that, the content of fanzines expanded. They did not only talk about music but also other issues like politics, culture and gender. Some fanzines only focused on one theme, completely unrelated to music.
As the years went by, fanzines morphed in terms of form and content, thanks to technology and the Internet in the late 1990s.
Technology simplified the making of fanzines, while the Internet gave fanzines the opportunity to reach out to a larger readership.
There was a time when only highly committed individuals with a passion for music could produce this kind of publication. Nowadays, everyone can make fanzines on their own, talking about almost anything they like.
“Zines have become more personal nowadays. The fanzine is known as a media where people can vent their anger and anxiety,” said Ika Vantiani, the founder of Peniti Pink Zine Initiatives, an organization that takes interest in the development of zines in Indonesia.
Ika said women, who used to be under-represented in the local fanzine scene, started to publish their own.
And everyone seems to agree that none of this could have happened without the Internet or technological advances.
Technology and the Internet have also made producing a fanzine less stressful. The once complicated layout process involving manual labor is no longer an issue, with computer and user-friendly software systems.
“You no longer need to fight with a cutter or glue. All you need is a computer,” said Wendi Putranto, the founder of Brainwashed.
But the most fascinating development is the introduction of electronic zines or webzines.
No one exactly knows when web-zines first came about in Indonesia, but many people believe it started when fanzine creators distributed their zines using PDF files, to save themselves the hassle of paper distribution.
Since then, a number of webzines popped up in Indonesia fanzine communities. Names like Rock Is Not Dead, Indogrind, Semarang on Fire, Death Rockstar, Wasted Rockers and jakartabeat.net have become popular among the indie community.
According to Philips Vermonte, the founder of jakartabeat.net, web-zines are the reaction toward an era, where people, especially youth, felt more connected to the Internet.
“I feel there is a new generation and new era, a generation that grew with the Internet. Jakartabeat.net is part of this generation,” he said.
Wendi shared the same belief; saying webzines were established to make fanzines more popular among youth.
Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook have also helped promote this new generation of fanzines in Indonesia.
“They usually publish links with the latest information on Twitter and Facebook so people can access them easily,” Harlan Boer, another fanzine lover said.
But concerns have grown around online fanzines.
“I am worried conventional fanzines will disappear with the rise of webzines,” said Ika, who prefers the paper-version of fanzines.
“It feels more real if you can touch the paper,” she said.
But apart from Internet-influenced changes to fanzines, other developments have also caused ripples in this type of media, namely the commercialization of fanzines. Existing fanzines have become more advertising friendly.
“We don’t really mind ads as long as their interests do not undermine our editorial policy,” said Alfonsus Lisnanto, the creative director of Ear Magazine, one of the most established fanzines in the country.
With revenue from the advertisers, Ear is published every month, which many people consider an achievement. Fanzines are not usually published on a regular basis. A zine’s publication depends on the mood and financial situation of its creators.
“It is actually normal for fanzine creators to start thinking about revenue, because they have to think about how to operate in the media in the long term,” said Harlan.
Will fanzines turn into a big money-making business and set news trends in the future?
Ika doubts it, because it’s the indie scene’s destiny to remain small and unpopular.
“It will not be big but it will always be here,” she says.