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Rolling Stone to sell 49% stake to Singapore-based BandLab Technologies

SINGAPORE will take centre stage to help Rolling Stone sing to a wider audience.

The storied 49-year-old American magazine has struck a chord with an external investor for the first time. It will be selling a 49 per cent stake to Singapore-based music startup BandLab Technologies for an undisclosed sum, Rolling Stone's parent company Wenner Media said in a press release issued on Sunday night. Wenner Media will retain the remaining 51 per cent.

"BandLab Technologies will focus on expanding Rolling Stone's business in new markets, and propelling the brand's global evolution," said the release.

Reports note that BandLab will own part of Rolling Stone's print and digital assets. It will not own any part of Wenner Media. BandLab would not be involved editorially.

Rolling Stone International, a fully owned subsidiary, will be set up in Singapore "to build on the brand's worldwide appeal and recognition". This includes managing live events and marketing.

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Rolling Stone International will be led by 28-year-old Meng Ru Kuok, who also co-founded and heads BandLab. Mr Kuok is the son of Singapore businessman Kuok Khoon Hong, founder of Wilmar International.

"Kuok's broader business interests and profound love of music fundamentally align with Rolling Stone," said the release.

In 2012, Mr Kuok acquired a 70-year-old music retail and wholesale business Swee Lee Music and turned it into a leading regional online and offline provider of integrated musical services in South-east Asia.

BandLab, the group's flagship digital product, is a social music platform that enables creators to make music and share the creative process with collaborators and fans.

Other recent acquisitions include Composr, a European iOS and Web music-making service and Mono Creators Inc, the San Francisco-based design studio that creates high-end instrument cases, straps and accessories for musicians, reported Bloomberg.

BandLab is being funded by a group of private investors that include Mr Kuok's father and JamHub Corp, a maker of audio mixers.

Rolling Stone currently reaches a global audience of over 65 million people, including approximately 22 million domestic digital monthly users, nearly 18 million social fans and followers and close to 12 million readers of the US print publication, said the release.

The move comes as newspapers and magazines are reducing their reliance on advertising revenue from print products.

According to data quoted in other reports provided by Rolling Stone, ad pages fell by 14 per cent at the magazine between January and August compared to the same period a year ago.

Rolling Stone is seen as a stalwart of US pop culture, and also gained recognition for its political coverage.

But its reputation has taken a hit in recent years, particularly with a 2014 feature that focused on campus rape at a University of Virginia fraternity.

The magazine later retracted the feature, but is still facing trial for lawsuits brought against it because of the piece.

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