“I think the best way to explain how I got here is one person at a time, one video at a time,” says comedian and creator Kevin Fredericks – better known by his online moniker KevOnStage. Kev is speaking to us from his office and studio space in Los Angeles, the epicenter of his biggest creative endeavor to date: KevOnStage Studios. But the digital creator didn’t land Hollywood-level production digs overnight. Kev’s grew from side hustle to full-time gig over nearly a decade of the digital grind.
“Before, a comic’s path was to move to L.A., get on The Tonight Show, and hope an agent catches you,” he says. “Now, with the proliferation of the internet, you can find your own audience and essentially make yourself a star.” Since 2011, KevOnStage has slowly but surely amassed over 1M+ Instagram followers and 800K+ YouTube subscribers, by sharing candid bits of comedy with his devoted online fans, lovingly known as the Stage Krew.
“I think charting your own destiny, for me, is so important,” adds Kev. “Right now, I’m making my own show that I shot and produced and financed that nobody in Hollywood had to okay. I’m able to create the whole thing and give it directly to my audience.”
Learning the ropes
Kev began building his online community over a decade ago, but he says things took a while to take off. “I didn’t find any real success as KevOnStage until probably 2017,” says Kev. “Before that, I was just working hard, not getting many views, like many people.”
During that time, he had to find his north star when it came to making content that was true to himself and his sensibilities. “When people don’t create from their core, the success is draining,” says Kev. “I was always okay with never blowing up, but just being okay to make content that I loved. And I think because of that, I’ve had more success, as opposed to doing whatever worked.”
As his career began to take off in earnest, Kev took to touring the country with fellow comics – but the pandemic brought those in-person gatherings to a grinding halt. Keen to find new ways to keep the momentum going, Kev’s brother came to him with a new idea: a streaming service.
Taking the power back
Kev is the first to admit an OTT service was not on his radar as a next business move. “We were first just trying to make independent movies, and my brother said, ‘Yo, I’ve got a way that we might be able to do this on our own app,’” he says. “I wasn’t even thinking about that as an option.”
Kev reached out to business partner and producer Brennon Edwards, and asked if he’d go in on launching an OTT app. “It was a no brainer,” says Brennon, now President of KevOnStage Studios, because it gave them the power to create (and make money from) their content on their own terms. “We live in an age now where the barrier of entry when it comes to being able to be a creator is so much lower. And Vimeo changed the game for us.”
“We were able to step past what we were waiting for Hollywood to do for us, and get to do it ourselves,” he says. “We work directly with the audience that we have. They are the ones giving us the money to be able to do what we want. It gives us all the power back, as creators.”
Empowering fellow creators
Since launching KOSS, Brennon, Kev, and Co-Founder and Co-CEO Melissa Fredericks have consciously created a supportive and creative environment for other Black creators to take a chance on their work. “I just I am grateful that this space exists, that people are employed here, that people get to chase their dreams here,” says Kev. Up next on the horizon? More high-quality comedy, coming right up.
“The beautiful thing about this journey, is that we are taking things, regardless of what traditional Hollywood says, into our own hands,” adds Melissa. “We’re having an impact on people. That is not waiting for Hollywood to anoint you. That is deciding, we did this ourselves. Period. And we can do this ourselves. Period. And we can give people opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise get. Period.”