It’s only a few days in to Louis CK’s DRM-free “Live at Beacon Theater” experiment, during which the comic is circumventing traditional distribution channels like Hulu and iTunes to sell the show directly to fans on a dedicated website. (Disclaimer, I watched it and I laughed so hard my face still hurts.)
The site went live four days ago, and Louis has posted a very in-depth statement about the initial experience- as well as some sales figures he reluctantly discloses, noting how it’s a bit early in the game to call the initiative a roaring success just yet. Still, it seems the star of Louie is very pleased with his decision to free fans of sharing/burning restrictions as well as middleman cuts and offer the special for a bargain rate of $5 a go (with five streams and three downloads included.)
Before he drops the numbers on us, Louis acknowledges that there is “power in exclusive ownership of information,” adding that when he conceived the idea, he “didn’t expect… people would not only take part in this experiment, they would be invested in it and it would be important to them.” He talks about the evangelism he’s seen on the web since the clip’s release, and says it’s “only fair” fans and watchers get to know the figures so far. (The comic adds: “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.”) Then he explains:
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.
Louis says he’ll “certainly do it again,” and that he hopes to sell most of if not all of his future material- tickets, CDs and videos- in such a manner. He continues, reflecting on what he took away from the project:
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.
Have you downloaded Louis CK’s new special? What did you think?