Sunday, December 04, 2011

why bother?

hi everyone

well, it pains me to write this. really, it does. i suppose i never had all that many dreams, aspirations or plans when i was growing up, to be honest. i have more or less fumbled my way here by luck, good fortune and the favour of others.

the one thing i could always do, and the thing that people very kindly say i am not too bad at, is write. if you assume that, what, about 90% of the world dreams of being a novelist or something, then i dare say my dreams were of that but probably closer to a journalist of some description. whereas the art of newspaper journalism is all but dead (it really isn't much these days beyond rewriting press releases and publishing "investigative" pieces so long as they do not offend advertisers), i suppose the one thing i really, really wanted to do was write for Rolling Stone. back in the 70s and 80s, it was, after all, the pinnacle of "it".

it was with some brief excitement that i heard, then, that Rolling Stone was to finally get a South African edition. the excitement went as soon as i heard that it was to be a "version designed specifically for the South African market". why is this a bad thing? because no single overseas product "specifically designed" for here has worked, really. it tries to be something to everyone and ends up being nothing.

Google seems in particular to share my concerns about this. here is a screenshot of what you get when you "google" for the magazine :

yep, you are reading right. the official site for the magazine does not come up on the first page of a basic search. this also means that the producers of the magazine simply haven't bothered to pay google for a priority hit. either that's base arrogance in assuming everyone will know the address or simply hook up via the grand social network, or it is just trying to trim costs in case of failure. either way, it's incredibly dumb to set up a commercial website and then not make it easy to search for.

oh, and a word to the wise on that site - if for some confusing reason you are thinking of subscribing to the magazine, even though the website just about has the whole magazine there for free, as far as i can see (and i am not really an expert) the place to go and hand over your credit card info does not have the "s" for secure in the address. you have been warned.

moving on, and of course i bought the magazine - when i found it. apparently they had a big launch party for it during the week, but opted against promotional instore material. i eventually found it buried in the back corner of one store. they really are resigned to this failing, aren't they?

once upon a time, you had to earn your place on the front of Rolling Stone magazine. that, i think, was why the magazine was once so awesome. you could be as big as you like in terms of sales and regular coverage, but unless you had really stood out, or broke new ground, you didn't make the front of the only magazine that, once upon a time, counted. this, sadly, changed in the 90s and 2000s, when Rolling Stone more or less gave up and shoved anyone on the front who my shift more copies.

happily, at the least, the first edition of it here returns to the core value, and puts one of the few SA artists to have earned such a distinction on the front, Mr Hugh Masekela.

and, in further fairness, it's a pretty good interview/article inside. just about, at a push, worth getting the magazine for. as for the rest of the content, well, not so much.

within the first few pages there is, somewhat confusingly for a first edition, a letters page. these are presumably the works of overexcited people who found the website before the magazine was launched, or "facebooked" it. and, for the most part, the letters all give you a clue as to why this venture is likely to fail.

it's an English language magazine, right, and at least one of the letters (i am not bothering to read them again to see how many) are complaining about the lack of support or celebration for Afrikaans language bands. huh? beyond that, there's a great deal of whining about this and that, nothing particularly constructive.

anyway, moving on to articles, and in brief we have the following :

Coldplay are a big band who have sold records.

Red Hot Chilli Peppers
have done an awful lot of drugs, gone through many members, and have sold an awful lot of records.

iTunes flat refuse to sell in Africa but let's moan about illegal downloads anyway.

someone called i think LeBron James or something went to prison (i think) and has loads of money.

The International Arms Trade is quite naughty.

cheers for that, quite groundbreaking stuff. what would Lester Bangs say?

actually "interesting" stories they could have tackled include, but are not limited to, the ins and outs of The Stone Roses reforming - one of the most unlikely and subsequently celebrated events in the history of music, Martin Gore reuniting with former founding band member Vince Clarke, the nice little teasing Jagger is doing about a Rolling Stone's 50th anniversary show, why exactly Europe and the Euro is a mess (not all Arms Trade related), why is Simon Cowell being allowed to take over and play with the last remaining pure chart, the UK singles one, and so on and so on. basically anything but writing by the numbers articles on stuff we kind of know or are not interested in, thanks.

moving on, if you so wish to, and you get the reviews. ahem. here's their lead review.

yes, that's right kids, it's a review of the Nirvana Nevermind deluxe 20th anniversary edition thing. to be more specific, it's the review of it, word by word, that featured in an edition of RS that i got from Australia. In October. there's also a hack review of the Evanescence album from, i think, September. wowee, roll on the January 2012 edition, perhaps they will have caught wind of the new Coldplay album by then, or perhaps even the fact that Noel Gallagher has made a solo album. there are one or two token SA release reviews, written in a rather shameless way to sort of "slot it" but stick out badly.

for me the most bizarre part of the magazine was some sort of "advertorial editorial picture feature" featuring someone or other called Van Coke Cartel (i think).

they, for the most part, seem to be modelling items sold by Woolworths and saying how bad the English language is for them to write in. the conclusions i draw from this are that Woolworths here are Marks & Spencers in the UK, and you don't really see Kasabian walking around in M&S gear. and if the English langauge is so bad, please feel absolutely free to stay the f*** out of English language magazines, then.

finally, then, we get to the "charts" page.

this features a pretend Kwaito chart and a pretend House chart. for whose benefit is this, exactly? i do not recall seeing or flicking over any mention of either of those styles of music in the previous pages. strange.

well, that's the good and the bad of it. for R35 you could do worse, i suppose. i would imagine that i shall continue to purchase it (if it survives) purely in the hope that eventually they give up trying to "make it for the market" and give us what we want - recent articles from the vastly superior US and International versions and not waste space of trivial, "this will do won't it" local content. should they come up with something inspired from Africa then great, but they haven't really here.

mostly, though, i guess to quote Noel Gallagher, the dreams we have as children fade away. the Rolling Stone i knew and loved doesn't seem to exist here, so i guess there's not much chance of my trying my luck and writing for them. can't even be bothered to send them a mail, frankly, they seem to have enough whingers and whiners to fill up the letters page.

happy reading if you pick it up. if you can find it, of course.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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