Louis C.K. and Online Distribution

There’s been a lot of interest in the social media and entertainment blogsphere about the recent success of Louis C.K.’s comedy special, “Live at the Beacon Theater”. Basically, Louis C.K. used his own money to produce a one-hour comedy special. He then posted the special online to download for only $5.00 with no DRM restrictions. He didn’t spend money or a ton of effort marketing it. He created a very easy user download experience, and then tweeted it’s arrival to his fans.

He was warned that releasing the project this way made it a huge piracy risk. The result? He’s made over a million dollars in downloads so far.

I’ve seen quite a few blog posts about the lessons to be learned from this, but a few things jump out at me, both for marketers and content creators:

  1. Build an audience. A lot of media commentary has been focused on the fact that he’s not a huge star, a la Jerry Seinfeld or Ray Romano. His cable show gets very modest ratings. However, while he’s not a huge star, and his cable show isn’t a hit, it still gets over a million viewers every week. And he has over 900,000 followers on Twitter. No, not a superstar, but enough to get 200,000 people to pay five bucks. Before you make your independent album or film and expect to sell a million dollars worth, remember that you have to have an audience.
  2. Be honest with your audience. Louis C.K. knew the risks in making his product available for download, so he simply leveled with his audience. He told them he put up his own money, and asked them to support him by not pirating. He was upfront about what he spent to make the show, and told them he wanted it to be accessible to his fans. His audience appreciated it, and rewarded him with their purchases.
  3. People will pay for your product. I think part of what makes piracy justifiable in many people’s minds is that they feel like they are taking from a large corporation that won’t miss their few bucks. However, when confronted with an honest approach and a price-point that is fair, people were more than willing to drop five bucks for some entertainment. You don’t have to give it away. You just have to be honest and fair.

I really hope we’ll start seeing more success stories like this.


Photo Credit: from http://louisck.wikia.com/wiki/Louis_C.K._Wiki


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