Brian Bedol, founder and CEO of Bedrocket Media Ventures, has always loved comedy. It started when he was in college and began seeing some guy named Jerry Seinfeld starting out in the clubs in Boston. Later, Bedol got into TV development, and reached out to Seinfeld’s representation. "I remember his agent said he had one more shot at an NBC show, and he’d be willing to talk after he finished that pilot," recalls Bedol. "Of course that pilot was Seinfeld."
Bedol knows not to let a good partnership slip away twice. This week, a division of Bedrocket, Official Comedy, announced it had partnered with Spotify on a new comedy app for the platform. Spotify users can use the app to discover routines by the likes of Louis C.K., Bill Cosby, and Patton Oswalt. Official Comedy has curated themed playlists with names like "We Go Together Like Booze And Pills" and "Why Is This Freaking Dog Humping My Leg?"
Much of this content was already on Spotify—users just may not have known to look for it. "No one knew it existed. There was no discovery and curation," says Bedol. Official Comedy aims to change that. And in the next few weeks and months, he adds, Official Comedy will go further, uploading what Bedol calls "original material as well as some originally acquired material for the platform."
In order to prepare for the Spotify launch, producers combed through hundreds of hours of comedy, dividing the routines "both vertically and horizontally," says Bedol. "Vertically" in this sense means uniting the material of individual comedians; Official Comedy launches with roughly 30 individual comedian pages. "Horizontally" means united by theme, as in the playlists mentioned above. The app also launches with a feature that allows users to share one-liners on Facebook; their Facebook friends can then click through, launch the app, and hear the routine containing that particular joke. "We’ve basically designed a way for people who love comedy to just get lost in the discovery of stuff they didn’t know existed," says Bedol.
Bedol’s own love of comedy is cross-platform. Official Comedy is a brand that "lives a little differently on different platforms," in Bedol’s words. On YouTube, for instance, where the brand has about 175,000 subscribers, Official specializes in producing original content, rather than organizing content that’s already out there. And Official Comedy has gotten into the feature film business, too, coproducing Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me last year.
On Spotify, for now, Official Comedy has its work cut out for it merely in strengthening the audience for the content the service already has. But given Official’s stated plans to create original content for Spotify, the app has the potential to grow into something larger: Something like an in-house comedy label for the digital streaming service.
It’s one of several ways that Spotify, which has come under fire of late for the way it compensates artists, could transform its image. "One of the great things about Spotify is what a widely used platform it is," says Bedol. Pointing out that many musicians already leverage the platform’s power and reach when promoting a new album or tour, Bedol thinks comedians may soon do the same when they have a movie or TV special to promote. "Having a platform with as many global users as Spotify does"—24 million active users, 6 million paying subscribers—"really is a valuable tool," he says.
The comedy app is sure to change users’ view of Spotify. "There are millions of people who love listening to comedy who last week didn’t think about Spotify as a place to go listen to comedy," says Bedol. What features might the platform add next? Could it take on audio books? Sports podcasts? Radio drama? While stressing that he can’t speak to Spotify’s overall business strategy, Bedol nonetheless says that inevitably "adding features opens up the platform to whole new audiences. As more and more creators discover the power of this platform, while music may remain the core experience, you’re going to see it become more and more useful whether for comedy or other kinds of non-music entertainment."
Ultimately each different audio "vertical" will have economics of its own; Bedol notes that comedy needn’t adhere to the same rigid production values of music, for instance. In the end, though, there are more similarities than differences, especially where it matters: "The way people are passionate about music is similar to the way they’re passionate about comedy," says Bedol.
[Image: Flickr user Flowizm]