The power and convenience of mobile devices have made content access nearly instantaneous. From social media to streaming apps, entertainment is at your fingertips — and content creators such as Kevin “KevOnStage” Fredricks are capitalizing on the movement.
Fredricks is a comedian, actor, and entrepreneur who has been working to establish his brand as someone who connects people from various backgrounds and proudly focuses on amplifying Black voices and content. A significant part of this work is manifested in creating KevOnStage Studios, a multi-channel operation for original content, from podcasts to television shows and films.
Although Fredricks’ work has taken off, it hasn’t always been this way. His journey started from the proverbial bottom, and now he’s working to build an empire that puts his name alongside those who own major streaming platforms including Netflix and Hulu.
To say that Fredricks came from humble beginnings would be an understatement, but like many coming-of-age stories, his hustle to the top made the journey worthwhile.
“When I first started comedy, I think at first I was just worried about structuring jokes, getting laughs, all that type of stuff, being original, and being creative,” Fredricks recalled to AFROTECH. “And I remember I started getting 30 bucks, and I was like, ‘Oh snap. This is great. I can get gas.’ Then it was 50 bucks and a hundred bucks. And I was like, ‘I can pay my cell phone bill or take my wife to dinner, whatever.’ So that kept growing. Then I got up to 500 bucks, and that was insane. I used to do this for free.”
When the 40-year-old was getting started, he was part of a comedy group with his brother and friend called The Playmakers. Mostly performing in churches and for Christian audiences, The Playmakers were doing plays in the Seattle, WA, area where they were based. Trying to replicate the model of early Tyler Perry productions, Fredricks and his crew quickly understood they needed more resources to replicate it.
That did not stop them. The crew pivoted and took their content to YouTube. The era of YouTube increased name recognition for Fredricks, and as his popularity grew, so did his value in the industry.
Fredricks’ current content has evolved well beyond the days of performing plays and constructing YouTube skits. However, some people in his early fanbase did not appreciate his evolution.
However, he understood that people’s opinions shouldn’t stop his ambitions or determine how he lived, ran his business, and walked out his faith convictions.
“Well, it’s not the same Kev; as a person, artist, and Christian, you should always be learning and growing,” Fredricks said. “What I knew about the Bible at 19, 25, 30, I should have evolved. If you’re doing Christianity, you should continue to learn.”
“I think I never wanted to be in a place where I’m making content for people but not for me,” Fredricks continued. “I need to be okay with it first, and then whoever likes it can like it. But if you don’t like it, I won’t let you decide what to make. I like Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce, and Corey Henry, but I don’t tell them what songs to record. They make the music; they put it out. It’s up to me to buy, consume, enjoy, or not enjoy it.”
With this intentional perspective around content creation and business, KevOnStage has continued to elevate his career. At this intersection, the idea for his own app and production studio came to fruition.
Noting that it was his brother’s idea to start a platform for independent movie creation, KevOnStage Studios has a small-scale streaming app that releases original content. However, independence and producing smaller projects does not mean he doesn’t see some of the same challenges that more extensive streaming services face.
“We are a company with the same issues as Netflix and Disney+. The biggest problem with running an app is the churn rate, right? Churn rate and sharing passwords,” Fredricks said.
Although his price point is affordable at $5 a month, it doesn’t stop consumers from wanting more and more, all while they distribute account access to their entire network.
The business challenges with his operation are real, but they don’t distract him from his long-term goals of building out his app to its best potential, scaling it, and eventually exiting.
“You’re supposed to build it to where somebody bigger wants to buy it, or you go public, and that’s one or two ways you make money,” Fredricks explained. “I would absolutely be open to something like that [acquisition] because although independence is great and Black ownership is great, it’s also expensive.”
Working as an accomplished comedian and building his app may be at the top of his operational goals, but it is far from the end of his entrepreneurial endeavors. KevOnStage believes in the power of a diverse portfolio.
“I always do multiple things: live events, merch, podcasts, social media, and then working on something bigger like TV, movies, or otherwise,” he said. “And I think touring, for the most part, every year outside of the pandemic, was the largest income for our family. All of a sudden, my worst fear was getting canceled, and then I couldn’t tour, but the world got canceled. Luckily, I could pivot and do other things because I have digital media capabilities and an audience. Pivoting, I believe, is my biggest skill set.”
KevOnStage’s work can be admired, but for those looking to him as a model, he has one key piece of advice: fail.
“Don’t try to avoid failure. You cannot avoid it,” Fredricks said. “You will meet it with the best of intentions. I’ve learned infinitely more from losing and failure than I have from other things. I think we are so hampered by the chance of failure and the embarrassment, just as human beings. If KevOnStage studios closed, if I bomb on stage, if a movie I try to produce tanks, you still can’t tell me I didn’t try.”