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Randy Phillips and Dave Loeffler aren’t exactly new kids on the block, but their newest project – Why Don’t We – is fast becoming one of the biggest boy bands you’ve never heard of. And that’s OK, because your kids probably have.

Phillips and Loeffler are partners in entertainment companies PDM Inc. and Signature Entertainment and are shepherding the five-member Why Don’t We – known to fans as WDW – up the ladder by eschewing conventional recording and marketing norms and instead riding the wave of social media marketing and a perfect storm of talent.

The five members of WDW – Jonah Marais, Corbyn Besson, Daniel Seavey, Jack Avery and  Zach Herron – all had individually been “internet famous” to some degree through homemade videos posted to YouTube, Vine, Instagram and other social media platforms. Seavey was a Top 7 finalist on “American Idol” during 2015’s season 14 but, otherwise, none rose through the usual ranks of late-night TV or other pipelines for emerging talent.

Besides, as Loeffler told Pollstar, the kids aren’t watching TV anymore. At least his aren’t.

“I have a house with multiple TVs and not one is ever on,” Loeffler said. “Whenever I see my teenage girls, they are glued to their phones and this is how they consume content.”

And they are not alone. Why Don’t We may not (yet) be a radio staple, but social and streaming media are where the group lives with more than 140 million views and 1.5 million followers on YouTube, 125 million Spotify streams, and 2.4 million Instagram followers.


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Photo: August Reinhardt

Why Don't We - cover photo for Feb. 12, 2018

WDW released a single, “Trust Fund Baby” Feb. 1, and by midday it reached No. 7 on the iTunes chart.

While the future bandmates were developing their own followings, Loeffler and Phillips were ensconced in Los Angeles, considering the next project for their 15-year partnership.

The members met on a “meet and greet” tour for Internet stars and influencers, entering Loeffler’s orbit. They all flew out to Los Angeles where the boys hit it off immediately. When it came to decide on merging into a single act, the boys said “why don’t we” – and a name, and a boy band, was born.

Loeffler’s instincts were right, Phillips’ long and deep history in the music business came to the fore and Why Don’t We was soon making a name for itself in an unconventional way.

“We put the group in a house to see if they can live together and mesh. That’s what you can’t predict. That’s where the magic happens,” Loeffler explained. “We could see they had that chemistry immediately.

“We did a campaign where we teased their fanbases and showed little clips of the five of them coming together. Little hints on Twitter and Instagram. Fans saw them getting on planes together, coming to LA together, getting into a house together. When we announced they became a group, the fans went crazy,” Loeffler said.

They began posting video of their day-to-day activities including a music video they uploaded to their new YouTube channel the day after they announced the formation of Why Don’t We: Sept. 28, 2016. Within weeks, they had recorded a single and video that exploded through each member’s networks – essentially, hitting socials times five.

It didn’t hurt WDW that its members already had made fans of major social media influencers like Logan Paul, who introduced the group to his own fan base, hosted them on his YouTube vlog and has directed three music videos for Why Don’t We. The effect repeated as more influencers jumped on the bandwagon and brought their own fan bases to Why Don’t We.


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Photo: Jason Koerner / WireImage

Why Don't We

The quintet also made videos of mashups of their own songs with other hits by artists like Post Malone and Noah Cyrus, who shared them with their fans, too.

“The social media thing blew up exponentially,” Phillips said. “The group never took the easy way out. They worked their asses off. Doing covers would have been the easy way out but they did these mashups, their songs with other stars’ songs, and became well-known with other artists on the internet … that really helped fuel the ride.”

Phillips and Loeffler decided to take the road less traveled. Instead of spending potentially millions of dollars on traditional marketing and record production and promotion, they let the fan base take the wheel on their own social networks, by word of mouth – or, more accurately, by smartphone.

“Why Don’t We got together, dropped a track right away, dropped a video right after that, and  every day there’s new content. Then, boom, another single,” Loeffler said. “The fan base is tripping out and telling all their friends. It’s spreading.”

With the success of their first tracks and EPs, the next step for Why Don’t We was to get the music to iTunes and Spotify. There’s any number of artists who upload songs and videos to YouTube. Cracking the streaming services is another matter. According to Phillips and Loeffler, the key was in booking live dates.

Agents Matt Galle and Matt Meyer of Paradigm Talent Agency were also sniffing around WDW, having caught wind of the five teenagers creating a fan frenzy on YouTube. They reached out to the band through its website, got a surprise when Phillips responded to their inquiry, and WDW became a Paradigm client.

“You can look at YouTube and the content that they were putting out,” Meyer said. “We were treating them like they were Shawn Mendes or Ed Sheeran. We put them on cohesive, branded tours where we could get them in front of people early; we get believers behind them on a music level, not just on a celebrity star level like it’s just a flash in the pan.

“We’re building a real base. People are jumping on board and following, and it’s just becoming bigger. The first tour we did was 500-1,000 tickets and this tour [beginning later this month] has sold almost 8,000 tickets in New York already. It’s exploding.”

Last summer Why Don’t We booked shows into 300- to 500-capacity rooms in Philadelphia and New York City. They did meet-and-greets. They sold tons of merchandise. And lines waited around blocks. The initial shows sold out. And with A Why Don’t We Christmas EP making a splash, iHeartMedia came calling to book the group on its holiday Jingle Ball shows.

“While Dave was making all this great content with them at the compound in Beverly Hills, one of the songs, ‘Something Different,’ blew my socks off and I decided we are going to take this to radio,” Phillips said.

He has a relationship with John Ivey, iHeartMedia’s head of national Top 40 programming, and sent him, unsolicited, a copy of the record. Instead of turning Phillips down for having no label and no other obvious industry support, Ivey sent it, and another WDW record, to 20 program directors around the country.

“Program directors are always looking for a reason not to play records, because nobody wants to be wrong about a record, especially when you have as much at stake as being a No. 1 station in your market,” Phillips said.

Then WDW unexpectedly was offered the coveted slot on the Jingle Ball tour – a real anomaly, considering the radio show and tour generally celebrates established artists having the biggest years on radio and on tour. WDW was just getting started, but the Jingle Ball shows fit the bill in terms of their all-important fan engagement.

As Tom Poleman, iHeartMedia’s president of national programming, told Pollstar in December, “If you have a new project out … it’s going to be super top of mind for music buyers during the holiday season. There’s an enormous amount of promotion that we put behind them and it creates a tremendous social footprint.” The L.A. Jingle Ball at the Forum alone rang up 12 million social media impressions, Poleman said.

“That started a history with iHeart, which has been totally committed to this group,” Phillips said. “They have what I call digital hit singles in videos that are streaming 30 million to 40 million times.”

Phillips and Loeffler, with the help of Ivey, took their young charges on another meet-and-greet tour, this time as a group and with radio PDs, who began putting the songs into rotation.

“The program directors loved them,” Loeffler exclaimed. “Even though they’d never heard of them. It turns out all their kids knew them.”

They will have another chance to see Why Don’t We soon, but if they haven’t got tickets already, they’d better hurry.

“All the shows we’re putting on sale are selling out,” Paradigm’s Matt Galle said. “From the first tour we did last summer where we were bumping up the rooms, to the tour now.”

That tour begins Feb. 27 at Bogart’s in Cincinnati, the first of 40 dates for WDW in major and secondary markets, including two-night stands at the 1,300-capacity House of Blues in Chicago, The Novo (2,356 cap) in Los Angeles and Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall (1,427). The leg ends up in New York City for three nights at 2,150-capacity Playstation Theatre before closing out at the 2,000-seat Starland Ballroom in Sayerville, N.J., April 25.