Joel and Benji Madden became household names among emo Warped Tour fans two decades ago thanks to their band, Good Charlotte, and their 2002 album, The Young and the Hopeless. A little bit older and wiser, the identical twins got married (Joel to Nicole Richie, Benji to Cameron Diaz) and in 2018 launched their own streaming platform, Veeps, which broadcast pay-per-view concerts.
Live Nation acquired a majority stake in Veeps in 2021, and in the past couple of months, ramped up the platform significantly with the October 2023 launch of Veeps All Access (turning Veeps into an SVOD platform offering subscriptions at $11.99/month or a $120 annually, available via Veeps.com as well as apps on Apple TV, Roku, iOS, and Android), and in November 2023, expanded to include comedy specials, from stand-up to sketch to podcasts.
The first comedy special arrived Oct. 26 from Lewberger, a sketch group who previously had competed on NBC’s Bring The Funny. Netflix mainstay Katherine Ryan came over last month with her third and latest stand-up special, Missus. David Cross followed with Worst Daddy In The World; then Blair Socci’s debut, Live from The Big Dog; and Mo Welch’s docu-special, Dad Jokes. The newest special from Brad Williams, Starfish, premiered Dec. 21, while early 2024 will welcome specials from Reggie Watts, Pod Meets World, Jessi Cruickshank, plus multiple shows broadcast from January’s SF Sketchfest in San Francisco.
Who books this? Bart Coleman, Veeps head of comedy, who previously served in a similar role for Moment, and for Spotify Studios before that. He also has programmed talent lineups for Comedy Central’s roasts, @midnight, and late-night stand-up segments for Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
Coleman joined Kyle Heller, Veeps Chief Product Officer and co-founder, to fill Decider in on where Veeps fits into the streaming landscape and the current state of comedy.
DECIDER: What was the original vision for Veeps?
KYLE HELLER: It’s different in many ways and the same at the core. We’ve always founded the company to really connect artists and their fans at the end of the day. So it was originally started as a VIP ticketing business. VIP ticketing, you have core fans and they pay to show up to meet you and we believe that those are like your super fans and that’s how you can connect with your fans. And there was a better way to do connect your ticketing with your fans. And then when the pandemic happened, we launched the video portion of that and we saw tremendous growth during that time, and we saw, which was really interesting, especially even post pandemic is that these fans will hang around and want to connect with the artists in a deeper more intimate way. Want to experience the content on a more regular basis. And so we saw community start to form from content and from live streaming. And that is where we are today, which is why we brought on Bart to head up comedy because I’m sure you know, the comedy community is incredible and their fans love love to connect with their artists.
Bart, you’ve been involved in comedy from traditional broadcast network television to podcasting and then the livestreaming PPV/VOD space with Moment before this. What attracted you to Veeps, specifically?
BART COLEMAN: Well, it seemed like a great natural progression from what I’ve been doing for the last few years. And I connected with the Veeps team, knowing that there was a natural, strong connection to Live Nation comedy touring, I saw potential for incredible synergy that had never really existed before. The cycle for comedians is to prepare material for up to a year then tour that material up to a year and then at the end of the tour or close to the end of the tour, shoot it as a special. That tends to be the natural cycle for the pros that we’re really interested in. Knowing that so many of those tours emanate from Live Nation and Live Nation venues, hearing that Veeps has the crew and the high-end cinema gear to go in and shoot the most premium-looking specials in these venues, it all started to come together as like a really smart plan and offering for talent.
When talent and their reps hear about all this marketing support and the existing fan base that Veeps already has showing up, maybe looking for music but having the discovery of now there’s a whole menu of comedy specials, that’s the potential to create new fans, bring in a broader audience, and our audience base is every age, every gender. They’re coming for every genre of music, so it’s just a wider net and within that net, we’re able to also target and know where the comedy fans live, who’s buying tickets to these tours, who’s super fans of these comedians and really bring them to this experience, this digital experience. Maybe they couldn’t make it to the tour when it came to their town or maybe it was too far away, or the ticket prices were too high. Knowing what it costs to go out and see a show these days, it’s really appealing to enjoy these shows from the comfort of your own home with your own snacks and your own beer that didn’t cost $12. So yeah, it was just a really great meeting of the minds when I found the Veeps team.
When you were at Spotify, did Spotify have video capabilities?
For the two years I was there, they pushed video to the side. And it was an audio-first strategy. Later, after I left they went back to video. So I didn’t really get to experience the video strategy. The focus was audio, focus was really getting into podcasting and the early stages of audiobooks which is now a huge push. Yeah, during my time there was audio first.
So were you there when they made the deal with Joe Rogan?
That was probably when Spotify started to shift back to video because that’s a huge portion of his audience, wanting to watch three hours of Rogan getting stoned with celebrities.
That’s exactly right. And also the trends of podcasts going to video uploads on YouTube started to grow at a really fast rate. And, of course Spotify had to take notice of that and address it.
Then you went to Moment, which I suppose is Veeps’ closest competitor? How would you compare the two platforms?
They feel pretty different to me. Veeps is all about really high-end production. And that’s kind of the brand. Fans know Veeps from watching like beautifully shot concerts from the Foo Fighters. I mean to see Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones like bands that I’m personally obsessed with and I was watching on Veeps before. So, Moment was doing like a lot of creator economy shows, working with YouTubers. A lot of live podcasting and some of those were shot in people’s homes or basements, and it wasn’t really about a high-end production in a theater with an audience, just very different styles.
How would you compare Veeps to the other specialty SVOD platforms for comedy specials, such as Dry Bar Comedy (who focus on family-friendly stand-up, based out of Provo, Utah), or NextUp Comedy (who offer specials and livestreamed comedy shows out of the UK)?
A lot of the content you mentioned is really for YouTube. Some of that is shot low budget and in clubs or bars or small rooms. I think what Veeps is really going for are those bigger, kind of what feels like a comedy special back in the day you would watch on cable or as a pay-per-view event. But we are interested in emerging talent and I do see a day where we will have a NextUp type of show. Not today because today we’re really focused on launching with some bigger names, and really getting our name out there in the community, the destination for comedy, but we really support emerging talent. And I’m really excited to get into those formats, hopefully in 2024.
So like Katherine Ryan, David Cross, Reggie Watts, but then you also have like you mentioned emerging talent like Blair Socci. What is the sales pitch or what is the deal you sell them on doing something for Veeps rather than trying to sell it to any of the more established platforms or doing it through YouTube?
Great question. There is an opportunity here to monetize the special especially if the talent can be paid for the shoot themselves and they’re looking to make an initial investment back. Going with Veeps, there’s an opportunity to sell tickets to their fans, which is way different than going straight to YouTube where you have to break it up with ads and hope that you over time, make some of that money back through AdSense. I’m probably not an expert on how the AdSense works, so I can’t really speak to that, but there’s no ads on Veeps and really push the creative freedom to have the comedian present their vision for their special. So with that, not telling them like ‘cut this joke’ or ‘an advertiser is going to be upset by this topic.’ There’s none of that here. So there’s this creative freedom that is really appealing to artists who, say David Cross, for example, who I know was very involved in the editing of his own special and other comedians who are like that, who really care about this angle or lean into the audience during this joke when that’s super important to them, and we love that here.
In terms of like the production costs or the upfront costs of making a comedy special for Veeps: How much of that does the comedian have to bear vs. how much do you or does Live Nation in terms of the venue support or the crew or any of that? How does that work in general? I know it might be a case-by-case basis.
HELLER: Yeah, it’s it is a little case-by-case but I think that’s the benefit of having Live Nation’s backing is that we can put on an event in a Live Nation room for much less than anybody else, of course, but also we have rooms wired and we have teams that are actively filming live shows every day, whether it be music or comedy. And so we have economies of scale that we can bring to the table in that regard and produce a great project with the comic… Oftentimes we’ll cover the production costs or you know, it’s a recoupable cost the you know, sales similarly to how just the live events business works. And then we’ve also launched our subscription offering, so we have a base number of subscribers that contributes to discovery and viewing the shows and that gets monetized as well.
In terms of the other offering that we provide comedians beyond other areas, other platforms, because we’ve integrated within Ticketmaster and other platforms, our events get listed. So like for instance, the David Cross special’s listed on Ticketmaster as a broadcast event so people that are looking for his tour, are also seeing that he had a special that’s on Veeps. And we’re seeing a lot of discovery happen through that and that also gets downstream picked up by Spotify and through about 300 other sites. So we see a lot of discovery through that. We have major partnerships with Samsung and Verizon so we can help sort of promote and boost artists across those areas and those channels and then we look at every show as like its own event. So we’re marketing it through socials and email in our database and Ticketmaster and Live Nation. So we have a very holistic approach to how we can generate attention to artists, which is the end game for us is to get as many eyes on artists as we can and build that discovery mechanism which is what Bart was referring to with the emerging artists.
Reminds me now how some of the hotter comedians of today like Andrew Schulz or Matt Rife, they both did specials with Moment. There was an exclusive window that it was a Moment special, and then it disappeared off Moment and then they got it back and then they could put it on YouTube and get millions of additional views on YouTube. What is the process for a comedian who has a special with Veeps? Is it always just on Veeps? Or does it eventually get resold to somewhere else or does it revert back to the comedian and how does that work?
COLEMAN: Great question. Yes. So it’s similar, that we don’t own the content forever. We license it for a period of time. And then after that, the artists can put it on YouTube or sell it elsewhere, or put it on their own website. That’s up to the artists. It’s a really strong selling point.
Since Veeps All access is still relatively new, what if it only just started the beginning of October, right? So what have you learned about about All Access so far?
HELLER: We’re seeing fans really find new content and really find a lot of joy in watching what we have to offer, where before it was very, very siloed. People came for their one piece of content, but they didn’t really stay to watch anything else because they were there to watch that artist, so it’s doing exactly what we were hoping for, which is finding new content expanding other categories.
And because you are associated with Live Nation now, what are the best Live Nation venues for comedy?
COLEMAN: Oh, gosh, so many all over the country. I mean here in LA, I just saw Maz Jobrani at the Wiltern and I find that a really nice room for comedy. There’s so many in New York and really all points in between. When I looked at the whole list of Live Nation venues it’s overwhelming when I start to think about where where can we shoot, person special, it’s kind of endless, and they have venues all over Europe. It’s a truly global company. So I’m excited to find that next venue that has great camera positions and options for set design and to have things look really special. Not just your typical brick wall or red curtain behind the comedian. We want these to stand out, look different than every other special.
Do you have a preference in terms of the venue size for a comedy special?
A lot of these shows end up being in like 1,500 to 2,000 seat venues. Typically the ones that are selling so well. I know there’s big events happening in arenas and great energy in those shows. It involves more cameras and more production elements. But we’re open to all of it. And it really comes down to what the artist wants. Where do they feel like the best fan experience is going to happen? And we’re there to capture it.
Is there anything that I didn’t bring up that you want to make sure that I mention?
Yeah, I just wanted to mention how unique some of the specials that we have on sale now. The Mo Welch: Dad Jokes special which is a hybrid stand-up with documentary footage about her being estranged from her dad and going on a journey to meet up with him for the first time in 20 years. And using that as a jumping-off point for all the jokes she’s written as a stand-up to kind of get them all out on stage while weaving in this incredible story. And it was so beautifully shot. And when I watched it, I was just captivated. Like I thought I’ve never seen anything like this. I really think it’s a great fit for Veeps and we’re just so happy that she premiered with us on Dec. 10.
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat. He also hosts The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First, a podcast consisting of half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories.