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Louis CK makes $1 million on a $5 downloadable special
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Louis CK makes $1 million on a $5 downloadable special  Reply with quote  

Louis CK produced his own comedy special with his independent production company, and released it for $5 digital download on his own website. Within 12 days, he made one million dollars.

He then released this statement explaining what he plans on doing with the money:

hi. So it's been about 12 days since the thing started and yesterday we hit the crazy number. One million dollars. That's a lot of money. Really too much money. I've never had a million dollars all of a sudden. and since we're all sharing this experience and since it's really your money, I wanted to let you know what I'm doing with it. People are paying attention to what's going on with this thing. So I guess I want to set an example of what you can do if you all of a sudden have a million dollars that people just gave to you directly because you told jokes.

So I'm breaking the million into four pieces.

the first 250k is going to pay back what the special cost to produce and the website to build.

The second 250k is going back to my staff and the people who work for me on the special and on my show. I'm giving them a big fat bonus.

The third 280k is going to a few different charities. They are listed below in case you'd like to donate to them also. Some of these i learned about through friends, some were reccomended through twitter.

* The Fistula Foundation
* The Pablove Foundation
* charity: water
* Kiva
* Green Chimneys

That leaves me with 220k for myself. Some of that will pay my rent and will care for my childen. The rest I will do terrible, horrible things with and none of that is any of your business. In any case, to me, 220k is enough out of a million.

I never viewed money as being "my money" I always saw it as "The money" It's a resource. if it pools up around me then it needs to be flushed back out into the system.

The thing is still on sale. I hope folks keep buying it. If I make another million, I'll give more of it away. I'll let you know when that happens because I like you getting to know what happened to your 5 dollars and bringing awareness to the bla bla bla.

Okay I really gotta go now. Thank you again. I will now stop bugging you. I really hate being in the news this much so I'm gonna just disappear for a while.

Happy hollidays.
Louis C.K.

Louis is the first and only comedian at his level to have successfully done something like this, and prove that it can work. He also mentioned, on O&A, that he plans on cutting Ticketmaster out of his next tour. Instead, he will be selling tickets directly from his website with no service fee.

Obviously, he has had a long career in which he has cultivated the type of fan-base and momentum to make this successful, but this is still exciting to me that a precedent has been set that comedians/artists are NOT at the whim of networks.
Post Sat Dec 31, 2011 11:04 am
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Mark in Minnesota

Joined: 02 Jan 2004
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Thoughts on this:
1. Other comedians in particular have been really excited by this idea. Joe Rogan has said on his podcast that he's going to self-release a special using a similar business model.

2. Louis CK may have gotten the idea to do this from his success running a DIY sitcom on FX Networks. He's talked about that in DVD commentary and interviews, how when he was shopping a development deal to various networks, FX was actually one of the lowest bids--I want to say low six figures per episode--but agreed to give him more or less absolute autonomy to write, direct, and produce the show himself. He's basically used that deal to start up his own production company that owns its own equipment, hires its own actors, scouts its own locations, etc. All answerable to him. The resulting product has received a surprisingly large cult following, and probably opened his eyes to using that same DIY approach for other business ventures.

3. We're reaching an inflection point due to the increasing affordability of almost everything, where monolithic companies are no longer the right vehicle to produce, distribute, and monetize creative content of any kind. When decent production equipment for a film/TV studio or music studio could run you into the high six figures, there were economies of scale that no longer exist when you can buy nearly comparable equipment for low five figures. At this point the technical expertise is becoming the limiting commodity, and those experts stand to make more money being employed directly by the content creators than were making being employed by large companies dealing with content creators on a work-for-hire basis.

Digital video distributed the way Louis CK did this comedy show is just a better business model for all of the involved parties--assuming you can find a price point that a substantial audience is willing to pay to consume rather than simply pirate.

Louis made it clear in the pitch for this idea that the success of this business model depended on an audience holding up its end of the deal, and I think his good-faith tone in spelling that out probably had a lot to do with how he made the kind of money he did. Cultivating that kind of relationship with the audience is probably a key ingredient to the success of this approach. Rogan will most likely make bank if/when he does it.

I don't know if indie rap audiences have that same kind of respect for the artists, unfortunately. Self-distributed music coming out through Rhymesayers, Strange Famous Records, and similar outfits seems to be pirated just as aggressively as stuff coming from major labels. It's hard to say whether concert footage distributed the way Louis CK distributed this comedy special would be any better off.

That said, if audiences could hold up their end of that unstated contract, it's would be a very similar idea, structurally: when a comedian does a special like that, every joke he tells in front of the camera is material he can no longer tell to live audiences. A musician who releases concert footage can maybe get away with performing a few beloved particular songs later on, but for the most part needs to begin making new music or at least figuring out new arrangements and performance embellishments of the existing music. It's a commercially viable retirement of intellectual capital that was initially created for use in live performance. 200000 units is a lot, especially for a digital video release, but as Louis CK stated, his break-even point was a lot fewer sales than that. He struck a jackpot here, but he struck it doing something that less wildly successful entertainers might be able to make a living at.

The particular case I think about is the Doomtree Blowout, which has made it to DVD once or twice. A digital-only release a few weeks later is probably a better thing for both the artists and the audience. Less overhead, less delay in getting the performance seen by people who care to pay for it. Again, the question is whether Doomtree heads would pay for that footage rather than pirating it. Some would, but would it be enough to justify distributing the show that way instead of on DVD?
Post Sat Dec 31, 2011 12:15 pm
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Sage Francis
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Joined: 30 Jun 2002
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It's really annoying when a supremely talented and highly popular artist successfully pulls off something innovative like this and the general public translates it into something that goes like:

"See, why don't they ALL just do that. Pfff. It CAN be done. See??"

All praise due to Louis C.K. I love his work. I love what he did. I just don't have the time to properly shoot down the public's mistranslation of what this means and how something of the sort can be even close to as effective. And I'm sure Lois C.K. understands that. I would be surprised to see him toting this as THE "new model" for comedians/entertainers. He, of course, was only able to pull this off after working the traditional route and digging his heals in for decades. I have a lot more I'd like to say about this, along with some other examples I'd like to share, but I can't do that right now. I will get back to this. Promise.
Post Sat Dec 31, 2011 1:06 pm
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Flawed Logic

Joined: 16 Nov 2010
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Damn - cheers to him.


sorry, I had to get that out of my system.
Post Sat Dec 31, 2011 1:53 pm
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Yeah, you gotta put in the work before pulling something like this off. But it is nice to see an artist turn down big money to do what he wants to do.

It at least shows that it is possible if you already have a large following. Maybe more "mainstream" artists will follow suit. It seems to be going that way anyway.
Post Sat Dec 31, 2011 2:20 pm
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guy who cried about wrestling being real

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Well, of course you need to be popular before lots of people will buy your work. It kind of... comes with the territory, ya? It's not like people will just throw 5 bucks away for no reason just because they think you came up with a cool business model.

I will say, it's much easier to spend 5 bucks on a DVD or CD than 20 or 30, and if more artists put out 5 dollar cds I would buy a lot more music. Additionally, with an 80% profit rate ($4 per purchase) or whatever he's saying he's got here, it would take far less sales to make the equivalent of digital downloads at $.05 each or whatever the going rate is nowadays. Tens, or hundreds of times more even.

I kind of find it funny that people even say "well my stuff will just get pirated". It's going to get pirated no matter what you do. Frankly, the more you charge, the more people will pirate. I guess, if it was possible to figure out, the "break-point" or sweet spot of pricing where you're maximizing profit against "pirates", then use that to determine how much to charge.

How many people "pirate" Photoshop compared to other, more reasonably priced photo applications?
Post Sat Dec 31, 2011 3:28 pm
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Plum Puddin'

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Post Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:38 pm
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Joined: 01 Jul 2002
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It's more a testament to the type of relationship Louis CK has to his fans. I don't think it would work for 99 percent of other acts. I do agree that Joe Rogan could probably do it. Maybe Paul F. Tompkins. Maaaybe. But probably not.

You need a rabid devout following, by people who aren't complete assholes.
Which is why it wouldn't work in hiphop, ha.

Oh Patton might be able to do it. Though he's borderline. I think he has a different type of fan than CK and Rogan do.

I'm not a huge CK fan, but I do love his TV show. The episode they had where they were sitting around playing cards talking about homophobia was completely brilliant.
Post Sat Dec 31, 2011 7:12 pm
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Post Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:02 pm
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tommi teardrop

Joined: 12 Apr 2007
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This model is the only current model that makes me willing to purchase a download on the Internet.

The only other way I see myself spending money to get media on the Internet is through subscription services like Netflix or stations like pandora

As a consumer, this is the direction sales need to go to keep me from pirating. And even then I will probly only pay for stuff I'm sure I'll like. I know it's not the most responsible sentiment, but the honor system just doesn't work on me as a consumer in the Internet.

You gotta make it cheap/free and easy these days. Kids grow up knowing that anything digital can be downloaded for free. It doesn't feel like stealing. If a medium can be digitized and appreciated in that capacity with ease, it has very little value as a commodity to be purchased individually by the public.

People are going to have to accept this and adapt.
Post Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:46 pm
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I think Patton totally has the fan base for something like this. I don't know much about Rogan. I always thought his dick schtick was too dicky. Patton and Silverman are the two from that "alt comedy" brand that I think could way pull something like this off.
Post Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:49 pm
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Joined: 07 May 2009
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Louie is the man... I've been a fan for a while now, and had no problem dropping 5 on the new special. It was a great special too...

He's the type of guy fans like to support, as proven by the way he's handled this whole thing...
Post Sat Dec 31, 2011 10:26 pm
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Limbs wrote:
I think Patton totally has the fan base for something like this. I don't know much about Rogan. I always thought his dick schtick was too dicky. Patton and Silverman are the two from that "alt comedy" brand that I think could way pull something like this off.

I'm not talking about the size of the fanbase, I'm talking about the TYPE of the fanbase. I'm also not talking about whether you like this comedian or don't. I don't really care about Rogan, but his whole schtick, and most of his army of fans are on some "this is real comedy" shit. The type of people who would be drawn to that sort of question of legitimacy in stand up comedy, are the same type of people who would not pirate a special if the artist told them not to.

I think both Patton and Sarah have bigger fanbases than Rogan does, but it's not the same demographic of people.
Post Sun Jan 01, 2012 9:44 am
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I know what you're saying, but what I am saying is Patton and Silverman's fanbases are absolutely the types to buy their shit. They are collector nerds. And large enough to play the numbers game with.

The bit about Rogan's dick schtick was just a personal side note.
Post Sun Jan 01, 2012 5:09 pm
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Anti.Agent036 wrote:

This sums it up for me. I don't particularly enjoy Louis C.K.'s comedy, but this has upped my respect for him tremendously. It's really nice to know that he's not just going to sit on fat stacks and is fact doing something positive. That's classy and selfless. I don't think everyone could have accomplished this. Sadly, maybe Dane Cook.
Post Sun Jan 01, 2012 6:13 pm
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