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Louis C.K.: You deserve a million dollars

LouisCKdvdComedian Louis C.K. (who is the funniest man alive if you’re a 41-year-old dad like me) did something rebellious, simple, and awesome: He filmed his own comedy special and sold it online for just 5 bucks. No network, no middlemen, no big company getting between him and his fans by jacking up the price and controlling the relationship.

Result: A huge hit. Hundreds of thousands of downloads. And he’ll make well over $1 million.

And he deserves every penny for taking the risk and doing it right.

See the video here. More detail from the NY Times.

Here’s how he tells the story:

—–Original Message—–
From: “Louis C.K.”
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2011 10:44:23 -0600
To: Andy Sernovitz
Subject: A statement from Louis CK

People of Earth (minus the ones who don’t give a shit about
this): it’s been amazing to conduct this experiment with you. The
experiment was: if I put out a brand new standup special at a
drastically low price ($5) and make it as easy as possible to
buy, download and enjoy, free of any restrictions, will everyone
just go and steal it? Will they pay for it? And how much money
can be made by an individual in this manner?

It’s been 4 days. A lot of people are asking me how it’s going.
I’ve been hesitant to share the actual figures, because there’s
power in exclusive ownership of information. What I didn’t expect
when I started this was that people would not only take part in
this experiment, they would be invested in it and it would be
important to them. It’s been amazing to see people in large
numbers advocating this idea. So I think it’s only fair that you
get to know the results. Also, it’s just really cool and fun and
I’m dying to tell everybody. I told my Mom, I told three friends,
and that wasn’t nearly enough. So here it is.

First of all, this was a premium video production, shot with six
cameras over two performances at the Beacon Theater, which is a
high-priced elite Manhattan venue. I directed this video myself
and the production of the video cost around $170,000. (This was
largely paid for by the tickets bought by the audiences at both
shows). The material in the video was developed over months on
the road and has never been seen on my show (LOUIE) or on any
other special. The risks were thus: every new generation of
material I create is my income, it’s like a farmer’s annual crop.
The time and effort on my part was far more than if I’d done it
with a big company. If I’d done it with a big company, I would
have a guarantee of a sizable fee, as opposed to this way, where
I’m actually investing my own money.

The development of the website, which needed to be a very robust,
reliable and carefully constructed website, was around $32,000.
We worked for a number of weeks poring over the site to make sure
every detail would give buyers a simple, optimal and humane
experience for buying the video. I edited the video around the
clock for the weeks between the show and the launch.

The show went on sale at noon on Saturday, December 10th. 12
hours later, we had over 50,000 purchases and had earned
$250,000, breaking even on the cost of production and website. As
of Today, we’ve sold over 110,000 copies for a total of over
$500,000. Minus some money for PayPal charges etc, I have a
profit around $200,000 (after taxes $75.58). This is less than I
would have been paid by a large company to simply perform the
show and let them sell it to you, but they would have charged you
about $20 for the video. They would have given you an encrypted
and regionally restricted video of limited value, and they would
have owned your private information for their own use. They would
have withheld international availability indefinitely. This way,
you only paid $5, you can use the video any way you want, and you
can watch it in Dublin, whatever the city is in Belgium, or
Dubai. I got paid nice, and I still own the video (as do you).
You never have to join anything, and you never have to hear from
us again.

I really hope people keep buying it a lot, so I can have
shitloads of money, but at this point I think we can safely say
that the experiment really worked. If anybody stole it, it wasn’t
many of you. Pretty much everybody bought it. And so now we all
get to know that about people and stuff. I’m really glad I put
this out here this way and I’ll certainly do it again. If the
trend continues with sales on this video, my goal is that i can
reach the point where when I sell anything, be it videos, CDs or
tickets to my tours, I’ll do it here and I’ll continue to follow
the model of keeping my price as far down as possible, not
overmarketing to you, keeping as few people between you and me as
possible in the transaction. (Of course i reserve the right to go
back on all of this and sign a massive deal with a company that
pays me fat coin and charges you straight up the ass.). (This is
you: yes Louie. And we’ll all enjoy torrenting that content. You
fat sweaty dolt).

I probably sound kind of crazy right now. It’s been a really fun
and intense few days. This video was paid for by people who
bought tickets, and then bought by people who wanted to see that
same show. I got to do exactly the show I wanted, and exactly the
show you wanted.

I also got an education. And everything i learned are things i
was happy to learn. I learned that people are interested in what
happens and shit (i didn’t go to college)

I learned that money can be a lot of things. It can be something
that is hoarded, fought over, protected, stolen and withheld. Or
it can be like an energy, fueled by the desire, will, creative
interest, need to laugh, of large groups of people. And it can be
shuffled and pushed around and pooled together to fuel a common
interest, jokes about garbage, penises and parenthood.

I want to thank Blair Breard who produced this video and produces
my series LOUIE, and I want to thank Caspar and Giles at Version
Industries, who created the website.

I hope with all of my heart that I stay funny. Otherwise this all
goes to hell. Please have a safe and happy holiday, and thank you
again for all this crazy shit.

Sincerely, Louis C.K.

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Comments

  1. Michael Zipursky January 2, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Andy – thanks for sharing this. I’d be interested to know how Louis generated traffic to the offer – does he have an established blog, large mailing list, social media followers, paid advertising, or did he use a combination of these to sell the video – if you happen to know about his strategy?

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