“It has to be a Beatle,” Miles Keylock says, completely straight faced. When hit with the question about the Paul McCartney controversy over the cover of Rolling Stone South Africa, his answer comes immediately. He breaks into a smile though and jokes that it really does take a lot to have an international artist bump a local one off the cover. However, according to him, it ended up not mattering in the long run, as McCartney on the cover “made absolutely no difference” in sales.

For a man in such a high position, and for one who has worked quite hard to get there, Miles Keylock is quite down to earth. Keylock has had a great deal of experience writing for magazines, having previously written for GQ before getting the OK from America to produce a South African Rolling Stone. Before that, he taught English and Drama, and credits his own education to getting him where he is today. Although he jokes “I slept my way into a magazine,” after getting one of his first magazine jobs through a woman he had been seeing, he does acknowledge the importance of his university degree and the courses he took. “They give you the tools…angles,” he claims, citing them as important in developing his own writing style.

For Keylock, the decision to stick to local, national artists over international superstars, like Paul McCartney is usually how he runs Rolling Stone. To him it’s not about what’s ‘hot’ but rather what story the artist has to tell. “We’re interested in artists who have something to say,” he says. “Just because you’re a good musician doesn’t mean you have a story to tell.” As far as choosing beyond that, Keylock’s advice for making the cover of the magazine is merely that artists “have to have an attitude.” He doesn’t mean an attitude problem, or a bad attitude, rather he says he looks for an artist about whom he can say, “here’s a guy who actually embodies the rock and roll spirit.” When deciding on which musicians to cover for the magazine, it’s about personality and spirit even more than what or who is popular at the time. While Keylock does claim that they look for “artists that speak to the present,” it goes beyond that. He doesn’t like the idea of covering musicians just because they are all the rage at the time. If they don’t have a story or they don’t have something new to tell, he doesn’t see the point in bothering. “We want those stories that haven’t been told,” he says to that point. “For me… it’s about sharing a story, a story that strikes a chord with me.”

More important to Keylock than just choosing a cover is keeping Rolling Stone South Africa true to South Africa. With sixteen other international versions of Rolling Stone being published across the world, it is important to him to keep the South African edition true to South Africa. “Rather than replicate Rolling Stone America… we need to represent the demographics of this country,” Keylock states. “We have our own chart toppers.” He goes on to explain how it is vital to keep the magazine embodying the South African spirit. With so many other versions of Rolling Stone already being published, keeping the magazine true to it’s South African roots, covering South African artists and South African stories, is what keeps it different from the other editions and what keeps the readers interested. “Is that international story going to strike a big enough chord in South Africa?” he says he must ask about what to run. Because just as Rolling Stone’s American readers aren’t likely to be interested in the music scene in South Africa, readers in South Africa care more about their own music scene. “It’s about representing the country we live in,” Keylock notes. He says he often gets people who ask him if he thinks he’ll run out of local South African artists to put in Rolling Stone. To which he responds with “What country do you live in?” It’s a question he can hardly contemplate and, judging by his expression relating the story, one he can hardly tolerate as well. He gets visibly frustrated by people who don’t realize how many talented musicians and groups there are in South Africa. Clearly that is not one of his major concerns for the magazine.

So there you have it. From one of our top editors, a how-to on how to make it in Rolling Stone. To make it on a cover, you have to be a whole lot of different things. A good musician, to start, but more importantly, you have to have attitude. You have to exemplify the rock and roll spirit that Rolling Stone is known for. How to really make it as a feature in the magazine though is simple. You have to have a story to tell, a story that hasn’t already been told, a story that will captivate and engage readers. How to become an editor at Rolling Stone is another story. For that, you need to get the right education and the right writing experience. Or possibly you just need to sleep with the right people.

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