Ville Juurikkala – Good Charlotte
co-founders of Veeps & MDDN.Co
Perhaps two of the last people you’d expect to be leading today’s livestreaming game are two pop punk stars who a few decades back were eliciting shrieks of tween joy on MTV’s “TRL” and rocking the Warped Tour while sporting eyeliner, tats and spiky hair. But it’s their perspective as artists that makes all the difference.
Benji and Joel Madden, the 41-year-old twins who front Good Charlotte, created ticketing platform Veeps out of necessity to solve a problem – namely, helping bands sell VIP offerings. Nobody could have predicted the platform would be set up in advance of a global pandemic, ready to evolve to address the industry’s biggest crisis yet.
– Benji & Joel Madden: Pollstar Live! Digital Session
Tune in Tuesday, Aug. 17 at 11 a.m. PT.
With most-in person events prohibited because of COVID-19 restrictions, Veeps has found a way to safely put on performances and provide income for artists by emerging as one of the premier ticketing livestream platforms, with clients including Brandi Carlile, Liam Payne and Pete Yorn. Since COVID hit in March, artists have made millions of dollars in revenue from their livestream shows on Veeps, with hundreds of thousands of tickets sold. The artist-friendly company boasts no set up or hidden fees and is 100% commission-free, with fans paying a 15% service fee that is charged on top of the ticket price.
“It’s early in the game for what this all means with COVID and we don’t even know what the implications [of the pandemic] are financially for so many people. … Veeps is great because we see artists making money and surviving,” Joel Madden says during a Zoom interview from his home in Los Angeles.
Benji Madden adds, “We’ve seen artists paying their entire touring families and crews throughout the rest of the year.”
– Brandi Carlile
and her band perform her 2012 album Bear Creek during a livestream show on Veeps July 12.
He explains that while many companies have pivoted during the pandemic, for Veeps it was more of an evolution. “This was something we were actually working on. … we had thousands of ticketed events under our belt. We had this capability built and beta tested.”
Just like Veeps was able to expand to meet 2020’s unique needs, Benji and Joel’s roles in the music industry have transformed over the years. Good Charlotte rose from working class roots in Waldorf, Mass., to signing with Epic and earning breakthrough success with their second studio album, 2002’s 3X platinum The Young and the Hopeless, featuring the hit single “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.” They were quickly headlining arenas across the U.S.
After a hiatus that began in 2011, Good Charlotte returned in 2015 with the single “Makeshift Love” and reunited on stage with a show at iconic West Hollywood, Calif- venue The Troubadour. That was also the year Benji and Joel founded MDDN – a Los Angeles-based company that offers music management, production and digital media marketing – along with their older brother Josh as Chief Creative Officer. Good Charlotte, which will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its first album in September, has continued to record music and tour, with an average gross per show of $89,266 in the last two years. Benji runs MDDN as its President while Joel left the company to head up Veeps as CEO and formed a partnership with ICM in 2019 to build artist relationships.
James Devaney/WireImage/Getty Images – Back In The Day:
Good Charlotte stops by MTV’s “TRL” to watch the band’s new video with host Carson Daly on Aug. 20, 2006.
“Joel and I reached a point in our journey where we realized that we had a real desire to mentor and help other artists author their own careers,” Benji says. “As songwriters and producers, we couldn’t really do that. The only way we could do that is if we were actually partnering with artists and managing them. … The driving force of it was, what would I tell myself 15 years ago if I went back to my younger self? What advice would I give? When we get to work with other artists, that’s a dream come true.”
MDDN’s management clients include Sleeping With Sirens, Architects, Jalaiah, Nikki Fre$h, CRX and Poppy.
Veeps was launched to give touring artists the power to manage their VIP offerings, including meet-and-greets and experiences. The company was created as an artist-facing platform, giving bands a suite of tools to sell VIP through their individual sites.
“With up-and-coming to working artists what we saw was in the earlier stages of the development of these artists, there weren’t great VIP solutions that are consistent and cohesive and that really had their future business in mind where you’re trying to grow something over time,” Joel said.
Screenshot/Wesley Switzer – LP
plays her debut livestream show on Veeps Aug. 1. Manager Nick Bobetsky of State of the Art (SOTA) praised Veeps for “creating meaningful content and virtual connectedness between LP and her fans.” Along with the concert, Veeps hosted a virtual soundcheck party and a live Q&A between LP and Allison Hagendorf, the Global Head of Rock Spotify.
The Maddens repeatedly give credit to their teams at MDDN and Veeps, with Benji saying, “We may be the frontmen [but] it’s all about the teams that we have been lucky enough to put together … incredible, driven and smart people that love working together. It’s an amazing feeling when you get to be a part of a team of people that are celebrating a win for an artist.”
Veeps was co-founded in 2017 by the Maddens along with Kyle Heller (co-founder and Chief Product Officer) and Sherry Saeedi (co-founder and Chief Operating Officer).
Saaedi got her start in the music business 10 years ago doing artist management and has worked with acts including Anti-Flag, Waterparks, Set It Off, Ice Nine Kills and Palisades.
She explains that prior to Veeps, when her artist clients would ask about doing a CD release party or VIP option for their tour, “I’d have to justify to the band why 20, 30% of their money was taken out once the event was settled. And it was hard because in my head, I was just like, ‘Well, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s just the way it is.’”
After talking with Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman about an idea she had, he introduced her to Benji and Joel and she flew out to L.A. to meet them.
“There was just really good chemistry. MDDN has a very encouraging environment around raising up entrepreneurs, and it was there that Veeps was born. I was hired to work on the management team at the time, and it wasn’t long before we were building Veeps. We believed that artists are the ones who run the show. So why at the core of their business, which is truly touring and fans these days, why should any power be taken away from them? … Our goal was really just putting the power back in the hands of the artists, how it should have been.”
When Heller first met the Maddens and Saaedi in 2017 video streaming was already pretty established. By that point he’d been building software and video experiences for the entertainment industry for a number of years and he explains the “momentum at that time was to make direct-to-consumer experiences more interactive for the audience – like working with brands such as Louis Vuitton and Net-a-Porter to enable viewers to be able to buy products directly from their screens.”
Heller adds, “I had always had a passion for the music industry and I saw real opportunity and necessity for a platform that leveraged video technology to allow artists and performers to connect with their fans in better ways. Akin to what Twitch has done for a gaming audience, or YouTube for an influencer audience. We also wanted everyone to gain value from the experience, from fans feeling like they had access to something really special, to artists having more control over their business and the ability to drive meaningful revenue through the platform.”
David Wolff – Patrick/Getty Images – Joel Madden and Benji Madden
from Good Charlotte perform at Le Bataclan on June 7, 2017 in Paris.
Veeps began with just a handful of bands and earlier this year had recently hit a growth spurt, expanding to about 350 acts on the platform before COVID hit. Joel explains that livestreaming, which they saw as a function of VIP, wasn’t an offering that anyone had really been that interested in. Of course, that all changed this spring.
“Our virtual ticketing works the same as our physical ticketing, so it’s very simple and easy to use and manage. We were easily able to pivot into live streaming fully as an offering on the platform because we had built the tools and they weren’t far off from being ready to use,” Joel says. “We had a large group of artists that were willing to jump in. So over the last hundred days, we’ve obviously grown to predominantly live streaming, though we always tell the artists using Veeps to livestream they will be able to take those fans and continue that relationship outside of livestreaming when we can get back to [traditional] touring.”
Veeps’ first post-COVID livestream was on March 30 with Lissie, who recently returned to the platform for an Aug. 2 show filmed at the empty Parkway Theater in Minneapolis, with a portion of ticket sales benefiting the venue. Other artists who have used the platform include All Time Low, Matisyahu, Black Veil Brides, Angel Olsen, LP and Puddles Pity Party.
The average ticket price to a livestream show is $10-$15, with prices set by artists’ teams. An emerging artist might expect to make roughly $10,000 or more per livestream show, while a more established artist can earn between $30,000-$50,000, and a well-established artist with a large fanbase can make well into six figures for a livestream show.
Veeps has seen a 135% increase in the number of virtual shows in the last month alone and the company is also growing, having more than doubled its team size in the last four months, with over 20 people now on board.
– Puddles Pity Party
appears June 13 during his first series of livestream shows on Veeps. Stuart Ross of Red Light Management says, “We looked at a number of streaming providers, and chose Veeps due to their ability to provide high quality audio and video streaming, transparent pricing and good customer service.”
Greg Patterson recently joined Veeps in May as its Chief Strategy Officer after previously working at Eventbrite following the acquisition of his company Queue. His background also includes fan club management at his company Wonderful Union, which was sold to WME.
He notes that he was drawn to working at Veeps because it “aligned with what has driven me throughout my career … helping independent businesses, helping small artists and medium artists unlock revenue and power their businesses.”
Veeps works closely with artists and their teams, including advising on pricing and the time of day to stream, based on Facebook and Spotify analytics for that specific artist.
“When someone signs up, our A&R team is working with the artist and their team to help them establish their concepts, because we believe that every livestream should have a great concept,” Joel says. “With each artist, we help them put together their plan … [from] going on sale to the production. Our A&R team has the resources to offer solutions if someone wants to invest in production but doesn’t know anyone in production. After hundreds of livestreams, we’ve gotten a really great take on who’s doing it well. And then it’s launched like a tour or a festival or an album. … And we offer support …soundchecks, everything you could think of.”
Saaedi adds, “My job is to make sure every client is taken care of from start to finish. … We’re here to just allow artists to really thrive and shine during this time.”
– Dirty Heads
has played a multi-show run on Veeps and will return Sept. 4 to livestream their 2019 album, Super Moon.
Many artists book a run of livestreams, including Puddles Pity Party, who has played five shows so far and has re-upped for another six. The sad clown with the golden voice explains, “I’ve seen a lot of streaming shows with lots of technical glitches and poor sound quality. Since it’s just me by myself, running sound and video and performing, I need a platform that is easy to use while providing a quality experience for the fan. I think I get that with Veeps.”
Puddles also gave a shout out to Zack Brooks, senior artist relations at Veeps, for guiding him through a virtual sound check and maintaining control of the backend to make sur everything is running smoothly.
Dirty Heads is playing all of its albums in chronological order and has sold over 15,000 tickets on Veeps. The band will be back on Veeps Sept. 4 to play its latest album, Super Moon, along with its new single “Earthquake Weather,” which drops the same day.
“The cool thing about Veeps is they’ve been on board with us every livestream,” co-lead vocalist Jared “Dirty J” Watson said. “Our camera crew, our sound guys and our management team were having calls with them every livestream, leading up to it 30 minutes before. So we got in a really good groove because we were doing them every two weeks. Veeps was with us the whole ride.”
Along with performing, Dirty Heads has done Q&As and giveaways during its livestreams. Watson says Dirty Heads plans to continue working with Veeps.
He says, “Even when we get back to touring, say hopefully at the beginning next year, we can think about livestreaming our concerts on the road just for people that aren’t able to make the dates. There’s no reason why we can’t do both.”
Ryan Watanabe – Good Charlotte
performs at Ancienne Belgique in Brussels, Belgium, on Feb. 7, 2019. Once in-person events like this return, Veeps executives still see a market for livestream shows.
Patterson notes that the pandemic has given many executives the opportunity to reexamine the way things have always been done.
“There’s folks who are very determined to kind of wrap their arms around what the industry was before and hold it together and hope that this storm just passes and we can all just stand up and do everything the way we’ve always done it. And then I think there are a group of folks who are realizing that we’re gonna have to rebuild this thing from the ground up a little bit. And in that chaos, there is some opportunity to maybe change how we do business, how we treat each other. And I think that we are very much invested in that second group of how do we help facilitate what’s going to come out of this thing?”
Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman, who was an early investor in Veeps and has known the Maddens since Good Charlotte booked one of its first national tours with Warped, concurs: “You never want to time your life for a pandemic, but [the Maddens] have positioned themselves very, very strongly for the future. I firmly believe 10 to 15 percent of the people will continue to digest music online.
“I think streaming has opened up a lot of doors for the future and they’re positioning themselves very well for it because they are an artist-friendly platform.”
As for Benji and Joel, they just want to see artists win.
“We have a dream that might sound crazy to some people, but I don’t think it sounds crazy to artists because as time has gone on we’re seeing it more and more,” Benji says. “We really have a vision for an artist-led industry. … We hope that other artists look at our companies and start their own companies.”