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Comedy Streamer Laughly Goes Live, Bringing the Yuks in Real Time

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Dave Scott (right) doesn’t think of himself as a huge comedy nerd, so he seems like an unusual choice to have created the Spotify of comedy. But he’s a serial startup entrepreneur with a track record for getting it right, so maybe he was a good choice, after all.

His creation, Laughly, fills a gap that music streaming services leave behind: It’s a good way to stream comedy albums. While popular music services include comedy, they don’t have much of a catalog and they don’t present it well. Comedy fans are likely to get tired of the selection after a few days of listening.

“For streaming, comedy was just a red-headed step child, a forgotten kid in a lot of ways,” Scott says. “That doesn’t mean that Spotify and Pandora don’t have comedy, because they do. But they just nestle it in the corner, hide it behind everything else, as opposed to really letting it breathe and doing really interesting things.”

Comedy had a problem that Scott wanted to solve, and Laughly is the service he created to do so. Laughly launched on Aug. 11, 2016, and includes more than 18,000 hours of audio from more than 700 comedians. Need a Richard Pryor fix? Want to binge on some Louis C.K.? Desperate for some classic Eddie Murphy? With Laughly, fans can get their fill any time on any Apple or Android device or through a browser. Fans can sample everything from Aziz Ansari to “Weird Al” Yankovic, Scott says (showing the need for a popular comic performer whose last name starts with “Z”).

Comedy fans can sample Laughly in four different ways, Scott explains. The simplest is dipping into the on­demand catalog where they can listen to material from any comic they like. If they want variety, fans can also create their own radio stations based on favorite comics, themes, or genres. Fans only need to tell the app what they want to hear to get their personal playlists.

Third, fans can stream live comedy performances through the app, thanks to a feature that debuted earlier this year. Laughly partnered with a handful of comedy clubs to stream audio directly from their mics. Finally, in an even newer feature, Laughly now supports more than 100 comedy podcasts. Fans can subscribe to their favorite podcasts directly through the app and listen in the same interface.

The Laughly app is free and ad­supported, but fans can become Reserved Seating subscribers for $3.99 per month. The premiere tier offers ad­free listening, a profanity filter, access to exclusive audio, and the ability to download albums for offline listening.

From Entrepreneur to Standup and Back

Scott’s first company was called Next Planet Over, and it was an e­commerce site for licensed entertainment merchandise. It sold products for DreamWorks, Warner Bros., Marvel, Stan Lee Presents, Lucasfilm, and other movie studios. Toys “R” Us acquired the company in 2001. In 2008, Scott was back with his second company, Marketfish, a marketing automation company that optimized lead acquisition campaigns for Disney, Norwegian Cruise Line, ADT Security Services, Verizon, Dish, and others. That company closed and sold its assets in 2013.

During a period of downtime, Scott decided to give standup comedy a try. He wasn’t a comedy nerd, but he appreciated the craft after growing up on racy Andrew Dice Clay routines. Devoting himself to the study of why some routines work and some comics become legends, he realized there was no good way to study the material he was interested in.

“As I started to dig in, I found some pretty shocking things: Believe it or not, people used to buy comedy albums,” Scott says. “That was the way you would enjoy comedy. You used to go to Tower Records, pick up George Carlin’s Class Clown or whatever. Exact same way that you enjoy music.

“Then as you know, people stopped buying albums and started downloading them, and then people stopped downloading albums— they started to stream them. [Services] like Pandora and Spotify showed up and started doing streaming services, but everybody pretty much forgot comedy.”

For a serial entrepreneur, that was an ideal void waiting to be filled. When Scott saw there was no online distribution for comedy audio, his first step was speaking to the recording labels about licensing. No small feat, this process took nearly a year. Scott wasn’t going to launch a service unless he had the inventory to back it up, so his first step was a crucial one. Since no one had created a comedy streaming service before, he found it was difficult simply finding some expertise in the area. Eventually he hired Rashidi Hendrix, a producer with 20 years of music licensing experience. The two of them needed to educate the marketplace, since no one had ever approached the labels about creating a comedy streaming service.

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