Louis C.K.'s $5 Online Video Makes $500,000 in Three Days
Leave it to comedian and noted misanthrope Louis C.K. to give the middle finger to all of television, Hollywood studios, and the way we have distributed our media for decades.
That's essentially what the "Louie" star did with his latest stand-up special, "Live at the Beacon Theater": rather than go through a studio or network (he usually works with HBO) to produce a stand-up special, have it air on television, and then eventually release it on DVD or in a pricy DRM-regulated download, Louis opted to skip all of that.
His idea was simple: make the special, put it online, let people download it for $5. No DRM, no giving out of personal information, no crap. Just pay $5 through Paypal, and the video is yours to watch, as Louis put it on his website, "in Dublin, whatever the city is in Belgium, or Dubai."
And boy, did it ever work: within three days, the video had made half a million dollars. Subtracting the costs of shooting the video and hosting the website (along with various other costs), C.K. came out with a profit of about $200,000 after just a few days. That number should continue to grow, albeit more slowly, as more people learn about the video.
Is this the future of media distribution? We saw Radiohead do something similar with their release "In Rainbows," and that worked as well. Can entertainers start using the Web has a direct funnel between themselves and their fans?
So far, it's looking pretty good. Louis C.K. notes in his statement that he would have made much more money in cutting a deal with a company to produce the special, but appreciates the benefit to the fans enough to want to do things this way again.
"I learned that money can be a lot of things," C.K. wrote. "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."
Check out a short collection of outtakes from the special below (NSFW for language), and if you like it, head over to the website and buy the whole special for the low, low price of $5.