It’s always heartening to see an experiment in disintermediated content succeed and it couldn’t have happened to a better guy. Louis CK began selling his one-hour comedy special on his own website for $5 a pop last Sunday and, as of today, he’s reporting he’s made over $500,000 from 110,000 downloads. This is a profit of over $200,000 on a concert that cost him about $170,000 to film and edit (most of that paid with ticket sales) and a website that cost $32,000 to build (which suggests that I’m in the wrong line of work. Carlos Mencia: Call me. I know HTML).
He breaks down the finance below:
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.
Basically he’s proven that someone with a dedicated fan base (arguably a huge one) can make his or her own way in the world without the studio model. This should make a large number of folks who “curate” content for sale very, very nervous but it also points to the need for modern entertainers to understand every little thing about their industry. You can’t just be “talent” anymore unless you really want to be. However, by lying back and waiting for a “producer” to make things happen you’re risking a loss of financial opportunity and artistic control. You often can’t have it two ways but, to be fair, not everyone can be Louis CK.
To his credit, Louis learned quite a bit from the experience. He spouts philosophical below.
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.
Amen, Mr. CK.