Comedy Dynamics’ Brian Volk-Weiss On Album Biz, Pandora Licensing – Billboard


On the subject of the industry of stand-up comedy, the method in most cases is going one thing like this: A comic spends a 12 months to 18 months development an hourlong set, polishing jokes that paintings and tossing those that don’t. As soon as the set is perfected, a distinct is filmed and bought to Netflix or any other streaming carrier.

For Comedy Dynamics founder/CEO Brian Volk-Weiss, that’s simply part the equation. The corporate’s document label — which he says releases over 150 comedy albums annually in virtual streaming and bodily codecs — accounts for about 50% of annual earnings. That suggests vinyl is each and every bit as vital to his final analysis as it's to any song corporate.

The 46-year-old Queens local — who may cross for a lankier, extra animated model of Moby — has constructed a multimedia empire via following his instincts and immersing himself within the histories of his “spare time activities,” as he calls them. And his instincts advised him that the delays with the already filled vinyl pipeline would most effective worsen with the pandemic, so he driven his chips into the middle of the desk. “The offers we did had been just a little bit dangerous as a result of we needed to ensure quantity to get precedence,” he explains. However that quantity has supposed the turnaround time for Comedy Dynamics vinyl releases is ready six to 8 months. “The most efficient-case state of affairs for the business presently is 14 months, however I believe it’s nearer to 18.”

Brian Volk-Weiss

A choice of Comedy Dynamics albums and field units. “I believe bodily can be 10% to twelve% of our earnings this 12 months,” Volk-Weiss predicts.
Yasara Gunawardena

Comedy Dynamics, which expenses itself as the most important impartial comedy manufacturing and distribution corporate, advanced from Volk-Weiss’ paintings managing comedians, together with Dane Prepare dinner, Whitney Cummings and Jeff Ross. In 2019, it made Grammy Award historical past when its releases swept all 5 of the nominations for comedy album of the 12 months. (All advised, 21 were nominated and 4 have gained.) 5 years in the past, Volk-Weiss based the Nacelle Corporate — now the father or mother corporate of Comedy Dynamics — to increase into publishing, podcasts, and scripted and unscripted productions, such because the Netflix sequence The Toys That Made Us. (Talking of spare time activities, his toy assortment numbers roughly 3,300.) That resulted in Nacelle coming into the industry of collectible toy making, and the partitions of Volk-Weiss’ Burbank, Calif., place of job are coated with drawings, schematics and pictures of latest and long term releases. He even has a Legends of Laughter line of stand-up comedian motion figures.

However the audio facet of the comedy industry was once the focal point when Volk-Weiss sat down with Billboard: what the song business may be told from it and his take at the push via assortment societies Phrase Collections and Spoken Giants to get comics paid royalties for the jokes they write and now not only for their efficiency of them.

Stand-up comedy arguably works very best when a comic will also be observed, whether or not are living or on a streaming particular. Given the amount of specials you unlock once a year, why do you want a document label?

A few causes: First, in accordance with the listening, renting and purchasing numbers we see in North The united states, England, South Africa and different nations, the folks need it. We generally have between 200% and 400% enlargement 12 months over 12 months. 2d, it makes some huge cash, and that cash funds the entire different stuff we’re doing. We’ve moved into books, toys, podcasts, a scripted function movie. Don’t get me improper — the video funds an incredible quantity of that as neatly. However the money waft from the document label is super, too.

How super?

Very prime seven, low 8 figures — and rising. As you understand, bodily — vinyl or even CDs — is rising. 5 years in the past, bodily would were 5% of our earnings. I believe it's going to be 10% to twelve% this 12 months. We did one all-vinyl document deal this 12 months with a significant way of life chain retailer. That one deal was once extra bodily product than we bought in all of 2018.

What measurement was once the order?

A 60,000-piece order. They have got masses of shops. And total, we promote masses of 1000's of vinyl albums a 12 months. This chain ordered two titles from us in 2020. We advised them one was once a sensible pick out and one was once a silly pick out — the information we've got is insane. Blue state, purple state, Black folks, white folks, outdated, younger — it’s that granular. This corporate noticed the information and so they left out us, however we had been so explicit and so right kind that they positioned this huge order with us this 12 months and stated, “We would like 10 titles. You pick out them.”

Are you producing this knowledge in-house or outsourcing?

We get information from the puts that monetize our content material and plug it into device that we employed a pc coder to construct.

What share of Comedy Dynamics’ earnings does the label usher in?

For Comedy Dynamics, about 50%. For Nacelle, it's going to be about 8% this 12 months and subsequent. You wish to have sufficient hits which can be anticipated, and you want sufficient surprising hits. We put out a perfect album remaining 12 months.

Brian Volk-Weiss

Prototypes of Maxx Steele (left) and Wrecker from the Nacelle Corporate’s Robo Power line of collectible toys.
Yasara Gunawardena

Who’s the comic?

As a result of I’m speaking cash, I don’t wish to expose her identify. She had simply 12,000 fans on Instagram and wasn’t on Twitter. Our industry type is the majority in accordance with referrals from comedians, brokers, managers. This comic was once beneficial via any other comic I believe. We did the deal. We paid her $5,000 prematurely. It value a few grand to do the entire stuff we do to place it out: paintings, yada, yada, yada. Our all-in was once somewhat lower than $10,000. I'd have jumped over the moon if it had damaged even within the first three hundred and sixty five days. However she had a funny story in the course of the particular — a 40-second piece — that took off. One thing like 80,000 YouTube streams inside of per week. The album made about $43,000 within the first 8 months. Other folks pay attention 40 seconds of genius, after which they wish to concentrate to the album.

But even so an advance, what else does the comic get from a deal made with ­Comedy Dynamics?

Cradle-to-grave love for the album and again finish. As soon as it breaks even, they’ll earn cash for the remainder of their lives. The cash is coming in from all over — we simply did a take care of one of the most greatest airways on the planet. So we get a billionth of a penny from all over, on a daily basis. All of it will get installed a pot that will get divided with the artist.

What’s their reduce?

Each deal is other, however we by no means move beneath 33%.

The recorded comedy industry turns out to paintings in opposite of the recorded song industry. With song, the entirety begins with the music or album — that launches the excursion and you'll be able to purchase the document on the merch desk.  With comedy, the album is the very last thing that occurs. The artist spends 18 months development an act, does a distinct after which the album turns into to be had. What can the song industry be told from the way you do industry?

For no less than 15 years, I’ve been pronouncing, you don’t need to be like, hiya, I’m going to rent a manufacturer, and we’re going to a chateau in France to figure out the album in combination. After which we’re going right into a studio for 2 weeks to make it very best. That turns out insane to me since you’re now not trying out the song. For those who’re fortunate you’ve were given a supervisor with just right style, possibly an agent, possibly a label, the manufacturer — say 8 or 9 guts providing you with comments. I've by no means understood why song artists don’t follow with the general public.  I lived in Eire right through my sophomore 12 months in faculty and labored at a pizza position that had this bouncer — the hardest motherfucker. I noticed him throw a man during the eating place’s window as soon as. Anyway, the man by no means spoke – ever.  At some point, my shift is over, I’m strolling out, and he is going, “Temple Bar. Middle of the night.”  It was once just like the Pepsi system spoke to me. It’s a small bar and a few shitty band is onstage. Smartly, proper after nighttime, U2 takes the level with, like, 15 folks within the room, and so they did a three-hour jam.   I'd conservatively estimate that 30 % in their set was once new.  They'd end a music, and Bono would actually say, “What’d you assume?”   So, I’ve had that during my thoughts since I used to be 20, and I’ve by no means understood why extra artists don’t do this. I’m the largest Girl Gaga fan.  It blows my thoughts that she will be able to do what she does with out that procedure as a result of, particularly when I used to be a supervisor, I'd see what probably the most good funny story of all time seemed like 18 months previous.  A comic would do a shitty funny story about shedding their automobile keys after which 18 months later you’re taking pictures the particular and also you’re like, that’s from that.

We lately printed a tale about how songwriters, manufacturers or even artists are having a troublesome time with labels trying out songs on TikTok. If the music doesn’t move viral, it’s scrapped.

That’s insane.  If you'll be able to to find episodes of Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night reveal from the primary two years that he was once on ABC, it’s unwatchable. The explanation he didn’t get canceled was once as a result of he was once tight with [then-Walt Disney Company chairman/CEO] Michael Eisner, and Eisner safe him lengthy sufficient to turn out to be what he's now, which is likely one of the largest talk-show hosts. On occasion it takes time to attach. Not to unlock a music as it didn’t do neatly on TikTok is terrible. That’s what ends up in homogenization.

In February, 5 ­comedians, together with the estates of George Carlin and Robin Williams — all shoppers of the gathering company Phrase Collections — sued SiriusXM-owned Pandora for now not paying the similar of song publishing royalties to make use of their works. Spotify has additionally come underneath hearth. The place do you stand in this factor?

Our contracts say that we personal the publishing. To the most productive of my wisdom, no different contract in stand-up has that language, so we're safe.

Now, I’m a large historical past buff, and the entirety we’re speaking about these days — the lifeblood of this corporate, the money waft that is available in — is going again no less than 100 years to the sale of sheet song in London. ASCAP, BMI and SoundExchange, they're the entire great-great-great grandchildren of the sheet song industry in London. What I additionally know is that each and every 10 to fifteen years, any person says, “I discovered find out how to squeeze out any other nickel.”

I have a look at this in two other ways. No. 1, on account of how a lot time I spent as a supervisor, I would like the artists to make as a lot cash as imaginable. After I first heard about this, I used to be like, “All proper, it's been 10 years — time to shake the sofa once more and search for the pennies.” And it's pennies.

I’ve observed estimates that $1.5 billion in royalties haven’t been accumulated.

We’ll get to that. As I stated, I’m glad if artists are making extra money as a result of, for something, it’s their genius that persons are being attentive to. However, right here’s what no one talks about: How a lot does it value to design a satellite tv for pc that should stay in orbit for 8 to ten years? How a lot does it value to get it up into orbit? What number of people know that for Sirius and Pandora and these types of firms to do what they do calls for no less than 12 absolutely functioning satellites and 3 spares? And that’s only for 80% of worldwide penetration. If you wish to duvet the arena — which Sirius does — you want 24 satellites and, I believe, six spares. Satellites are about $20 million a pop; to get one into orbit is ready $100 million.

Brian Volk-Weiss

A Superstar Wars Demise Superstar cookie jar and a “wooden factor” that Volk-Weiss says was once “the primary fan-made anything else” created for Comedy Dynamics.
Yasara Gunawardena

So do you strengthen those comedians’ court cases?

I strengthen anything else that can make artists extra money. If they may be able to have the option to make it paintings for everyone, the place the artists can earn more money and the suppliers can proceed to release the ones satellites into orbit, tremendous. If Sirius is going into chapter 11 as a result of they may be able to’t have the funds for to pop satellites up anymore, what may well be worse for comedians?

You had been pronouncing that the $1.5 billion in uncollected royalties is in reality about pennies.

If there may be anything else that annoys me about what [Word Collections and Spoken Giants] are doing, it’s that they’re speaking about how they’ve found out this new factor. We’ve been accumulating this kind of cash for no less than 4 years. So let’s speak about that $1.5 billion: My primary downside with this entire matter is you have got these types of comedians in the market who're like, “Woo! We were given any other SoundExchange coming.” They don’t. And let’s say, hypothetically, it's $1.5 billion a 12 months. That cash is getting divided up via a naked minimal of 10,000 comedians, nevertheless it’s skewed to efficiency. I ensure you the highest 10% of comedians — the Kevin Harts, the Ali Wongs, the Jim Gaffigans — gets $1.3 billion of that overall.

Dave Chappelle stirred up fairly slightly of controversy this 12 months along with his jokes about transgender folks. What's your tackle cancel tradition?

I believe it’s terrible.  I believe that each and every particular person has a proper to make their very own resolution, and if you happen to attempt to power your opinion on folks, you’re changing into what you hate. You understand how you get Louis C.Ok. to prevent doing comedy?  You don’t move to his reveal and folks don’t move to his reveal.  There are comedians who've been canceled organically, and so they ain’t coming again for the reason that public made up our minds they’re disgusting, and no person will pay to look their reveal.  I’m now not going to mention his identify, however there was once a comic that was once promoting 3,000 to eight,000 tickets an evening sooner than he were given — I don’t just like the time period that we use for this so I’m now not going to make use of it.  However a large number of ladies got here out and stated he did terrible issues, and he roughly didn’t deny it.  So, it wasn’t a he said-she stated state of affairs.  It was once 8 ladies no less than and maximum of them had been comedians. 3 of them I do know super-duper neatly. Those ladies —on Twitter, on TikTok, no matter — had been like, this man sucks.  Right here’s what he did to me.  This man can’t promote 200 tickets. That’s honest. The united states has spoken.

Over the last few months, Chris Rock was once slapped onstage on the Academy Awards, and Chappelle was once attacked right through a are living efficiency. How a lot does that fear you?

It worries me. To be a comic — I don’t care if you happen to’re Chris Rock and also you’ve been doing this for 40 years — you might be so susceptible up there. As a result of on the finish of the day, if you happen to’ve performed 999 presentations and the funny story all the time works, you understand rattling neatly this may well be the reveal the place it doesn’t. 9 out of 10 comics get some extent of butterflies sooner than they move onstage. And now they've to fret about knives? Or getting punched within the face when the entire international is gazing? That is Mad Max stuff — that’s how terrible it's.

Are comedians you understand taking precautions?

Yeah, they're. I’m going to depart it at that.

This tale at first gave the impression within the June 25, 2022, factor of Billboard.