Sure, indie mags look, feel and smell great. But what happened to iconoclasm?
Are they reading material or collectible objects d’art? Rob Alderson, writing in Magculture, takes a deep dive into the nature of indie magazines and what they bring to the proverbial coffee table.
He starts with an exploration of the hipster phenomenon of “owning” rather than “using,” citing this stat: “48% of vinyl buyers don’t play their records. 7% don’t even own a turntable.”
What’s going on here? Anderson cites previous articles that have explored the phenomenon and come to the conclusion that, in an increasingly digital world, the idea of ownership of a physical commodity connotes status.
“I’ll admit that on some level, as with the ownership of many physical things, it’s a status symbol,” Hanna Hanra of the BBC wrote. “No one knows that I’m listening to Mariah Carey at the back of the bus – but they do know, because I’ve shared it on Instagram, that I bought the Björk re-issue of Post on pink vinyl not all that long ago. And to my utter shame, it’s still in the plastic.”
Can the same thing be playing out in the indie magazine market?
“Of course it’s hard to draw comparisons, but if the proportion of magazine-buyers who don’t read their purchases is anything like the 50% of vinyl buyers who don’t play their records, then maybe that is something for magazine-makers to consider,” Alderson continues.
“It’s fair to say that many independent titles have become lifestyle objects. There is an achingly trendy concept store near where I live in Amsterdam, one of those confusing emporiums that seems to sell clothes, candles and antique watering cans. It stocks three indie magazines and I would bet that most of you would be able to name them.”
He concedes that this might not be a problem in and of itself, saying “Isn’t it nice that we can have nice thing?” Yet the point is taken: Indie magazines have a rare opportunity to define their own niche, rather than follow a formula.
He continues… “but print has the power to be iconoclastic, subversive and dynamic. Put down a copy of The Outpost and you think differently about the Middle East. That has to be more interesting than an antique sodding watering can right?”
Intriguing idea. As indie becomes formulaic, the very idea of indie is diluted.