Benji and Joel Madden, Twin Entrepreneurs, on the Future of Music

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madden-bros-future-25 - Credit: Ville Juurikkala*
madden-bros-future-25 - Credit: Ville Juurikkala*

This story appears in Rolling Stone‘s 2021 Future of Music issue, a special project delving into the next era of the multibillion-dollar hitmaking business. Alongside our reporting, we invited four star artists to share their own predictions on the music industry’s wild next era. Read the other stories here.

Joel and Benji Madden, at 42, have been enmeshed in the music industry for the better part of the last three decades now. They started Good Charlotte in 1995, put out platinum-certified LPs to an adoring fanbase, broke up, got back together — the whole shebang. “Looking back, we were so little; we had never been anywhere,” Benji mused to Rolling Stone in the band’s 2003 cover story, recalling the duo’s fresh-faced trip to New York City and deal with Epic Records in 2000, which would yield Good Charlotte’s eponymous debut album. “Getting signed, the way everything came together, was exactly how I dreamed.”

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There’s a more ambitious dream in its place now: In 2017, Joel and Benji dove into the behind-the-scenes of music with their startup, Veeps. Alongside co-founders Sherry Saeedi and Kyle Heller, the Madden brothers built Veeps to offer VIP experiences at artists’ shows, with a livestreaming component on the side. In Covid-19, the company quickly doubled down on its livestream business and wrapped up a notable 2020, putting on virtual concerts for the likes of Brandi Carlile, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Patti Smith. Veeps aired about 1,000 livestreams with ticket sales revenue exceeding $10 million last year, the company previously told Rolling Stone.

Now, Veeps — newly acquired by concert juggernaut Live Nation — has been busy outfitting music venues across the U.S. with livestreaming tech so they can build out digital audiences for fresh revenue streams. The twin brothers and artists-turned-execs took a beat to speak with Rolling Stone about what they think lies ahead for their industry.

What’s the single biggest change you expect out of the next 10 years in music?
As we look at the next decade, it’s not crazy to think artists’ careers will become even more multi-platform, multi-channel, multi-vertical, tech-enabled — and artists themselves will be in control of decision-making. Artists are thinking like startup founders.

And the industry people that understand, embrace and cultivate that are the ones that will be working with the game-changing talent for years to come. This mindset could be the biggest disruption.

And what about in the next 50 years?
VC is rushing into our industry. It feels like the old way has been to buy artists cheap and own their IP — a “buy low, sell high” mentality — but technology has enabled a democratization of how artists can distribute and promote their art. We can now use platforms like TikTok where we used to have MTV, and Instagram is the quickest way to dispel a rumor or announce a release straight from the artist to their audience.

With the advent of blockchain platforms, we can see that authenticity and direct-to-consumer (D2C) are things that are even more important to people than ever. So it may not be that insane to think that the old model is dying and more artists going forward will hold onto their IP, and that the industry will operate in more of a VC structure.

What would the impact be of going from having four or five major rights-holders to millions of inspired artists? Who knows. [But] as we’ve seen on the live side, good things happen for artists when they keep control and direction of their music and their business.

And more institutions see the value in a partnership with the artists and their audience than just buying their rights when they’re starving. It should be an interesting few decades ahead.

What advice would you give to a young musician about the future?
The artist’s journey is learning how to be more yourself, not less. And trust in your instincts. There are no real shortcuts because having a career in music is really hard work. You gotta get up every day and do something to work towards your career, because when the opportunity is there to seize and you haven’t done the work, you’ll miss it.

When we built Veeps in 2017 we built a really great livestream player, which in March 2020 became the most important part of our company. If we didn’t grind back then, we wouldn’t have been in a position to pivot with confidence. Work hard, understand that the devil is in the details, don’t be afraid to innovate, and build the thing that only you can build.

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