Two years ago, Austin punk collector Ryan Richardson at Circulation Zero did a very cool thing, offering free, searchable downloads of complete runs of punk mags and zines, including Slash (1977-1980; 29 issues), No Mag (1978-1985; 14 issues), Damage (1979-1981; 13 issues, and Dry (1979-1982; 14 issues). This followed Richardon's uploading of other mags to his website, including Rock Scene and Star. "The beauty of digitization really sinks in at 30,000 feet," Richardson writes in his manifesto. "In-flight woes—that seat leaned to within an inch of your face, the unshowered over-sharer, the wailing toddler—all fade with Claude Bessy rants and Melanie Nissen pics in view. Several years ago, a collector comrade assembled a complete run of Slash magazine (with a little help from me) and had scanned every last newsprint page and had sent 'em my way (thanks, Jeff). That small kindness of sharing such a sizable effort would prove to be a turning point."
While complete runs of fanzines like Touch & Go and We Got Power have been collected into awesome anthologies, many pioneering punk rags—the large format, newsprint ones in particular—are available only to dedicated collectors or packrats who've kept 'em since way back when. Not infrequently I've talked to fanzine creators and contributors who didn't even hang onto copies of their own publications. While assembling some sets is doable with some moxie and spending cash, several runs border on the impossible even if you've got the drive and dough to acquire 'em. Digital editions are the only way most people will encounter these punk rags of yesteryear.
Circulation Zero is an experiment, my attempt to "give back" by parlaying the preservation of some beloved punk publications into a greater good. My hope is that the original creators will not only enjoy seeing their work resuscitated but will also appreciate the fact that their work is helping generate donations to worthy causes. The site is also an attempt to answer some questions that bounce around in my head. Are collections better off inside institutional libraries or in the hands of collectors? Should ancient in-fighting prevent bringing the punk print hey-day to a new generation? Should eggshell walking over copyright issues cock-block oldsters from taking a whirl on the wayback machine? Can a world chock full of entitled interweb denizens be trusted to donate even a pittance in exchange for a treasure trove of never-before-digitized fanzines? I don't know the answers but hopefully Circulation Zero will prove my hunches correct. Dig in!
Here's a 2015 article about Richardson and Circulation Zero in the Austin American Statement. “I just wanted to have all this stuff in once place,” Richardson says. “I wanted to be able to read it on a plane.”
There was no point—not to mention a mess of legal issues—in trying to monetize any of this labor, but Richardson didn’t want to just give it away. So we, the public who do not have time or money to track down all of this rare stuff, are the beneficiaries of Richardson’s time and labor.
“Hopefully, I can generate some charitable contributions,” Richardson says. “If you’re broke, fine. If you go to Starbucks once a week, you can kick in $10 to use this stuff.”
Top photo by Rodolfo Gonzalez via American/Statesmen