The Results of Comedian Louis CK’s Direct-to-Fan Sales Experiment
Louis CK performed live at the Beacon Theater, recorded it professionally, and offered the recording for $5 to any and everyone directly via the Internet. He paid to produce the video and direct-to-fan website that he sold it from. The video came with No Strings Attached — no DRM, no regional restrictions, play it on the device and medium of your choice, etc.
Yesterday, he published the results of his experiment:
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.
He goes on to talk about how important it was for him to respect the fan and make the video approachable to anyone. The cost to the fan was low because CK worked strategically to ensure his own costs were low. Could he have made more money — yes, way more money (according to him). But he enjoyed the freedom of putting out his own content, in the way fans wanted it, without any 3rd party interference.
I’m really glad I put this out here this way and I’ll certainly do it again. If the trend continues with sales on this video, my goal is that i can reach the point where when I sell anything, be it videos, CDs or tickets to my tours, I’ll do it here and I’ll continue to follow the model of keeping my price as far down as possible, not overmarketing to you, keeping as few people between you and me as possible in the transaction.
It’s a really great experiment by a performing artist who respects his fans enough to go out of his way to reach as many as possible, and maybe make less money than he could of if he had gone a more traditional route. At least, less money for this single performance — there’s no telling how much the fans’ respect will earn him in the future.