Now anyone can be a Rolling Stone columnist, if they pay $2000 up front.

Famed music magazine Rolling Stone has launched a new "culture council" which offers "exclusive members-only benefits" such as peer networking and a community forum. As the website explains:

Rolling Stone Culture Council is a private, vetted community for influencers, tastemakers, and innovators in the worlds of music, entertainment, media, food & beverage, fashion, sports, gaming and cannabis.

But the real sweet perk, as The Guardian's Archie Bland (yes really) reports, is that:

Emails seen by the Guardian suggest that those who pass a vetting process – and pay a $1,500 annual fee plus $500 up front – will "have the opportunity to publish original content to the Rolling Stone website". It suggests that doing so "allows members to position themselves as thought leaders and share their expertise".


Publication is not guaranteed and prospective first-person pieces are vetted by Rolling Stone's partner, the Community Company. The pieces appear under a banner describing the Culture Council as "an invitation-only network of industry professionals who share their insights with our audience". A further pop-up discloses that membership is "fee-based".

To qualify, you must fit some of this criteria, and full out a form:

Rolling Stone Culture Council members are at least one of the following:

• Senior business executives
• Founders & entrepreneursThought leaders
• Or, principle departmental decision makers

For thought leaders:

• You must meet the criteria outlined for business executives, founders, or entrepreneurs
• Or, generate at least $50K annually speaking or giving presentations
• Or, receive compensation for 25+ speaking gigs at conferences, trade shows or corporate events.
• Or, be in a salaried position where you give 25+ speaking engagements annually.
• Or, be an author whose book is published through an established publishing house 
• Or, serve as a regular, edited (not self-published) contributor to an industry publication or website or international outlet that doesn't compete with Rolling Stone

The Guardian does note that the Penske Media Corporation, which owns Rolling Stone, insists that it will clearly differentiate between editorial content, and "culture council" advertorial SponCon.

This was honestly the next inevitable step in the Online Sponsored Content movement. This is itself not inherently a bad thing—the TV, publishing, and radio industries have always relied on advertising revenue to subsidize creative pursuits (sometimes called "the content"). Rolling Stone's Culture Council will probably pump up some great content. There will also probably be some weird "Nickleback Revival Tour, sponsored by Blackwater" kind of stuff. Which isn't so different from any other issue of Rolling Stone.

While the culture council entry costs are not cheap, there is an aspect to the concept where it actually kind of levels the playing field. Historically, it's been your parents who've had to give the money to the right places in order to secure you a writing role at a prestigious outlet like Rolling Stone. Now, anyone with money can do it, even without the pedigree! And that is #progress.

Rolling Stone Culture Council

Rolling Stone seeks 'thought leaders' willing to pay $2,000 to write for them [Archie Bland / The Guardian]

Image: Jim Parkinson / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)