What follows are four distinct articles from Razorcake contributors in response to the recent gobbling up of Punknews by Buzzmedia. We decided to tackle this both online and in print. Online, because Punknews is purely digital and we wanted to analyze them in their own media. This will also be printed in Razorcake issue #71 because we think what these inter-related articles tackle is much bigger than Punknews and is much more than a digital phenomenon. –Todd Taylor
There’s Got to Be a Better Way:
Punknews Is Advertainment
“This isn’t any different than how it’s ever been.”
That quote is from Punknews.org Managing Editor Adam White. It’s telling and couldn’t be more on point. On the surface, Punknews is cloaked in the robe of a collaborative effort. Its editorial content is provided by “volunteers.” It “supports and endorses” charities. Its 2005 “About Us” states that “our mandate is to provide an inclusive, community-based site.” It’s a .org, not a .com website. It uses words like “community” and “family.” But Punknews is not a 501(c)(3), or the Canadian equivalent. It is not a non-profit. It never has been. There’s a world of difference between not making money and being a non-profit. There’s a huge difference between “unpaid staff” and “volunteers.” There’s a large difference between working very hard—with collective burden and collective reward—and a payout where the only person privy to its terms and enrichment is its leader. That’s called a boss exploiting unpaid labor.
Let’s not pussyfoot and nicey-nice: Punknews is a website where owner Aubin Paul doesn’t have to disclose anything. He admits to entering “an exclusive relationship with digital media publisher Buzzmedia,” but hasn’t shown any of his staff the details of the contract. Paul, an avid Tweeter, abruptly stopped on August 2, 2012, approximately one month before the deal’s announcement. Managing Editor White said he didn’t know of the deal until it was announced on the site. In the comments section, a person under the Punknews editorial umbrella using the internet handle “1776” states, “Again, not speaking as the person who makes the decisions here. The agreement’s between the site owner, Aubin, and Buzzmedia. Do I think they’re going to share a contract between two private companies in the comment section for public vetting? Probably not. Not my call in any case.”
Paul declined multiple requests for an interview. At Paul’s behest, White declined to answer questions “to give him the courtesy of deciding if I should speak about this with you or not,” and in an email stated, “I’m only going on what Aubin’s told me, as it’s his site and his (my emphasis) business deal with Buzz.” That was followed up with, “I’ve never spoken to a human being at Buzz in my life.” These statements strike me as true. They are a far cry from the public perception that Punknews propagates on its site.
White would make a fine cheerleader. He may not know the mechanics and rules of the business game, but he knows when to shake his punk ra-ra pom poms. While he hasn’t seen the contract and can’t be quoted on any of its details, when he refers to the news about Punknews acquisition as reported by Billboard, he blames a PR company that put out an “overzealous” press release that Buzzmedia acquired Punknews. The press release he’s referring to is directly from Buzzmedia, it’s hosted on Buzzmedia’s site. The August 27, 2012 announcement from Punknews’ new boss is worth quoting at length.
“Today BUZZMEDIA (http://www.buzz-media.com/), one of the fastest growing digital media companies, announced the acquisition of authentic, go-to punk rock sites Under The Gun Review, Alter The Press! and PropertyOfZack. These three sites will join forces with BUZZMEDIA’s AbsolutePunk (http://www.absolutepunk.net/), the definitive source for punk rock news, and the also-acquired Punknews.org, and roll up under a new suite of online punk music properties titled AbsoluteVoices. AbsolutePunk will serve as a central hub to the broader AbsoluteVoices publishing group, expanding its robust editorial offerings, while bringing a wider variety of perspectives and in-depth music coverage to its extensive reader base and fan community.”
“We had to make a choice whether to just let the press release stand,” White said, “or to make a big stink by arguing that the finer points of the deal were glossed over in public. We chose not to do that. Bad choice? Maybe, but that’s what we did.”
Hold up. If someone misrepresents a company financially, it is completely fair and within your company’s rights to have the offenders publicly correct their mistake. That is, if it is a mistake and it is “overzealous.” That is, if Buzzmedia isn’t in the power position and isn’t calling the shots for the shape that Punknews will ultimately take. That is if Buzzmedia isn’t going to roll Punknews into “a new suite of online punk music properties.”
In the Punknews podcast of September 7, 2012, White slips back into cheerleader mode, admitting his ignorance of the deal’s stipulations: “I’m just a volunteer editor like the rest of you guys.”
Then there’s Punknews’ footnote at the very bottom of their site, which provides indisputable acknowledgment of Punknews being owned by Buzzmedia: “Punknews.org is a member of Buzzmedia Music, a division of Buzzmedia.” If they really are fight-ready independents, duty-driven to protect their editorial integrity, worthy of defense by both readers and unpaid staff, and really cared about how they’re represented on their own site, why didn’t they get specific, like BrooklynVegan? (And this is no defense of BrooklynVegan.) Here’s their footer: “BrooklynVegan is independently owned and operated since 2004. BrooklynVegan is a member of Buzzmedia Music, a division of Buzzmedia. In other words, Buzzmedia sells the ads.” Is Punknews just being passive or can’t its sole owner, Paul just state, “We were bought out”?
Punknews has effectively walked the fence, shrugging and “aw shucks”-ing the entire time in what could be characterized as either highly suspicious and calculating behavior or a meandering trail of awful decisions. If it really is no big deal, why is it so shirked on a “news” website? (I’m playing, but half of their name does include the word “news.”) “Half Idiot” on the Punknews message board makes a salient point about the credibility of Punknews’ own announcement of the new contract: “…it was buried as the first story early in the morning with no picture. Seriously, every little beardo band in the world gets an attention-grabbing picture. News of the site’s acquisition gets treated like it’s a software update.”
So, what’s the reasoning? Why even swim with the sharks?
Point 1.08 from the Punknews FAQ, 2011: “Any ad money we makes goes to paying our bandwidth and hardware maintenance. Nobody makes a dime off of the site.” White drives the point home in the aforementioned podcast that, “Punknews is run out of a bunch of bedrooms. There’s no office here.” Rich Verducci, the interviews editor bulldogs, “It’s like you kids have never seen ads on the internet. I know you get your music for free, but bandwidth and shit still costs money.”
Many months ago, when I was on Punknews as part of my research for the Night Birds interview, I saw Chevy ads and “guess who’s?” boobs. Punknews already had an existing relationship with Buzzmedia. That relationship has since deepened. Paul confirms this further down in the lengthy press release on Buzz’s site. “Punknews.org has always had a great relationship with BuzzMedia. They have worked hard to make sure we have everything we need to build great content and great communities while respecting and encouraging our independence. It couldn’t be a better fit.” (my emphasis).
I also know that the average punk rocker has a short attention span. In a couple of months, this will all seem like distant history. It makes tactical sense that the person who has access to the only documentation remains tight-lipped. No simple balance sheet has been offered. (Legit 501(c)(3)’s financials are public record.) No real numbers of ad revenue versus operating cost have been released. There hasn’t been a vetting of Paul’s personal income.
All of this leads to this: Punknews is a private enterprise harvesting the free labor of its workers, further enriching already-rich companies.
I wouldn’t be writing this article if the site was called AbsoluteMedia or AbsoluteVoices or Indienews.org. It’s called “punk” and it’s called punk for a reason. It’s still a marketable—and in some hands, profitable—term. So when Buzzmedia names the five sites it corralled in one day “authentic, go-to punk sites,” it troubles me not because some venture capitalist ding dong calls something punk. It’s troublesome because these media companies’ reach is so broad, so manipulative, so invasive, so homogenizing, that authentic DIY punk rock gets muted and lost in the static. It gets overwhelmed and hidden in plain sight. That sucks.
According to Quantcast.com, a company that produces reports analogous to the Nielsen ratings for TV viewership (between April 29, 2009 and September 19, 2012, in a report run on September 20, 2012) Punknews averaged about 187,906 total unique users a month; 108,981 of those are domestic users, which is useful for advertising revenue. For Buzz, Punknews is a medium-sized fish that will be absorbed with four others to… to what, exactly? To help DIY punk rock in meaningful ways? Is it the most delicious Trojan horse coup to celebrate small, overlooked punk bands, to raise hard-working truly independent bands and labels who can’t afford expensive advertising? Is it the righteous culmination set forth in February 2003’s “Punknews/About,” written by Paul: “Punk and its related subgenres saved my life, time and time again, and I think of this as my way to give something back to the community that’s been at my side for ages….”
Nope. Let’s not be naïve.
Fuck it. Let’s get cynical. Punknews is primarily an aggregator of releases pumped out by the public relations machines at labels at an alarming rate. Small independents that are creating their own content can’t match Punknews. It’s all about converting eyeballs and keystrokes into ad revenue. Punknews cops to not really giving a shit about corporate incursions into punk rock in the first place. Again in their FAQs (which were nuked off their site quickly after the acquisition but can be accessed through archive.org’s Wayback Machine). “5.1: At the end of the day, the label a band is signed to does not matter at all. (my emphasis) However, we don’t feel that a band’s label should be completely transparent.” (my emphasis again) Let’s rephrase. Punknews isn’t interested in ideals. It’s totally predisposed and down with collusion, because to them major and indie are greyscale gradients, not black and white. Yet, they still can’t help themselves with a bit of a reach-around and a pat on the head to the little folks. “Of course, we would still love to see small business prosper as opposed to large shareholder, profit-concerned conglomerates, so we admit some bias exists.” On the September 2012 sidebar of Punknews is a hamster driving a car that it wants you to buy. Yes, bias exists.
As a punk with ideals, one of the most depressing results of white-hot, advertising-driven media is that it steals meaningful words and hollows them out. Take the word “family,” for instance. It means one thing when you’re talking about blood and long-time friends versus what White calls the “Buzz advertising family” and Punknews as “part of their brand family.” Buzzmedia re-appropriates the word “community”: “Punknews is powered by a user community that has expanded and replenished itself for more than a decade.” That “community” is used by Buzz to harvest a “family” it sells off to large corporations willing to pay top dollar to get in front of niche audiences they can convert to potential customers.
Then the light bulb fizzed fully to life. Of course. This is about pure-bred capitalist “independence.” Not independence, independence, but “independence”—doing what Punknews wants to do. Paul is explicit: “We all worked hard to craft a relationship that encourages our independence” (my emphasis). It begs the question. Independence to do what? Again, White states that through its relationship with Buzzmedia, Punknews is free to “use that collective number of punk sites they’re involved in as leverage,” (my emphasis) to sell ads and get “exclusives on stuff that’s cool.” It helps when Punknews wants “to stream the new Green Day record.…. We can compete with the Rolling Stones and Spins of the world—Spin’s a bad example because Buzz owns Spin.” Oops. Punknews, over the past ninety days, has posted more status updates with links to content on their Facebook page than Rolling Stone and Spin combined. That’s an incredible volume of work contributed by Punknews’ unpaid staff.
That leaves us with one of two scenarios. One, Aubin is a bad businessman. He can’t convert colossal amounts of free labor into some serious advertising revenue because he’s crushed by overhead costs. Two, Aubin is an awesome businessman. He has converted enormous amounts of free labor into money he doesn’t have to admit to anyone that he’s making. In turn, the people he’s making the money off of—both contributors and viewers—become his strongest, most avid supporters. It’s a clever tactic.
Unethical, but clever.
Big thanks to Candice Tobin and El Diablo for research and being sounding boards for this piece and to Marcos Siref, Joe Dana, and El Diablo for their illustrations.
Todd Taylor is the Executive Director of Razorcake / Gorsky Press, Inc. Razorcake is the first and only official non-profit DIY punk rock fanzine in America primarily dedicated to supporting independent music culture.
The Punknews Pyramid Scheme
I take Punknews with a grain of salt. That is to say, I can tolerate the site’s laughable, routine promotion of bands that fall outside the realm of “punk.” And I mean well outside. Seriously, go to Punknews right now and run a search for “Eve 6” and see how many results turn up. I’ll save you the time—it’s sixty-seven. Sixty-seven non-ironic results.
I don’t even really mind the site’s flood of advertisements. Sure, it’s cringe-worthy to see ads for Six Flags and Subway right next to posts about Propagandhi’s upcoming tour dates. But frankly, I often need to know about Propagandhi’s upcoming tour dates and sometimes it’s convenient to have a centralized place to go and look up that information.
Also, it’s 2012 and ad-blockers are widely available to download for free. With a few clicks, I can mask the fact that I am being bombarded by advertisements for Ford trucks and remain completely impervious to information about their new line of rugged, yet dependable Ford F-150s, which were ranked as 2012’s ‘Motor Trend Truck of the Year’ for their first-in-class horsepower and fuel efficiency. “Ford, Go Further™.”
Sorry, I sort of blanked out for a minute there. What was I talking about? Oh yes, Punknews.
I do think a volunteer-run website like Punknews can serve a purpose within the punk community. In an ideal world, that website, especially one with the word “punk” right in the title, would instruct any corporate advertisers to promptly fuck off and then subsequently bask in the pride of owning something corporate giants can’t get their hands on. But this is not an ideal world and Punknews is not an ideal representation of the punk community. It’s just a website.
So I’ve always felt that if Punknews needs to take in some advertising dollars from Revlon to keep the lights on so that I can get my Propagandhi tour news, I’m willing to look the other way. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that just about every other visitor to the site also looks the other way on the ads and that untargeted banner ads from companies like Ford have zero impact on Punknews’ regular visitors. It’s amazing to me that these companies even continue to waste advertising dollars there.
However, the recent acquisition of Punknews by media conglomerate, Buzzmedia, changes the entire dynamic. Instead of taking advertisers’ cash to fund the site’s operations, Punknews and its content are now the property of Buzzmedia, who bought the site, along with three other “punk” sites for the sole purpose of expanding their market reach.
The specifics of the deal have been kept under wraps. Little information was provided in Buzzmedia’s press release about it and few on the Punknews staff seem to even be privy to the internal details. But if I had to guess, I imagine the thought processes on both sides of the deal went something like this:
A Buzzmedia employee was sitting in the minimal, yet sensibly modern Buzzmedia conference room. He had some title like Chief Social Brand Outreach For Developing New Media Strategist: “Our branding analytics are showing that we are not reaching suburban white males, ages 16.2 through 16.5 who don’t listen to Chris Brown. We should diversify our entities to maximize our market reach and increase daily page views.” This was followed by a long and hearty round of back-patting.
Fast forward to Punknews founder, Aubin Paul, getting the call on his cell phone: “What’s that? You mean I might not have to have to have a roommate when I’m forty? Show me where to sign!”
Again, since details were held close to the vest, that’s only my simplistic imagined scenario of how it went down. But regardless of the particulars, one thing is true: Now, Punknews, a historically volunteer-run website, is generating revenue for a parent company. That is no longer a volunteer system. It’s a pyramid scheme. The guy sitting atop the mountain is collecting money off the work of unpaid contributors. That is trickle down economics at best—a system popularized by Ronald Reagan, who, thinking back to my punk rock training, was a real shithead according to Professor Jello Biafra.
Seemingly, this deal should have caused a mutiny among the faithful Punknews editors who would have been within their rights to be outraged by the idea of producing a free daily stream of content for a large corporate entity while being left completely in the dark about the financial and structural particulars of the deal. But then again, one can never really get in the minds of people who find merit in running sixty-seven pieces on Eve 6.
There is now a weird sense of Stockholm syndrome within the insular community of Punknews editors who appear to be oddly content with the fact that money is being made directly off their backs. After the acquisition’s announcement, many of them took to the website’s comment section and Twitter to go into full defensive PR-mode. Whether or not they’re willing to acknowledge it, they’re being exploited in this deal. When you are part of something that is community-driven, everyone involved is supposed to reap the benefits of success, just as everyone is supposed to feel the crunch of failure.
And it’s not just the Punknews contributors who are being exploited here. It’s the entire DIY punk community, from the touring bands to the independent labels that Punknews covers. With their recent acquisitions, Buzzmedia aimed to buy various pieces of independent culture to suit different “lifestyles” so they can cover more ground with advertisers.
If you want a single image to best sum this up, look no further than Buzzmedia’s website. Below their slogan, “Defining culture. Addicting audiences,” there is a photo displaying more than a dozen soda bottles. Each bottle contains a different color soda. The label on each bottle displays the logo of one of their “brands”—Spin, Stereogum, Idolator, and others. That’s what companies like Buzzmedia do. They invest in a variety of products to blanket an entire market so that whatever flavor soda you happen to like, they’ve got you covered. But remember: You don’t have to drink soda at all.
Now, how about those Propagandhi tour dates?
Dan Ozzi is a music writer and editor of JadedPunk.com.
Punknews and Culture
Media corporation Buzzmedia recently purchased a handful of punk rock websites, including Punknews.org. Buzzmedia is your typical corporate media conglomerate, striving to maximize profit through the sale of advertising. Those purchases mean these sites are now typical corporate media dedicated to maximizing profits through advertising. Buzzmedia’s press release about the acquisition makes no bones about this. They boast about reaching “one in four millennials in the U.S. every month.” In their own words, the service they offer is an “understanding of the young adult audience to provide customized, innovative marketing and advertising solutions across its branded properties.” Their purpose is clear. They get the attention of young people so they can sell them some shit.
On the one hand, this doesn’t bother me. I’ve spent maybe two or three minutes of my life on Punknews.org. I don’t have much interest in a site that covers Sum 41 (still) and brags about breaking Good Charlotte. If they want to be a “branded property,” that’s their choice. If they want to call kids “millennials” and dedicate their lives and creativity to selling kids cell phone plans, so be it.
On the other hand, there’s something about this that bothers me a great deal. I’ll explain.
I wrote for a Florida music magazine several years ago. I was crestfallen when I found a column I’d written running next to a Kid Rock ad. I’d spent a lot of time on that column. I’d written honestly about things that were meaningful to me. I’d put those thoughts out into the world only to find them a vehicle for selling some kind of sexist, meathead metal. In those days, a lot of people would tell me they only read that local rag to read my column. This meant that I was bringing people to Kid Rock. I thought long and hard about who I was writing for and why I was doing it. When I got done thinking, I stopped writing for that magazine.
It wasn’t the one particular ad that drove me away. It was something larger about advertising. I understand that advertising is a reality of our consumer corporate society. Nearly all of our media runs through the filter of advertising. And since our view of everything that we can’t witness firsthand comes through the media, it means that our view of the world beyond our little lives is filtered through advertising. We have to ask ourselves: what does that filter do? What cultural messages, what value systems, is our view of the world filtering through?
In some cases, advertising can be fairly benign. If the advertisements are geared solely to inform people of the availability of an item (like, “Hey, we put out this record. If you like what this magazine covers, you might like our music”), there’s nothing nefarious about it. The advertising becomes a problem when two things happen. First, when advertising dictates content, the integrity of the media is lost. The media’s content becomes little more than an extension of the ad. Our worldview becomes distorted. This is a big problem in the mainstream media where advertising has made certain issues impossible to discuss. Even climate change—which is about as close to a scientific fact as we can get—becomes questionable because slowing climate change means curtailing the behaviors that fund the media, such as driving cars and shopping as a means of recreation.
Advertising also becomes a problem when it creates “lifestyle” ads. This—and not Kid Rock—was my real issue at the magazine. I volunteered there sometimes, also, and saw what happened behind the scenes. One big goal for the guy who sold advertising was to rope in these lifestyle ads: ads for products that coupled themselves with punk and indie music, though they had nothing to do with it. These were ads for cars, beer, tobacco, or shoes that would become “punk” by their association with the magazine’s content. There’s something dangerous there. It goes beyond, say, associating Chuck Taylors with punk rock. Making Chucks punk rock is obviously fucked up because punk shouldn’t be synonymous with a shoe that’s sewn in a sweatshop using slave labor to further enrich a plutocrat like Nike co-founder and Chairman Phil Knight. Punk should be better than that.
Beyond the simple dangers of these lifestyle ads, though, we have the larger issue of how our culture is constructed.
Our culture is built on the stories we tell each other and the values or meaning that we place in those stories. Contemporary advertising is our culture’s biggest storyteller. More than any other source, advertisements create our values. They tell us what is meaningful. And what messages do all advertisements—regardless of the products they sell—send to us? First, that unfettered consumption is good and necessary. This message is vile. Contemporary consumption is neither good nor necessary. It’s empty, vacuous, and sucking the life out of our planet. The second message is that the concerns of the marketplace supersede all other concerns in society. This is a prevailing value in our consumer corporate culture, and it’s seriously flawed. The marketplace, by its very nature, cannot provide the most meaningful aspects of life: love, friendships, autonomy, and leisure time that is genuinely free from work. The meaningful aspects of life should supersede the marketplace. This should be common sense. The problem is that advertising spends billions of dollars to change our notion of the common that we base our sense on.
This is my concern.
When conglomerates like Buzzmedia start buying up punk rock media (and even shitty punk media like Punknews.org), they make the word “punk” a brand used to sell the very dangerous, destructive value system that I got into punk rock to fight against.
Sean Carswell is the co-founder of Gorsky Press and Razorcake Magazine.
Punknews and the Price of Integrity
I heard the news of Buzzmedia’s purchase of Punknews.org and three other online punk sites while I was re-reading two books. The first was Dick Hebdige’s 1979 classic Subculture: The Meaning of Style, about the emergence of U.K. punk and how mainstream culture worked to convert the elements of punk into mass-produced objects. Faced with punk’s disruption of the status quo, capitalism sought to tame and re-package punk into a safe commodity to be consumed by the paying masses. Of course, this wasn’t a new development. After rock’n’roll emerged in the 1950s—with its threat to established racial and sexual norms—it was quickly watered down and safely sold to the newly-discovered “teen market” by the music industry. It is a familiar tale: the Riot Grrrl’s call for “girl power” is repackaged into the Spice Girls; Nirvana’s commercial success leads to the (re)marketing of “punk” in flavors like Green Day, the Offspring, and Blink 182.
The other book was Anne Elizabeth Moore’s Unmarketable. Her argument is more original and more disturbing. While Hebdige examined the ways the mainstream both sanitized the underground and raided it for new ideas and products, Moore tracked the ways in which elements in the DIY community willingly participate in the mainstream’s assimilation of the underground. An illustrative example is the skateboard punks who ended up working for Nike and created a marketing campaign that blatantly (and illegally) ripped off the classic Minor Threat album cover in order to sell Nike shoes. (It was even called Major Threat, for crap’s sake.) Moore’s argument is that marketing in Western society has become so ubiquitous that DIY punks often become willing pawns of capitalism with shocking ease. For her, the assault on integrity is intense and it requires constant vigilance to protect the core ethos of the DIY punk underground.
You see where this is going, don’t you?
The sale of Punknews and those other three “punk” sites embody the arguments of both of those books. Punknews was founded by Aubin Paul back in 1998. I should stress that I don’t know the dude at all—or anyone else who works there. Nor have I been to that site more than a handful of times in all the years. The few times I did I was struck by the notion that it was a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing: a marketing platform draped in the symbols and rhetoric of the DIY underground. The site employed the language of “community” and ran articles on solidly independent DIY punk bands, mixed with advertisements for major corporations and reviews of major label “punk” bands. There were words and ideas I recognized and cherished. However, they were bandied about in a context that not only made me uncomfortable, but seemed to undercut the value and honesty of the words and the speaker. When I got down to it, there seemed to be a marked lack of …what is that word? Oh yeah… integrity.
So the decision by Punknews to sell out to Buzzmedia, now the fourth largest digital publisher of music content in the U.S. and owner of Spin magazine (jaysus, that is still in print but Punk Planet isn’t? There is no justice), Stereogum, and countless other products that I have no idea about, didn’t come as a surprise. Okay, I’m not being totally honest. It was a moderate surprise because I thought they sold out a long time ago.
It is an old chestnut, but actions do speak louder than words. Entities like Punknews might wrap themselves in the rhetoric of the DIY punk community, but their decision to be a marketing platform for corporate capitalism shows that their talk has been hollow for quite some time.
You’d think they wouldn’t be interested in a DIY punk underground full of misfits not known for their excess of disposable income. But you’d be wrong. As Hebdige’s book Subculture illustrated, corporate capitalism is always happy to work its way into the underground to maximize profits wherever it can. So it is no surprise that Buzzmedia wanted access to those Punknews consumers. And as Moore’s Unmarketable makes painfully clear, integrity has become a cheap commodity in society at large, even within the DIY community.
If I know not to be surprised by such developments as Punknews selling out to Buzzmedia, why do I care? What does it matter to me?
Hebdige argues subcultures that challenge the status quo—like DIY punk—will inevitably face three options: become incorporated into the dominant culture as a safe commodity, disappear completely, or become marginalized. All too often, people tend to think only within those first two options: sell-out or cease to function. That’s the current business mentality privileged in America: “You’re like a shark. If you’re not moving and feeding, you’ll die.” But I’m putting my faith in the third option, because the margins are where the DIY punk community thrives. We’re not on the outside, somehow separate from the capitalist culture that dominates society. We are at the margins. And there can be power in the margins. There can be integrity in the margins. Alternative cultures and, dare I dream, oppositional strategies can be nurtured in the margins. Those are the things that can be found in the marginalized DIY punk community.
When people wrap themselves in the robe of DIY punk and then sell them off to the highest bidder, it cheapens it for the rest of us. It makes integrity that much more scarce and open for corruption. It compromises life in the margins, making it more precarious and harder to nurture alternatives and opposition.
No matter how you cut it, Punknews and their ilk exploited the DIY punk community for financial enrichment. For those of us who take the ethos of DIY punk seriously—not as a marketing strategy nor as a commodified “life-style”— we now have to work harder to protect the value and integrity of what we hold dear.
But don’t worry; we’ll continue to do our part.
Kevin Dunn teaches politics at a small college in New York state. He regularly publishes on various aspects of world politics, including global punk culture.