Louis CK’s Experiment

December 22, 2011

Louis CK

You may have heard about this. If so, well, there’s been a very big update as of yesterday.

Back story: On December 10, comedian Louis CK put a video of himself performing at the Beacon Theater in New York City up for sale on a website made just for purpose. It offered the video for $5. You could pay through PayPal – even if you didn’t have a PayPal account – and download the video right away. And:

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.

Just four days later Louis CK issued a statement:

People of Earth (minus the ones who don’t give a sh*t 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? […]

First of all, this was a premium video production, shot with six cameras over two performances at the Beacon Theater, which is a high-priced elite Manhattan venue. I directed this video myself and the production of the video cost around $170,000. (This was largely paid for by the tickets bought by the audiences at both shows). The material in the video was developed over months on the road and has never been seen on my show (LOUIE) or on any other special. The risks were thus: every new generation of material I create is my income, it’s like a farmer’s annual crop. The time and effort on my part was far more than if I’d done it with a big company. If I’d done it with a big company, I would have a guarantee of a sizable fee, as opposed to this way, where I’m actually investing my own money.


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.

That’s a pretty powerful little experiment, and the comedian said it was so successful that he hopes to do it in the future: cut out the bigwigs, and just go straight to the fans. Pretty cool.

But there is more – so much more. Mr. CK updated the site yesterday:

hi. So it’s been about 12 days since the thing started and yesterday we hit the crazy number. One million dollars. That’s a lot of money. Really too much money. I’ve never had a million dollars all of a sudden. and since we’re all sharing this experience and since it’s really your money, I wanted to let you know what I’m doing with it. People are paying attention to what’s going on with this thing. So I guess I want to set an example of what you can do if you all of a sudden have a million dollars that people just gave to you directly because you told jokes.

So I’m breaking the million into four pieces.

the first 250k is going to pay back what the special cost to produce and the website to build.

The second 250k is going back to my staff and the people who work for me on the special and on my show. I’m giving them a big fat bonus.

The third 280k is going to a few different charities. They are listed below in case you’d like to donate to them also. Some of these i learned about through friends, some were reccomended through twitter.

That leaves me with 220k for myself. Some of that will pay my rent and will care for my childen. The rest I will do terrible, horrible things with and none of that is any of your business. In any case, to me, 220k is enough out of a million.

That is one heck of a good story, and a really good story for the Christmas season. Wow. A very, very large Uncle John’s hats-off to Mr. Louis CK!

[pic: fixed!]



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