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Louis CK Cuts Out Middle Man and Would Do It Again



If you pay attention to how we categorize content here at Marketing Pilgrim you can get a good idea of where we feel a story fits in the Internet space. Most stories can be categorized in several different ways but there is usually one specific area that truly defines the story. In the case of the Louis CK experiment it’s all about a pretty successful job of content marketing.

For those of you who don’t know who Louis CK is, he is a comedian. He is funny. Very funny. He is also very crude at times so you have been warned. We have noted his great bit about how spoiled we are (see the end of this post if you haven’t enjoyed it already). He now is also a content marketing pioneer as explained here at The Next Web

Comedian Louis CK has announced some numbers related to his recent experiment to sell his latest comedy special, Live at the Beacon Theater, for $5 online, instead of offering it through a distributor.

In the post, he says that the special, which went on sale, Saturday, December 10th, had sold 50,000 ‘units’ and earned $250k, covering the production costs. As of today, 110k copies had been sold, for a total intake of over $500k, bringing him a profit of $200k so far.

The experiment was remarkable because it flies in the face of conventional wisdom about video distribution on the web. The offering is simple, $5 via PayPal (or credit card) and you would receive two streaming views and two downloads of the special. There was no DRM restrictions and no special preventative measures taken with regards to piracy.

This was quite an undertaking and if you want the real details check out Louis CK’s own take on the success of this endeavor. Here is a sample of his recap. It’s an interesting read for sure.

People of Earth (minus the ones who don’t give a s&$! about this): it’s been amazing to conduct this experiment with you. The experiment was: if I put out a brand new standup special at a drastically low price ($5) and make it as easy as possible to buy, download and enjoy, free of any restrictions, will everyone just go and steal it? Will they pay for it? And how much money can be made by an individual in this manner?

It’s been 4 days. A lot of people are asking me how it’s going. I’ve been hesitant to share the actual figures, because there’s power in exclusive ownership of information. What I didn’t expect when I started this was that people would not only take part in this experiment, they would be invested in it and it would be important to them. It’s been amazing to see people in large numbers advocating this idea. So I think it’s only fair that you get to know the results. 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. So here it is.

Read the rest at his site. It’s worth it.

So how does this impact marketers? It’s just evidence that content sells and it can be used creatively to get your message out. Of course, not everyone is a comedian with a TV show. Many of us are trying to sell “stuff and things” that don’t merit the kind of attention that an entertainer does. So what?! There are people out there that buy your stuff isn’t there? If there wasn’t you wouldn’t have work. As a result, there are human beings spending their or their company’s money to get what you have and they might actually be interested in something more than just a purchase.

Maybe, just maybe, you could get creative and make something happen that wouldn’t have otherwise. It doesn’t mean you are going to hit a home run every time but if you don’t swing you’re not going to hit anything at all.

I found this whole Louis CK experiment to be a fascinating lesson in looking for other ways to do things. Looking for ways that might look risky but are interesting enough to maybe do something special. As marketers we all should be taking more risks shouldn’t we? Otherwise we all start to act and sound the same. Now, that would suck.

Enjoy Louis CK’s take on the world of non-contributing zeros. You’ll laugh.

  • http://joehall.me/ Joe Hall

    I am a huge Louis CK fan! I went and bought the special as soon as I heard about it, and it was awesome! Definitely crude and in your face but extremely funny. If you support new media entrepreneurs you should support Louis!

  • http://egoistphilosophyblog.com Keenan Steel

    His AMA on Reddit was brilliant. It appealed to the audience, and contained just the right amount of advertising (which is to say very little). I wonder how much revenue he got from the Reddit crowd alone – it stuck in the first position for several hours.

  • Cynthia Boris

    I deal with a lot of authors and across the board, they’re all worried about their work being stolen or shared – cutting in to their profits. That don’t want to send out review copies because they’ll be spread around then no one will buy the book.

    Baloney. People will pay for what they want. We’ve seen this in the music industry. People can get tons of free music online but still people drop bucks at iTunes, Amazon, etc. Sometimes people will do it out of sheer loyalty. In this case, they like Louis, so they pay the dollars. And by cutting out the middle man, he can offer it at a reasonable price so it’s not a hard sell.

    I saw a quote the other day about how millions of great books never get published – because the book never gets past the author’s computer. Louis put his work out there. It could have flopped, but it didn’t. You’ve got to put your content out there, too.