The Zine Community and the Exploitation of Artists


Kate De Prima, Staff Writer

A zine, which comes from the word magazine, is defined as a self-published booklet that can include art, poetry, or photography. Zines are a popular way for small artists to publish stories or ideas physically. They are sold at festivals or gatherings or even at events like L.A. Zine Fest which happens annually.

Ever since I first learned what a zine was, I have been intrigued by their unique and modest length. It’s a challenge to present a story or concept in only a few pages, but the combination of writing and visuals is what makes a zine work. Anything can be expressed in a zine, from deep, heartfelt emotions to everyday slice-of-life comics. As I got more and more interested in making zines, I realized that the small community of creators are reflected in the work, as they are relatively humble and empathetic. Zine artists are hardworking and will passionately take weeks to write, draft, and perfect a zine.

When I took a closer look, though, I noticed that there was a repeating pattern of exploiting artists, especially in collaborative zines. Instead of only one person writing, creating and producing a zine, a collaborative zine usually has multiple people working on it. There is a hierarchy of admin, then writers and artists. Admins are in charge of organizing the writers and artists and managing the money, while the writers and artists work together to create the zine. Normally, collaborative zines aren’t self-funded but crowd-funded through means of funding sites like Kickstarter or Patreon. The money a zine produces isn’t always for the profit of the creators either, and many times the money is donated to a charity.

The exploitation of the artists usually occurs when admins are too controlling over their artist partners, and when the zine isn’t for a charity. The organizers try to get artists to work for free or for fun because they don’t want to have to pay for artists’ hard work. Admins will budget enough money for their own salary but not for the creators, and they get away with it because they’re the ones controlling the money.

Since people have generalized that art is fun to make and easy to learn, the stigma that artists have it easy has formed. This stigma is very harmful towards independent artists because their art is their only outlet of income, and if they are constantly being exploited for their work, it can severely damage their livelihood.

Even though zines are short, and don’t necessarily require months to make, that doesn’t mean zine artists should not be paid for their efforts. No matter the project, paying creators should not be disregarded.


Photo courtesy of BINDERYMKE.COM