Bands are facing extremely difficult situations amid the coronavirus pandemic as touring is currently banned, taking away their primary source of income, but Good Charlotte‘s Joel and Benji Madden have a platform for artists to continue providing great experiences for their fans.
Alongside several industry insiders, the brothers created a VIP experience and touring company called Veeps about two years ago, offering artists a streamlined way to communicate with their fans. Since the pandemic, the company is flourishing.
The commission-free platform offers artists the ability to sell tickets, merch, exclusive experiences and more in exactly the way that suits their needs. While it’s impossible to perform live shows right now, the platform is seeing a boost in their livestreaming tools as bands such as Waterparks, Sleeping With Sirens, I Prevail and hundreds of others are navigating how they can continue giving fans entertainment.
We caught up with Joel Madden to discuss how Veeps is expanding in spite of the live event cessation and how artists, companies and fans can all work together to make it through the current world we’re living in.
What made you want to start Veeps?
Initially two-and-a-half years ago, we built the platform for artists to own and operate their own VIP business. We found that a lot of the artists who need that support from their hardcore fans the most were the ones who we tend to feel are an afterthought for the VIP market as a whole. We built a platform where the vision was a commission-free platform, where artists have a toolbox to their VIP business in house. That extra income on tour is really helping bands survive the critical stages of development and survive on the road.
We know that bands in certain stages are going out on tour all of the time, and they’re really not making money. If anything, they’re going into debt to tour or breaking even. We felt like every band with that core group of fans who want to support their growth and support them should own that and not have to hire a third party to run it for them. A lot of them can’t afford that. It was really just out of necessity and a problem that we wanted to solve.
We have over 300 artists on the platform, and we had developed a tool to ticket your livestream, and no one really needed that at the time, but it’s become something that everyone’s started using. Now we see people using it more and more every week, really. They’ve optimized the experience of who’s watching, can we communicate with those fans in real time before, during and after, but also we’re seeing bands using it to make money for a charity they’re supporting or a local community charity effort that they’re in or really just supporting their crew that’s at home.
Also, it’s customizable, so a lot of bands are doing free tickets. Some bands are doing name your price. Everyone’s trying to be thoughtful of each other. The fans know there are bands who are struggling, and the bands know there are fans who are struggling, so it’s a space where navigating thoughtfully is important because this could be our reality for however long. There are gonna be bands who really need it, and there’s going to be bands who don’t actually need it. It’s about having those conversations and helping people use the platform.
Why did you think it was important to make Veeps commission-free?
From my experience with touring, you would do these meet-and-greets, and it was a really pure experience with hardcore fans, but a lot of times, the third-party company didn’t get it all the way right. We don’t preach against VIP companies because there are a lot of good ones out there that actually service artists really well at certain levels. We see a spot in the touring market with hardcore fans who go to shows, though.
If you look at tickets for bands that do zero to 1,500 tickets, they have a different kind of fan. That fan wants a pure experience, and they want to support their favorite band that no one else knows about or whatever, and that’s an important person. Those bands are just scraping by to go out and play their shows.
The commission-free model was important to us because we truly believe that while we had to figure out a way to help our platform run and keep it growing, we didn’t feel like taking a commission on what the artists earn from their fans was helpful to the mission of the platform, which is to help artists survive and help artists own their fans instead of a third party.
It’s very transparent, and the mission of the platform is to help artists survive and help fans have a better experience when they do purchase a VIP ticket or, in this case, livestreaming. We like to think the livestreams that are going up on the platform are really thought-out, special experiences elevated from what you may want to broadcast for free while also helping the artists with ticketing. We are trying to create a way for everyone to win, and hopefully, it’s empowering and equalizing in a way that artists can have options for how they want to do things.
How has the coronavirus situation affected how Veeps operates?
Before, livestreaming, which we conceptualized and built the tech for, wasn’t really a need at all. The artists just didn’t even think about livestreaming. You see, for the foreseeable future with artists, they’re thinking, “How am I going to support myself over the next could-be six months, could-be three months, could-be 12 months?”
Veeps these days is shifting to really be all about the livestream conversation, and we’re super adamant about it feeling special. We talk to each artist and their team and encourage a really special experience that fans would be stoked to buy a ticket for. If they’re going to pay $5 to watch you stream, we think you should give them your version of an experience. We do think the secret sauce for people having a good experience is you’ve got to lead with what’s your goal, and if that’s giving your fans something they wouldn’t otherwise see, we think it should be that.
Are there limitations on which artists are able to sign up for the platform?
There’s no limitation. Anyone can sign up. It’s free. You can build your back end and your page, and you don’t have to use it. We don’t push people to use it because we don’t feel that’s true to the message of where we started from, and what’s really powering Veeps is the artists and their fans and their relationships.
It’s really up to the artist on how they want to design the experience. There’s no limit on who can sign up, big or small. I don’t want to say [we] favor small artists because we love all artists, but we do see that Veeps works the best [for] people who need it, and truly the fans and bands appreciate the experience.
Given your experience with Veeps, what do you think of the recent issues relating to companies such as Ticketmaster and StubHub not offering refunds for select events right now?
That’s a good question, and coming from working with all different people from all sides and understanding perspectives, I think when we look at companies, they’re trying to survive. You have these big companies that are looking at a time where they say, “If we don’t survive, there is no company.” They’re making tough decisions that affect real people. We all have a front-row seat to each other’s suffering.
I don’t know the inner workings of those companies, so I can’t speak to why they have to make those decisions. I believe fans should get refunds, and there should be steps taken to try and communicate. When people ask me about Veeps, I’m happy to communicate our needs and what we’re up against, but I do think when you get to these large-scale companies that are navigating uncharted waters, they’re making decisions while they have employees that are out of jobs [and] fans that are out of money they need.
I look at Veeps and say in the short term and long term, we have to talk to the bands. We have to explain to them, “The fans want to support you, but we have to be mindful of their needs.” As this continues, say live music doesn’t come back in the fall, they’re still going to be willing to pay for a ticket to a show, but not a $30 ticket and certainly the lower, the better.
Communicating is going to help all of us understand each other’s perspectives. I think it’s difficult because Ticketmaster has to do what they have to do for the long term. I don’t know the inner workings of what they’re up against, but I do think the fans should have options on where their money goes. If they paid for a ticket and the show’s not happening, I know that ticket applies in the future, but what about the money they need now? That’s the hard part: There are fans who just need the money.
I don’t think any company involved is trying to hurt people, I really don’t. I think everyone is trying to survive, and my message to everyone is slow down and calm down. Let’s look at this as, say, the next year [of] our lives look completely different. If we get out of it sooner, great, but if we don’t, let’s try to scale everything back to a place where we can all survive. I believe the nature of people is good, and when natural disasters strike, we can work together.