Meet the BeatBuds: Scooter Braun's Latest Kid-Pop Sensation
The music manager approached Jonathan Jonah and Matthew Shapiro, lifelong best friends who catapulted to an unexpected kind of rock stardom (Kanye, Pink and Fergie are fans), at a Beverly Hills birthday party: "Suddenly I found myself singing 'Silly Monkey.'"
Jonathan Jonah and Matthew Shapiro are adjusting to an unexpected kind of rock stardom. Lifelong best friends — now 40, they met in first grade at Temple Emanuel Academy Day School in Beverly Hills — they have grown over the past five years into Los Angeles' hottest kids' act with a pop-punk group known as The BeatBuds.
Reality TV watchers might already be familiar with the Buds. They appeared in a 2014 episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, where they performed at a "Kidchella"-themed 1st birthday party for North West, daughter of Kim and Kanye. (She has had them back since.) They also had a cameo on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, playing for Teddi Mellencamp (daughter of John) and her son.
Count also the brood of Pink and Fergie — and their moms — as fans of earworms like "The Hello Song" and "The Garbage Man Song." Now another music heavyweight has taken notice, and he has big plans for The BeatBuds.
"It was all my kid was listening to," Scooter Braun, the 37-year-old pop svengali behind Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, says of the months following his introduction to the band on the Beverly Hills kids birthday party circuit. "Suddenly I found myself singing all the words to 'Silly Monkey' too."
Braun — dad to Jagger, 3, and Levi, 18 months — approached Jonah and Shapiro as they loaded up their van. "He said, 'Do you have representation?'" Jonah recalls. "We were like, 'Representation? We're a kids' band.' So he goes, 'My name is Scooter. If you need help navigating this landscape, let me know.'" The pair played it cool, accepting Braun's business card. "Then the second he left we were like: 'Scooter Braun! Oh my God!'"
Braun has been around the business long enough to know there's big bucks in children's music — he's negotiated dozens of lucrative deals for his clients' catalogs with Kidz Bop, the immensely popular kiddie cover compilation albums. Now he's betting on The BeatBuds becoming the next Wiggles. "You're going to see the brand extend beyond the West Coast," says Braun of his plans for the band. "Touring growing. A TV show. They could be one of the largest children's acts."
Suffice it to say, this was not the big break Jonah and Shapiro had envisioned for themselves in their 20s, when they were toughing it out on the road playing hardcore music, dreams of Guns N' Roses stardom in their heads.
The BeatBuds formed almost accidentally after Shapiro, working at a Trader Joe's, suffered a back injury in 2012. While recuperating at home, he started playing music for his baby daughter, Vivienne, now 7. Jonah came over one day to jam, and they wrote their first kids song — the train-themed "All Aboard." That led to a few more. "It wasn't hokey Barney music," notes Shapiro. "The songs taught you something."
Sensing a revenue stream, Shapiro persuaded a reluctant Jonah to tag along for a birthday gig. That led to more parties — and an A-list following quickly developed. "You play one celebrity party and there are five more celebrities there," explains Jonah. "It just kept growing." To keep up with demand, the guys have hired a staff of about a dozen BeatBuds proxies — meaning you don't always get "Jonny Jingles" and "Matty Maracas," their stage names. Despite the success, the price for a BeatBuds show remains fixed, for now at least, at a reasonable $375 or one hour. "People are always telling us to raise our rates," says Jonah, now dad to an 8-month-old son, Izzo. "But we want this to be accessible. We charge Kanye the same price as a family in Pacoima."
This story first appeared in the Aug. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.