Thursday, December 15, 2011

Louis CK's Experiment

A couple days ago I paid $5 to download video of a recent performance by comedian Louis CK at the Beacon Theater in NYC. (You can but it right here.) Christine and I watched it on my laptop, and it was an all-around excellent experience: good video, sound, etc. and the performance was several times literally laugh out loud and almost out of our seats funny.

I did not realize that I was part of an experiment:
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?
He goes on to explain that he decided to bypass going with a "big company," which would have paid him a big guaranteed fee, and which would have sold videos of the performance - videos with limitations - for a whole lot more than $5. He paid for the production himself - video, editing, the website where it was sold - paying more than $200,000. There was, as you could see, risk involved with this experiment.

What happened?
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.
Experiment successful. An the cool thing is that with its success, Mr. CK says he plans to do this in the future - screw the big companies.  So the experiment was a success for us, too.

• A friend points to a Reddit thread Louis CK took part in two days ago. One comment from him, replying to a question about how much he actually does on the editing of his shows:
yeah I do the whole thign. On season 1 I had an editor and we shared it about half. But season two i edited without any help. It was fucking hard. and yes, i sit at the macbook and just put it together from start frame to finish.



  1. Very cool. I'm doing a similar experiment on a much smaller scale and with a much, much smaller fan base. My experiment started about 5 or 6 years ago when I returned to my folk roots and decided to record and post everything I write and make it all available as freely as possible and see what freely comes back. I don't even charge $5. It's all free if you want it to be or people can make a donation in my digital tip jar. I also play anywhere I can that feels like a good fit for whatever they're paying, often for tips only.

    So far I've gotten over $1200 in tips which of course is not much money, but it's still more per year than I was getting from straight up CD sales off my site. I've gotten loads of views on my youtube videos and loads of great comments and support. And I had the best year musically and financially overall this past year than I've ever had in over 30 years of doing music professionally.

    I'm still less than small time and I'm no where near making anything like a living at music, but I feel so much better doing things this way. And the lack of dithering over whether I should quit doing music, which gigs to take, which songs to record, who's doing better or worse than I am, etc. can all go into the stuff I love the most, which is performing, writing and recording songs. And to make up for the huge downside of no distribution and marketing support and $$$ from some record company, (who'd also have a huge say in what, how, and where I do what I do), is that I can do whatever the hell I want with complete creative freedom. I can do 6 CD's in a year if I want to (2009), I can forego touring (every year!), I can do things my way (solo acoustic recordings with adult language if I feel like it) and in general I can focus on the art more than the business which is how I love to do it.

    I know I'll never get rich and famous doing it this way, but that's not what I want anyway. My first creative conscious impulse was to put the truth, at least as I experienced it into words. My second impulse was to sing those words. My third impulse was to have those songs heard. Being liked and making money at it were a distant fourth and fifth. By saying so long to "industry" and doing it my way, I get to do what I've always wanted to do most anyway, on my own terms, and with more money coming back than when I was chasing the beast.

    Go CK! I think it's very cool what he's doing and I think it will be the wave of the future. I think we'll all be doing things ourselves and most of us will have tiny fan bases, fewer people will be famous and rich, but overall there will be more art and more happier people, doing what they love because they love it. Art started being a "career" about 5 minutes or so, relatively speaking. For most of human history it was just what people did after hunting, gathering and staying out of the lion's jaws. ;~)

  2. whaaaaaaaaaa

    so geil Thom. Never heard him before, brilliant!!


  3. Petet! He's something special...