Rolling Stone is iconic for its covers. As a musician or band gracing the cover of Rolling Stone would probably signify the ultimate success in their music career. The general perception is that appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone is your one way ticket to the Hall of Fame in the music world, it means you’re a brilliant musician and probably destined for greater things. So with the recent addition of Rolling Stone South Africa to the franchise, one cannot help but wonder whether the magazine will live up to this perception and advocate the parent magazine, yet still be credited as an independent magazine with an opinion of its own or whether it will just jump the on the band wagon (excuse the pun) instead of making its own claim to fame independently and become “just another Rolling Stone publication”.

Miles Keylock, ex-English language, literature and drama lecturer at the University of Cape Town turned full time music journalist and more recently editor of Rolling Stone SA smashes all doubt that the magazine is just a spin-off hoping to feed off the success of the Rolling Stone brand. Miles says that Rolling Stone SA aims to be the voice of South African pop culture by telling the “untold stories” of our local musicians. When asked about how the magazine goes about choosing who will feature on the cover Miles challenged the general perception that one has to be a musical genius to land a cover by stating that Rolling Stone doesn’t necessarily look for the most amazing artists.

“We’re interested in artists who have something to say. Just because you’re a good musician doesn’t mean you have a story to tell […] You’ve got to have attitude […] It’s about navigating where we live in. SA is full of contradictions and paradoxes […] The stories centre on answering and trying to figure out how to live in this strange world.”

While Rolling Stone is indeed a magazine that focuses on music, we need to realise that South Africa is drenched in rich culture and therefore our art, in this particular case music, is a representation of that culture. This is something that Rolling Stone SA stresses with each story and each cover.

However, this idea of the right “attitude” and finding ones way in this “strange world” we call home sparks a little bit of hope for all the artist struggling to “make it” in the music scene. Knowing that it is indeed possible for an indie band from the southern suburbs of Cape Town to one day claim a Rolling Stone cover says a lot for the way in which the industry is growing. Heck, South Africa landing its own Rolling Stone alone proves that internationally our music industry is being recognised and acknowledged, that said if they pull it off well.

While Rolling Stone intends to give local music a platform through which their stories can be told we cannot ignore the fact that it is a business and that they actually have to meet a sales quota and all those other boring things that come with running a magazine that has such a great legacy. Miles mentions some of the battles the magazine has to face when it comes to choosing who goes on the cover or which stories will be published. Investors naturally have their investments best interests in mind and tend to try and influence the magazine’s choices in a way that will benefit that said investment. There is often the situation when they have to choose between a “safe” cover like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, that could possibly sell more easily than a riskier cover featuring an unknown local artist like Spoek Mathambo (May) with an interesting story. However, Rolling Stone has thus far remained true to the “underdogs”  and hav dedicated six of the seven covers to local artists and pointing us in the direction of talent that is right under our noses.

On that note, not only does Miles seem to be a professed supporter of local music but also seems to back the young journalist. When asked what made a piece worth publishing he simply said that it was passion and heart. He went on to saying that lack of passion would prove to be a problem if one wanted to be a sucessful writer. These wise words reverberated throughout the room filled with second year media students who all had one thing in common, they were all interested in entertainment journalism and passion and heart was something they all claimed to have.

Rolling Stone SA’s ethos represents an overwhelming support to all that is African culture and all those artists who were never given the opportunity to tell South Africa and the world their stories. Thus far Rolling Stone has proved that it can carry on the legacy of its father publication yet at the same time stay loyal to South Africa’s roots.

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