DIY Media – from fan to web zine
In history of printed media, home/fan-made publications – fanzines – played a particularly important role in establishing and widening aspects of culture that has been neglected by mainstream media and institutions. Beyond this, natively punk practice, DIY emerged in after-war period as a response to massive consumerist outbreak that intended to satisfy all needs of a contemporary human, with products from the shelfs of shopping malls. In accordance with this practice in western Europe and USA, researchers also noticed the influence of education that was dependent and supportive of this consumerist trend and the need for specialized and fabricated goods. As a response, DIY culture emerged in order to provide, above all, knowledge and skills to produce devices and content that is in accordance with lifestyles and ideas of its makers. The cornerstone of this movement was the organizing of community to exchange experiences, and the most proper mean for achieving this at the time was the magazine. This sub-culture merged with the world of music on several levels.
Since the dance and popular music become more loud as audience increased during 50s and 60s, electronic devices were needed to amplify and process the sound. Although these devices were available, they were expensive and mostly generic, so they were not available nor adequate for artists that either demanded more original approach to the sound or were poor or both. Soon, massive popularity of rock bands lead to numerous local attempts to play their own music, abandoning plans to enter “proper” music business. So, music-related DIY practices in electronics, instruments design, recording, copying and publishing gradually flourished during the second half of the 20th century, given the fact that aesthetic standpoints in this field matched technological and ideological beliefs of the makers culture.
DIY/Indie “scene” nowadays can hardly be stylistically sorted since there is no field of music production that hasn’t split to a mainstream and other more specialized and experimental branches. Fan-made media content, with emergence of social networks, become the most trusted source of information, besides the official artist propaganda, commonly in accordance with this fan pages, audios or videos.
Although fanzines were most commonly recognized as a punker’s media outlet, they quickly spread to other sub-cultures as effective way of gathering and maintaining community of same-believers who are usually, participants in the scene as much as performers of the music are. Programmers and computer enthusiasts also adopted the fanzine as an informal way of communication, especially within the “demo scene” during the 80s and late 90s. With the Internet and social media expansion, fanzines became webzines. Even though, some fanzines were multimedia, with mixtape and/or VHS attached, with webzines, this became rather rule than exception, so webzines nowadays commonly distribute audio, video, graphical and textual content.
With the emergence of portable devices (smartphones, tablets, smartcams etc.) DIY media content started to be produced and broadcasted (shared) on a daily basis as a personal contribution to social networks’ info streams (Wall on Facebook, for instance). Also, personal blogs, vlogs, mixes and photo albums became common attributes to one’s profile, stimulating further broadcasting of people’s everyday life. Advance of web technologies led to user-friendly platforms for web presentation design (such as wordpress) enabling intermediate user to create attractive and functional multimedia sites with no coding skills. Streaming of audio and video became widely available in late 00s, so integration of web radio, TV and news into web-zine is today considered to be a standard.
DIY Media as educational tool – case of the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad
Self-produced media content is generally perceived as a token of certain identification strategy, so it is not surprising that majority of contributors to the DIY “media heaven” are young people, just in need for this kind of (self)representation. Main motivaton for some DIY journalists is usually to represent themselves through a portrait or analysis of some act or scene. According to that, it is possible to say that DIY media contributors are a part of a certain scene as much as players/singers they focus on in their entries.
Since the student population (broad and loosely defined category) is most likely to be involved in DIY media, academies and faculties dedicated to research in humanities and arts are formal centers where this informal movements usually emerge. Novi Sad, the city with a University center, and within it, the Academy of Arts (AoA), welcomed throughout its history, numerous events and practices connected with different kinds of self-organization, besides its official programs and lectures. Drama and Visual arts departments were forerunners in the field, since musicians mostly focused on performance and theory studies, with a little formal attention to their media representation. Since 2014, AoA introduced a new course dedicated to specific, music-related media practices (Music and Media, prof. Ira Prodanov), and within it, a hands-on training of students in different kinds of media coverage. Since the students are already being involved in everyday amateur broadcasting on social networks, the course further supported these habits, instrumentalizing it as an educational tool, for both students and lecturers.
With just a few brief formal agreements, students were tasked to cover an event of their choosing – to get involved into media representation of their community and to formulate their objectives as audio or video work. Among numerous very creative and elaborate reports, I’ll chose for this paper two video works that, to me, seemed the most illustrative in the context of both DIY dealing with recording and editing equipment and questions of (self)representation and identification.
DIY Media as identification and participation practice
Two student movies from Novi Sad
“Tri kapljice” (Three drops) vs. “Barba” (Beard)
The first movie, made by Marina Tešinović, is about a girl-punk band “Tri kapljice”. Scenography is set in the rehearsal studio of the band (“Brutal” studio, Novi Sad), and the semi-formal atmosphere is slightly broken with their outfits and equipment lying around. Steady camera scene is relaxed with transitions between clips and sound being comprehensible. Also, the author edited colors and appearance of several clips, that contributed to “punkish” atmosphere of the whole video.
Screenshots from the movie
Although questions in the interview are not so uncommon (“when have you started playing?” and so on), the ironic attitude and sarcasm in voice intonation are suggesting subversive character of protagonists. Message that could be extracted from their answers is very critical towards the established culture on several levels.
First, the choice of girl-punk band made by the author (classical music oboe student) is clearly a step out from the expected in this situation, and a statement about the establishment of the identity of author based upon her own achievements, rather than on matrices of stereotypes related to classical musicians. Also, the scenery and the flow of the talk are clearly pointing towards breaking of gender stereotypes, and although feminism was not the subject of the interview, the standpoints of the band members and the interviewer could be related to this field.
Second is the portrait of the band. I must admit music by Tri kapljice was unfamiliar to me before watching the movie, so I could form an impression just according to the seen. Nevertheless, their subversive role in local community is a matter for much broader study, especially given the notion that they are working in the City that already has its own tradition of girl-punk bands.
Punk band becoming an academic subject was in this case beneficial for both sides. Author could prove her point on the example from her immediate surrounding and become actively involved in media representation of the scene, the band, and on the other side, got the chance for their voice to be heard out of its usual habitat, freed from its aesthetic attachment.
Film “Barba” by Ljubomir Milanović (composition student) is aesthetically and technically totally opposite to the previous one, but with the same subversive intentions achieved with different means. “Barba” is the all-men barbershop-style quartet from Novi Sad. Their name is allusion on their bearded look but also, in Dalmatian slang it is used as a form of respectful addressing title for older men. Movie follows one of the bands rehearsals, culminating with clips from a concert held in a hall previously adapted by band-members (DIY). At first glance, this film could be misinterpreted in comparison with the previous one, as its conservative counterpart, but this doesn’t seems to be the case.
Screenshots from the movie
Namely, in writings on the topic by American authors, this style of music is attributed to racist and class struggle context of American depression (inter-war period), as a conservative reaction to liberalism. Barbershop bands were akin to traditional (macho)men pre-modern gender roles, and nowadays are generally regarded as a revival of the same rightist movement. Although, visually and on some level, acoustically, “Barba” resembles American barbeshop bands, none of the aforementioned theses could be applied in Serbian context. In domestic environment, this endeavor sends a very opposite message.
In a conservative post-transitional Serbia, nationalism and rightist movements are getting stronger, proofs of their organization and existence can be seen in news on a daily basis. But, their symbols and “manhood” model does not include all men-band a capella singing. On the contrary, this is typical for one of the numerous enemies of Serbian nationalists, namely Croats. So, klapa singing is much more probable association to this kind of neighbor’s music, rather then American barbershop style. The choice of the genre already determines bands “political” standpoint in local community that is certainly not nationalist nor chauvinist. On contrary, they are the proof that this kind of music affiliated with Croat (Dalmatian) folklore is on the rise among choral music lovers in Serbia.
Besides that, machismo and misogyny are also very present in Serbian society of 2010s, with men gender roles fluctuating from traditional rural farmer (“domaćin”) to football hooligan stereotypes, with not much in between. In this environment, polite and skillful harmonizing of four gentile hommes about love, enjoyment and passion, presented in Milanović’s movie is certainly “too light” for the Balkan image of a Man, and could be seen as an affirmation of a very different model of behavior and local community organization from the dominant ones. Band members are involved in local community building, starting from finding and adapting concert venue, cooperating with choirs and all-girl tamburica band (also much rarer than all-men bands) and taking part in local social events, such as (national) holidays, poems readings, help fundraisings etc.
Consequently, it could be concluded that both movies 1) show skillful use of technological means to produce short amateur movie, only with common knowledge of the equipment, 2) demonstrate the level of presence and status of DIY media practice in everyday life of young (music students) population and its role in (self) identification, communication and local community organizational potential, and what seems to be the most important, 3) both films offer insight into polite, yet rebellious spirit of these people, who were tasked “to show”, but they choose “to make change”. This text is just a contribution to this noble idea, luckily still existing, and further motivation for the development of DIY media culture in both academic and underground domain.
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