Monday, March 21, 2011

Rock and Rolling Stone

Rock ‘n Roll was the original mass movement and now it’s into the participation game. Rolling Stone magazine is running a contest that will see the first ever unsigned band feature on its hallowed cover, as voted by you and me. 16 hopefuls will be whittled down to eight through a combination of public votes online and the esteemed judgement of the magazine’s editors. After that it’s completely down to the fans to take the eight down to four, the four to two, and the two to one over three rounds. Sample the talent here.

The voting starts online, but in true rock style the winner will be chosen through a battle of the bands at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, TN. As well as featuring on the front of Rolling Stone, the winner will land a recording contract with Atlantic Records, a label that counts the likes of James Blunt, Phil Collins, The Stone Temple Pilots and Tracy Chapman in its stable.

The fact that the editors of the magazine have hand picked the 16 contenders in the competition means that it’s not the raw, viral platform that shot Justin Bieber to stardom (Bieber is the face of the current issue of Rolling Stone). But it does have the key ingredient of a live connection to readers.

The real challenge will be post-competition, when it’s up to the winner to prove they can earn the enduring Love and Respect that’s normally required to make the cover of the world’s greatest music magazine. Lovemark or fad? The fans will decide.

PS: I spoke to the staff at Rolling Stone a few years ago, one of those invitations that comes along that you just can’t say no to. I have been a fan of the magazine for all of its 44 years. Founder Jann Wenner is still the publisher and his moxie is still to the forefront. A few weeks ago Michael Hastings won the coveted George Polk Award in Journalism for his story "Runaway General", which received the magazine reporting award, resulted in the sacking of US Army General Stanley McChrystal by Barack Obama.