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Music Journalism - Stand alone

PROJECT 1 – Extended response

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”.

This well-known quote about music criticism suggests that trying to describe music is essentially pointless: that it’s almost impossible to capture the immediacy and the emotion of an album or a show in mere words. It can certainly be a challenge to do so, but does that mean we shouldn’t write about it?

Write an extended response that discusses the role of music journalism. Is it possible to describe music, and if so, is the act of reviewing a helpful resource for artists and audiences, or a hindrance?

Use examples to show what you think are good and bad reviews, explain your choices to support your answer.

PROJECT 2 - Making a Fanzine


A zine (pronounced ‘zeen’, like the end of ‘magazine’) is a self-made publication. There are no hard and fast rules to what constitutes a zine, but a zine is often of small circulation or a small print run, and made for love and self-expression rather than profit. HOWEVER, a zine can still have a larger print run with the intention of profiting from it and still be a zine! What it comes down to is the creator’s intent.

The content of a zine can range from text, photographs, art, comics, mixed media, or instructional guides, or a mixture of any and all of these. Zines cover any topics imaginable such as (but certainly not limited to) politics, poetry, art and design, personal journals, feminism, popular culture, cooking, fanfiction, creative writing, gardening. Zines can be made by an individual or a collective. They can be single issues, or serial. Zines are a key aspect of ‘DIY’ culture, and there is really no right or wrong way to make one!


It is often agreed that zines began as science fiction serials in the 1930s, which then sprouted their own fanzines. It was a way for fans to communicate with each other and put forward their ideas and theories, similar to the way we do with television storylines on the internet now!

As photocopying became more affordable and accessible, zines as we know them now began to take their shape. Punk bands from the 1970s utilised zines to spread their political agenda and promote shows. Later, in the 1990s, the Riot Grrrl movement used zines to spread a more feminist agenda within the punk scene. Zines have often been used within the music community as a way to promote a music scene that receives very little attention, or is entirely ignored, by the mainstream press. Women and people of colour utilise zines as a way of getting their ideas heard without the barrier of the predominantly white, male dominated, mainstream media.

The zines of the riot grrrl movement often crossed over between being specifically about a band and about the political agenda of riot grrrl. The zines were made by the bands themselves but were not limited to discussing aspects of that specific band. These zines are great examples of the range that can be covered in music-focused zines. They include promotions, interviews, reviews, personal anecdotes, art, fan pieces, letters, and poetry all with a focus on punk music and feminism.

While zines are generally associated with punk music, they’re certainly not limited to that music genre. Music zines don’t need to have a political agenda either. Zines by musicians don’t even have to discuss music! Last year, Kanye West released his own zine for his fashion line. Musicians regularly use zines as a different medium for further artistic expression.

Fanzines are another popular type of zine within the music community because you don’t necessarily have to be a musician to make one. A fanzine is most often limited to a singular topic, but that topic can be as broad as you like. Though the more niche it is, the more personal and interesting you can make it! Most fanzines tend to cover topics in popular culture and media such as music, film, television, books, video games, sport, and celebrities. Fanzines can cover topics current or past. While it is interesting to read about someone’s thoughts on the new series of a TV series, it’s also interesting to read about a band they loved when they were younger and have decided to listen to again. A fanzine may differ from a band zine because it doesn’t have an agenda but instead is simply a celebration something or someone. A fanzine may be more casual or conversational and is focused on the maker’s own experience.

Here is an example of a fanzine Kneez Up from Melbourne. This focusses on the artist Prince around the time of his death.


A common question to modern day zinesters is why they don’t start a blog or website. This is of course a very easy option and there are some great music websites such as Mess and Noise and Tone Deaf that began small and independent, but have grown to become some of Australia’s most prominent online music publications. However, unlike online content there’s something special and different about being able to hold a physical item like a zine.

The popularity of zines did initially die down with the advent of the internet, but they definitely still have their place. It is true that zines don’t offer the immediacy of online publications, however this often allows for more in depth or unique perspectives. Zines are not tied to the same timeframes as websites, which often rely on clicks/hits. After two decades of digitising things, a lot of people are keen to have a tangible object again. It’s in part due to nostalgia, but also in part due to digital exhaustion. Zines can act as trustworthy sources of information, as curators, and as tastemakers.

Part of the reason zines gained traction was because it allowed people to publish their ideas freely. While blogs are easy to access and web pages are easy to make, zines remove the potential for trolling, bullying, and derailment. This is particularly advantageous to feminist, queer, and zine makers of colour and allows them a safe space to freely express their ideals.

While some people see zines as a rejection of technology, the two can often work together. Zine makers can use the internet to connect with other zine makers through social media or forums. A zine maker can create a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to promote their zine and in turn find other zines and zine makers. The internet has also helped with zine distribution. Anyone can create an Etsy page or Big Cartel site to sell their zines. It’s even as simple as listing an email address instead of a mailing address as a contact in the back of a zine. This means zines can be distributed much faster and with greater ease.

There is a sub-genre of zines called ‘E-zines’, which are online zines. Sometimes they are presented in a way similar to a regular website or blog, but often they are documents that can be downloaded as a PDF or read like an online catalog. Websites like Issuu and Yumpu are free and allow users to upload their documents (which can be digitally made on the computer or handmade and then scanned onto the computer) and then format it to be read as an online magazine. This means zines can also be read on computers, tablets, and mobile phones. This is a great resource that helps artists and writers to be able to self-publish.

An example of an E-zine can be seen here.

Zines in Australia

The history of zine making in Australia isn’t quite as well documented of that of the punk movement in England or the riot grrrl movement in the United States, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been happening! Perhaps because of its isolation, zines from Australia are incredibly diverse and don’t often neatly fit into scenes and genres (although this has slowly changed as zines increased in popularity). Much like the punk zines of the 1970s, zines found a home in the Brisbane underground scene during the later year of the Bjelke-Petersen government. Zines in Australia are also often closely linked with socialist and anarchist organisations.

‘Pulp’ is a fanzine about Australian punk and rock music from the 1970s. It predominantly features long-form pieces about bands by their fans; such as a history or introduction, a memory or reflection, or a piece of writing detailing why the writer thinks that band is so great. It also features album reviews, live gig reviews, interviews, and playlists.

You can see the full version of Issue #1 here courtesy of the editor, Bruce Milne.



Pulp - Cover

The cover of Pulp Issue #1. Courtesy of Bruce Milne and the Australian Performing Arts Collection.

Vanessa Berry is a prominent Australian zine maker and has been writing on and off since the early 1990s. Her zines are often personal and cover whatever topics were relevant in her life at the time. Berry often discusses the varying aspects of life in Sydney.

‘YOU’ is a free, weekly anonymous zine made in Melbourne that has been in circulation since 2001. The zine is most commonly a handwritten letter found within a stapled sandwich bag, but often takes other forms as well. A range of topics are covered, from the mundane to the exciting but usually about the anonymous writer’s life.


Just as there is no right or wrong content for a zine, there are also no rules for how to make a zine. Generally speaking a zine will resemble a folded and stapled booklet, but they can take any shape imaginable. For ease of photocopying and collating, most zines are made from A4 or A3 size paper. They can be folded in half or in quarters, and stapled, glued, sewn or bound in any other way. Zines can be a single page or as many pages as required.

It’s important to think about what kind of image you want to associate with you, your music, or your brand. The message you want to portray will also influence your style, as well as the type of content you include. Generally, zines include a mix of text and art to make it easy to read and visually interesting. If you make folk music would a zine about your band include black scribbled text, grainy photos, and be loosely assembled? What genre might use these elements in their zine? Why?

Punk zines are often hand made. They can have text that is handwritten or typeset on a typewriter or computer, or have text cut and paste from other sources such as magazines. Images are often created from collage. Zines are often photocopied in black and white as this helps to keep production costs low. Punk and riot grrrl zines have traditionally been made as A5 booklets because of the ease of layout, photocopying, and assembly.

Zines can be made using programs such as InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop as well. Using these programs can give the zine a more slick, neat, and professional look, closer to that of a magazine.

There are different ways of making your zine more unique. You could photocopy the cover on coloured paper to stand out. Maybe have the entire zine printed in colour rather than black and white. Perhaps you’d like to include a colour photo that folds out into a poster. You can play with different binding methods such as hand-stitching or running the spine through a sewing machine. There are all sorts of neat nick-nacks in stationery stores such as coloured staples or washi tape to add flair to your zine. You can attach a sticker or badge, or include a CD or download code as well.

The best way to figure out how to make a zine is to look at other zines! You can pick and choose different aspects from existing zines and choose what works for you.

Some examples of common and easy zine styles are:

Rookie Magazine has a wonderful online tutorial about how to make an 8-page mini-zine from a single sheet of paper (also known as the “hotdog” fold!)

How to make a mini zine

When it comes to zine content, the sky is the limit. You may include writing like poems, short stories, song or album reviews, gig reviews or articles about issues, and then there are other options like quizzes, drawings, cartoons, advertisements, playlists, artists reviewing artists, quotes, photos and much more. Here are some examples from Pulp Magazine Issue #1 (1978).

A fun task is to make a zine as a class. Divide up the pages amongst individuals or small groups. The diverse approach each group or individual takes to their page will make the zine really special! You could make a graduation zine, a zine for the school production, or one celebrating an anniversary. All you need are pens and a photocopier. Go for it!

Where to get zines in Australia

Sticky Institute opened in Melbourne in 2001 and has been slowly growing in size ever since. In its 16 years operating, Sticky has stocked over 15,000 titles from all over the globe. It is currently the only dedicated store for zines in Australia. Because of the small size of the store, the co-ordinators has made a conscious effort to only stock zines and no other potentially zine related material such as CDs and records, posters, art prints, or professional magazines.

Distributors (shortened to ‘distro’) are a popular way for collectives and regions to sell and circulate zines. Some examples are Small Zine Volcano and Take Care Zine Distro.

Annual Zine Fairs in Australia

A zine fair is quite similar to an artists’ market, but the main product for sale is zines. Zine fairs in Australia are often organised by an arts organisation or collectives and can be attached to other events such as an arts festival. It is not unusual for zine makers to travel interstate to attend or have a stall at a zine fair, because despite the prevalence of online communication, it is still exciting to meet other zinesters in person and trade your latest wares. As zines are growing in popularity, more and more zine fairs are happening across the country. While most zine fairs strive to operate annually, there are always occasions when zine fairs pop up or happen in conjunction with other events.

Below is a list of the current annual zine fairs across Australia:


Victorian Curriculum Links:  

Learning Areas Capabilities
The Arts
  • Media Arts
    • Explore and Express Ideas
    • Respond and Interpret
  • Music
    • Respond and Interpret
  • Visual Arts
    • Explore and Express Ideas
    • Visual Arts Practices
    • Respond and Interpret
  • Visual Communication Design
    • Explore and Represent Ideas
    • Visual Communication Design Practices
    • Present and Perform
    • Respond and Interpret
  • Critical and Creative Thinking
  • Personal and Social
  • Reading and Viewing
  • Writing
  • Speaking and Listening


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