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Singapore-based BandLab plans to make Rolling Stone a force in Asia

Legendary American media group Rolling Stone International is set to make a huge push across Asia-Pacific and the United Kingdom. It is currently looking for staff writers and content creators in Jakarta, Singapore, Sydney and London.

The approach on Rolling Stone is said to be to grow the brand’s global audience by increasing local music and entertainment editorial coverage, and ‘community engagements’, in markets outside the US. To this end, regular live concerts are also on the cards — it is claimed.

Driving the push is Meng Ru Kuok, the founder of the Singapore-based BandLab Technologies which acquired a 49% stake in Rolling Stone in 2016. Kuok currently holds the title of chief executive officer at Rolling Stone International and had made an unsuccessful bid for more equity, but the remaining 51% was sold to US magazine conglomerate Penske Media instead in 2017.

Kuok is son of Kuok Khoon Hong, a billionaire who owns palm oil firm Wilmar. The younger Kuok has made no secret about his interest in music. His firm BandLab Technologies includes a cloud-based platform that allows musicians to collaborate. Besides BandLab and his stake in Rolling Stone, he also owns music store chain Swee Lee.

Speculation has been rife about him finding a way to combine and harmonise these diverse interests. Responding to a question on the subject in an interview with the Bandwagon website last year, Kuok had said: “Right now, Swee Lee and BandLab sit separately but it is something that makes sense to be combined and consolidated in the near future. We’re not touching that yet.”

Meng Ru Kuok

Announcing the expansion, Kuok said: “Although Rolling Stone’s roots are firmly planted in American pop culture, the brand has been a global driving force. This position of global authority is one we are seeking to strengthen and expand with greater focus and coverage on local music culture and creativity in more markets around the world.

“We’re investing in editorial and launching dedicated digital experiences because we understand the critical importance of having local journalists with their fingers on the pulse of local music scenes. We’re excited to be building a team of relevant, experienced voices on local music, culture and entertainment to dig up unique stories for a wider global audience.”

Speaking to Mumbrella, BandLab Technologies associate vice president for communications and partnerships Lauren Hendry Parsons said that there was no announcement to be made at this stage as to whether the magazine would return in a physical or purely digital format.

An indicative trend comes from India where Rolling Stone magazine announced last July that it would be available in a predominantly digital format, with only a few special issues making it to print. On the plans for Asia and whether each country is likely to have its own distinct site, Parsons said: “I can confirm Rollingstone.Asia will be the regional portal for local music entertainment and culture.”

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