Monday, June 18, 2007

Another independent press catastrophe -- the end of Punk Planet

I've always had mixed feelings about Punk Planet -- and punk, really. Punk was what I wanted to be in high school but I was too much of a faggot to ever get accepted among the purposefully downtrodden. I still loved Fugazi shows and imagined myself on double-decker buses romancing with The Clash (I was stuck in DC at the end of the '80s/early '90s), but grew to prefer the take-me-to-the-sky antics of danceclub delirium, and as my aesthetics became an increasingly strange hybrid of high-contrast thriftstore extravagance, I honed my politics into an enraged queer defiant dissonance -- the funny thing is that once I transcended punk I became punk (to certain people, anyway -- although I fled to the West Coast), I guess that's the point or something although I've never tried to claim the word, I'm afraid of such nostalgia. Eventually I finally figured out what thuggish (but far from punkish) guys on the street meant when they'd come up to me and say are you punk? In all my carefully-coiffed day-glo naïveté, I didn't realize they were using punk to mean faggot, well bring it!

But back to Punk Planet, I probably would've loved it in high school because it embodied so many of my contradictions at that point (without admitting them, which I never would have done at that point either) -- a calculated sense of style that was really more design than diy, a certain type of consumer fetish gimmicky resistance mentality. But Punk Planet didn't arrive until I was several years out of high school, by that time I'd outgrown its offerings.

But Punk Planet also developed some amazing journalism -- I remember an issue way back that was about the death penalty, and how excited it made me to see that focus -- sure, alongside pages and pages of whiteboy bubblepunk bands bouncing slit-your-wrists straightness. But I'm getting distracted -- the point is that Punk Planet also ran some great, in-depth political articles and sometimes-delicious interviews (my issues are still in boxes from moving months ago, so I can't list the articles right now, although I loved the Revenge of Print issues which included analysis of independent press consolidation). The magazine also became more stunningly laid-out, impeccably organized and lavishly designed -- perhaps this is confusing, what I mean is that it got gorgeous. Still, there were some of the same tired straightboy rants and endless pages of boring band reviews, but also some inspiring mayhem. But don't get me started on that Miranda July cover story not long ago, after Miranda July had become the toast of Hollywood, declaring that, even after a Prada fashion spread in Interview, she was still "underground."

Truth be told, I have deep critiques of almost every publication, including the ones that make up the independent press that I love (and the publications I've written for, including Punk Planet) – I'll admit that I thought Punk Planet was invulnerable, a glimmering success story even as so many independent publications went down the tubes. Even with recent media consolidation scandals, I thought Punk Planet would labor on, and when I opened my email today to find that this would not, in fact, be the case, I was stunned, mouth hanging open -- I even cried a little bit, truth be told -- I do think the world of independent publications becomes weaker without Punk Planet, this world that does actually mean a lot to me.

I think this part of Punk Planet's statement is the most striking, because it ties it in with so many of the other publication struggles:

... We must acknowledge that the financial hit we took in October of 2005,
when our newsstand distributor announced that it was in dire straits, was worse
than we originally thought. As the dust began to clear from their January
bankruptcy announcement, we began to realize that the magazine was left in
significantly worse shape, distribution-wise, than they let on.

Add to that the stagnation that the independent record world is suffering
under and the effect that has had on our ad sales, not to mention the loss of
independent bookstores with a vested interest in selling our publication, and it
all adds up to a desperate situation. This has been made far worse by the
exhaustion felt from a year and a half of fighting our own distributor. It was a
situation that didn't have an exit strategy other then, well, exiting.

In other words, another casualty of independent press consolidation, and especially the failures/corruptions of the Independent Press Association. What is next?


hospodarsky said...

Your summation of mixed feelings about PP was great...I have had many of the same observations myself. But overall, PP made me pretty happy and I'm really sad to see it go.

There were always one or two things in each issue that I loved, and
I especially liked its texture (newsprint)...*sigh*

I do wonder which other publications will now suffer, and what will be left. What of the revenge of print??

mattilda a.k.a. matt bernstein sycamore said...

I know, what of the revenge? And I forgot to mention that I'll miss those in-depth conversational interviews... And yes, I do hope no more independent print publications go under, what will there be left to read?

Love --