Rolling Stone Is Going Country, But How Will Country React?

Industry publication Rolling Stone announced on Thursday (Dec. 5) that its illustrious and most revered brand would extend its dealings to include a country-centric website and print issue called Rolling Stone Country. Set for a second-quarter launch, magazine director Gus Wenner plans to open a Nashville office, enlisting a staff of 10 to 15 journalists, furthering their coverage much like they do rock and pop. “There’s a really big void in the digital coverage of country music as far as giving it the serious attention it deserves,” he said, noting the genre’s resurgence in popularity in recent years. “I saw some similarities and thought it could be an opportunity for Rolling Stone.”

“There’s a huge opportunity for us to expand the Rolling Stone consumer base by extending into country music,” Rolling Stone’s publisher Chris McLoughlin said. He expects the company to spend more than $1 million on the new site with 1 million monthly unique visitors anticipated in the first 12 months. If you take a look at the industry, country music is absolutely booming. Neilsen SoundScan reports it has attracted $1 billion, supplied by a 4.2% increase in album sales. In perspective, alternative and R&B sales have declined; rock only say a meager increase of 2%. Also, you have to look at the blooming popularity in such mediums as TV — “Nashville” and “The Voice” have advertisers absolutely giddy with excitement

Also, one must note that Rolling Stone’s print edition has struggled. Alliance of Audited Media says single-copy sales fell 28% in the first half of this year compared to a year ago and newsstand sales dropped 10%.

McLoughlin later added, “Certain categories of advertisers love country music because it’s a very sponsor-friendly genre. The performers are all super likable, they tend to be good people who value their fans and treat their fans well.”

This is a move that strikes a sensitive chord among those in the Music Row circles, begging the questions: Is the current money-making trend of country music the only incentive in launching this new brand? Where is the love of the art? And how will the country music community as a whole react to the publication that featured a terrorist on the cover?

I’m not so sure country will be as forgiving as the general entertainment industry.

To recap: Earlier this year, Rolling Stone published an issue with Boston bombing terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev‘s face plastered on the cover. It goes without saying that this simple (yet incredibly offensive) photo sparked controversy across the web.One particular noteworthy upheaval came from John Rich, of the popular hit-making duo Big & Rich.

The singer had lambasted of the brand across Twitter. As we all know, once you send something out onto the internet, it never goes away.

Dierks Bentley also had a special brand of reaction, taking things into his own hands with a hilarious photo of the cover.

He later explained his actions in an interview with CMT:

“That magazine is so iconic. I can’t even imagine how insulted those families must be by that image. When one of our own gets on there, it’s like, ‘Wow, man, you got on the cover of Rolling Stone.’ It was always the coolest magazine. Something you dream about as a little kid playing guitar and singing, like, ‘One day I’m gonna be on the cover of Rolling Stone.’ With one picture, they ruined that.”

Likewise, Brad Paisley weighed in on the controversy,

This is just a snapshot of the outrage that ensued over the summer. Regardless of your personal opinion on the incident, the larger issue becomes whether the often tight-knit and wholesome country community has forgiven or will forgive the magazine’s egregious lapse of judgement. As Rolling Stone goes country, the high-power executives are surely banking on a monumental return on investment next year. They smell money, and they are not afraid to reveal their motives.

My closing inquiry to you  is: Will the industry accept Rolling Stone Country with open arms or will it hold it at a distance for fear of exploitation? 

Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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Author: Country Cadre

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