Digital Publishing Interesting and Timeless
3 mins read

How a Los Angeles punk fanzine discovered its greatest asset: its readers

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Based in L.A., Razorcake magazine will soon celebrate twenty years in existence. Founded in January 2001, by Todd Taylor (the former Flipside managing editor) and Sean Carswell (author and Gorsky Press co-founder), the magazine is the world’s only certified non-profit independent punk magazine.

Edited by Managing Editor, Daryl Gussin, Razorcake has been at the forefront of promoting outsider culture for the last two decades, covering everything from books, records and film. Gussin walks the talk – aside from being Razorcake‘s Managing Editor, he’s also been in a number of L.A. bands including God Equals Genocide, Marriage Material, and Spokenes

With a 6,000 print circulation, as well a long-established digital footprint and podcast series, the title’s passion for its subject matter lies at its core.

We make the punk zine that we want to read, and when the delivery truck arrives from the printer with all the issues: that’s what has kept us going.”

Daryl Gussin, Managing Editor, Razorcake

Whilst many niche publishers often only survive for a limited timespan, Razorcake has managed to ride out twenty years through a unique program that puts its readership at the heart of its content and distribution.

Indeed, at the time of speaking to Gussin in late October, Razorcake was just about to launch its yearly donation drive where it asks its audience for a modest donation to keep the magazine’s subscription and advertising rates as low as possible to keep the title accessible.

We’re in print because of the generosity and support of our readers. We owe everything to them.”

Daryl Gussin

But its Razorcake’s unique Sponsor A Space program that has played a significant role in its success. Tax-deductible, because of the magazine’s non-profit status, Razorcake encourages interested readers to makes a donation of $150 and chooses a location for the title to send 25 copies of each issue to be given away for an entire year.

Such has been the success of the magazine’s fundraising efforts, the title has become a poster child for niche publishers and has even been giving advice to fellow ‘passion publishers’ – earlier this year Razorcake even traveled to the UK to give workshops and creative readings that also included how passion publishers can achieve that publishing pixie dust – financial sustainability.

Gussin himself is quick to pinpoint why Razorcake has been so successful – it’s reached out to its community of readers for help.

Razorcake is a magazine, but it is also a community. Our readers truly believe in what we do, and that means everything to us.

Daryl Gussin

Speaking to Getintothis earlier this year (pre-pandemic, remember that?), Gussin was asked whether a new groundswell of print fanzines could emerge again, and replied, “It’s definitely not impossible! There are ideas we need to unlearn when it comes to print media. Why do technological advances always have to outweigh personal preference? There are people who generally prefer oatmeal to cereal. And probably a lot more who would prefer oatmeal if society hadn’t taught them they had to eat cereal.

“My personal preference is physical formats because I feel I make more of a connection to it, and I find pleasure in it. And if art and entertainment isn’t about connection and pleasure, what is it about? What do I gain from choosing immediacy over connection?

“If you enjoy printing a zine, treat yourself, you will find kindred spirits who feel passionately about your passions. I’ve met some of my best f**n’ friends through Razorcake, people that I now consider family.”

There’s power in it because we believe in it. Follow your passions.

Daryl Gussin