Comedian Louis C.K., who pretty much tore up the model for television production by creating, writing, directing and editing the Emmy-nominated FX series Louie
without taking any notes from the network, last weekend took a shot at remaking the business of stand-up comedy. Within four days, he’s seen a profit of $200,000 — and still owns his content.
Having worked up another year’s worth of material on the road, Louis C.K. mounted the polished version of his current show over two nights at New York City’s Beacon Theatre in November. Last Saturday, he launched a website where fans could pay $5 via PayPal and download a fully-produced one-hour-long version of the show. The 720p file was 1.2 GB in size (a smaller, “SD” version was also made available) and completely unencrypted, unprotected, and free of any regional restrictions.
As Louis put it, “I made this video extremely easy to use against well-informed advice…. No DRM, no regional restrictions, no crap. You can download this file, play it as much as you like, burn it to a DVD, whatever.”
Lots of speculation ensued over how the experiment would fare, how many people would pay to download the show instead of finding a free version elsewhere, and whether the whole endeavor would generate enough cash to be a viable model. Last night, Louis posted the details.
You can read the full-length “Statement from Louis C.K.”
at the site, but here’s how the numbers break down.
|(110,000 copes @ $5)
Louis C.K. said on Twitter
this morning that the number sold is now 130,000 copies — so that’s another 20,000 ($100,000 minus PayPal fees) overnight.
Louis says that his profit, after deducting money for PayPal fees and other expenses, is around $200,000 — less than he might have made in partnership with a media comedy. (He’s released past specials with the help of companies including HBO, which ran the single season of his first sitcom, Lucky Louie
, and Comedy Central.)
He’s been trying to figure out alternate ways of getting content to his fans for a while. His 2010 concert film, Hilarious
, was accepted at the Sundance Film Festival and played limited theatrical engagements before making its way to a debut on the Epix cable channel, which is a joint venture of Comedy Central parent Viacom, Viacom unit Paramount Pictures, MGM, and Lionsgate. But the success of Louis CK: Live at the Beacon Theater
really seems to have inspired him, and Louis says he hopes to continue down the path of keeping costs low and middlemen out of the equation. (“Of course,” he notes in a typical caveat, “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.”)
Louis C.K. is arguably the most well-respected comic in the business today, which means he has that rare degree of name recognition that makes this business model possible.
Here’s what he says he learned from the experience:
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.