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Louis CK's Internet Experiment Pays Off 309

Posted by samzenpus
from the honor-system dept.
redletterdave writes "Comedian Louis C.K., real name Louis Szekely, took a major risk by openly selling his latest stand-up special, 'Louis C.K. Live at the Beacon Theater,' for only $5 on his website and refusing to put any DRM restrictions on the video, which made it easily susceptible to pirating and torrenting. Four days later, Louis CK's goodwill experiment has already paid off: The 44-year-old comic now reports making a profit of about $200,000, after banking more than $500,000 in revenue from the online-only sale. The special, which has sold 110,000 copies so far, is only available on Louis CK's website."
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Louis CK's Internet Experiment Pays Off

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  • Pirate attitude (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bonch (38532) * on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:17PM (#38376536)

    Louis CK said in an NPR interview [npr.org] earlier this week:

    "And a friend of mine who does torrent stuff a lot says that when torrent users do buy something, they act like they're doing the greatest thing ever. ... They're saying, 'I bought something today. I paid for it. And I didn't steal it. I'm the greatest person alive.' "

    I've noticed this attitude as well. It's really, really annoying.

    • Re:Pirate attitude (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:23PM (#38376610)

      No, the attitude I see more often is "This thing is so good and so reasonably priced -- I *paid* for it."

      • by stanlyb (1839382)
        Seconded. I happen to buy a lot of books too, and i am even reading them, but i am simply not going to pay $15 for the hard cover book, not now, not later, not ever. Put a reasonable price, and if i like it, i will buy it. And there is one thing that a lot of torrent-haters does not realize: You may download 1000 books/movies/shows, but you cannot watch them all, and soon You realize that your time is so precious and limited, that You are willing to actually pay for well spent time. And of course to demand
        • by mug funky (910186)

          "You may download..."
          "they force you to read/watch."

          logic bomb! aaargh! my brain!

        • Who is forcing you to read or watch anything? :'-( You should report their actions to the proper authorities post haste!! ~:-O
          • by OakDragon (885217) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @07:03PM (#38377200) Journal

            Who is forcing you to read or watch anything? :'-( You should report their actions to the proper authorities post haste!! ~:-O

            It involves Beethoven and eye drops, my dobby droog.

          • Re:Pirate attitude (Score:5, Insightful)

            by rkfig (1016920) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @07:05PM (#38377224)
            So you haven't experienced the DVDs that force you to sit through previews by disabling skip and fast forward functionality. How nice for you.
            • by Parafilmus (107866) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @03:31AM (#38380792) Homepage

              So you haven't experienced the DVDs that force you to sit through previews by disabling skip and fast forward functionality. How nice for you.

              The DVD isn't disabling those buttons. It's just a plastic disc with some data on it. It has no power over your player.

              The culprit here is your insubordinate DVD player, which willfully disobeys your commands.

              It might be possible to overwrite the player's firmware to make it more docile. If not, you should consider having it put down. If you tolerate insubordination, that will only set a bad example for the rest of your electronics. Eventually, it could lead to outright mutiny. Best to nip these things in the bud.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bonch (38532) *

          Not only do you claim people are forcing you to read and watch things, but you act as if the fact you refuse to pay for something means you're owed it for free. What a strange position to take.

      • by bonch (38532) *

        I think the implication is that people may say such things, but it's really to make themselves feel better, as if they're "making up" for piracy.

    • Re:Pirate attitude (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DC2088 (2343764) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:25PM (#38376638)
      Agreed - if you're going to pirate for reasons of "overpriced ____" or "label ____ is getting all the money", consider artists who do this stuff ON THEIR OWN with no serious corporate ties in the production or who are part of itty-bitty labels (Protomen, Devin Townsend, recent NIN, KMFDM come to mind) if you're REALLY against the whole "corporate conglomerate of music" thing .. Or hey, get Spotify. You're paying, what, $5 a month there, AFTER your free trial? I get why piracy exists, but there are artists I will give my money to without a second thought for a number of reasons. But the wrong attitude is to then act like you're the moral superior.
      • Re:Pirate attitude (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Endo13 (1000782) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @07:12PM (#38377304)

        The "moral superior" attitude comes from paying someone who actually deserves it, as opposed to paying the MAFIAA who create nothing themselves and charge 5 times what something is actually worth, while passing on next to nothing to the people who actually did the work.

        I'll gladly pay an artist if his work deserves it, but I'll be damned if I help enable the abusive greedy behavior of the content cartels. They can go fuck themselves.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by LordLimecat (1103839)

          The "moral superior" attitude comes from paying someone who actually deserves it, as opposed to paying the MAFIAA who create nothing themselves and charge 5 times what something is actually worth, while passing on next to nothing to the people who actually did the work.

          I'll gladly pay an artist if his work deserves it, but I'll be damned if I help enable the abusive greedy behavior of the content cartels. They can go fuck themselves.

          You DO realize that noone is obligated to create entertainment for you for the price you demand, right? Reading your post one gets the idea that you feel yourself entitled to entertainment.

          • Re:Pirate attitude (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Endo13 (1000782) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @07:43PM (#38377796)

            Of course they're not obligated to create it.

            But then, bear in mind, that entertainment as a whole is not something that anyone ever needs to buy. What entertainment we absolustely have to have to maintain our sanity we can generally provide for ourselves.

            On top of that, there's such a glut and over-supply of entertainment available these days, it's almost surprising that *any* of them make much money.

            Bottom line, it's a buyer's market, more than any industry has ever been before. The MAFIAA et al keep trying to make that not true, but it's just not possible.

            So no, they're not obligated to create the entertainment I want for the price I demand... unless they actually want to turn a profit. If you're in the entertainment business and no one likes what you're creating, it is in every sense of the word, worthless.

    • Back in the days of Shareware there was a similar attitude from people who actually paid the software author. Part of that was encouraged by the authors, they would list people that had purchased their program or thank them personally. The big difference today is the people who created the stuff that is being "shared" via torrent are usually so distantly removed from the purchase that they don't realize or care that some geek bought their CD or DVD. So there is no longer a recognition from the creator of

    • by StikyPad (445176)

      That's why I torrented that shit.

    • Re:Pirate attitude (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:41PM (#38376888) Journal

      Habitual pirates buy spend more on media than those who don't pirate AND they are happier with their purchases. Isn't this a good thing?

      • Re:Pirate attitude (Score:4, Informative)

        by gweihir (88907) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @07:13PM (#38377316)

        It is. Except for those that want to tell others what to think and how to live. Typically found in the religious extremist corner, but the copyright industry also makes efforts in that direction. Even the term "pirate" is intellectually dishonest in the extreme.

    • Just curious -- I wonder if you could do a psychological study and see if the "good feeling" a pirate gets from paying for something legitimately is like the good feeling non-pirates get by donating to charity. Which might reveal something about the pirate's view of the media they pirate -- that it's charity or something.
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      I find it nice compared to people that buy BluRay's at the store. They moan and cry how they feel dirty, and need to shower to try and get the feeling of filth off their skin.

      But buying a Sony Technology that funds the MPAA does that to people.

  • I'm shocked! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Above (100351) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:21PM (#38376588)

    When you give consumers a product that they want, at a price they find fair, in a form factor (format) that is convenient for them, in a location that is convenient for them, they are happy to pay for it!

    • Re:I'm shocked! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:25PM (#38376642)

      It's a shame that professional publishers, with very few exceptions, don't realize that.

      • Re:I'm shocked! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by isonline (684583) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:29PM (#38376686)
        Oh the professional publishers do! They also realize that if they control the channels they can pay the actual author a pittance as well as make a greater profit off the higher prices paid by the non-pirates and the fees that the extort out of the people they attempt to drag into court.
      • by JMZero (449047)

        I think they do realize that - and I think they realize that in many of these models there's no box for "publisher" at all. They're not fighting for artists or consumers, they're fighting for their own existence.

        If Louis just sells stuff from his website to people, there's not a lot of other people who get to feed off that.

        • In Louis' case, no, there aren't, because he does virtually everything himself. In a lot of other cases there are actors, editors, producers, sound guys, promoters, etc who may also expect to get a cut from the profits. The publisher would get a cut by bringing all of those people together and producing the final package. So, yeah, their cut goes from 50% or whatever they're making now, down to about 10% or whatever finder's fees are going for these days. But I think there's a strong argument that, not

          • by Ihmhi (1206036)

            This is one of the most wonderful and powerful things about technology in our current era. Louis CK does editing and other such work on his television show Louie, and there are loads of artists that basically self-produce their own work (such as Johnathan Coulton).

            The only things the RIAA and record labels can exclusively provide nowadays are advertising and a distribution channel that is rapidly becoming obsolete.

        • That NPR interview he did explained pretty much that he never sees a nickel for the TV specials, beyond the initial fee, which is a lot. This whole notion that pirates are taking money out of the pockets of artists appears to be BS, because the production companies take everything anyways, at least in Louis CK's case, which I'd surmise is typical.

          Reading stories of the music industry, it seems that this is the case there, too. There's a reason Cheap Trick is still touring after all these years, and it's not

    • Re:I'm shocked! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mistiry (1845474) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:32PM (#38376740)

      Took me a minute to decide to comment, or mod up.

      I will NOT pay $20+ for a DVD full of DRM/malware. If I purchase something, it is mine. I will not subject myself to corporate restrictions on what I can do with my own property. I have gladly paid for DRM-free songs and movies, and will continue to do so as long as my rights to my own property are not encroached upon.

      I have even donated more than asked to independent artists, simply because I feel that they deserved to be compensated for producing something I enjoyed.

      The typical pirate's attitude is not "yay, everything's free!".

      Should $CORPORATION decide to release their movies for a reasonable price and allow me to download it immediately via BitTorrent, here's my Visa.

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        For me, that was sort-of what Netflix was for -- a way to leverage the internet to watch movies immediately, legitimately, for what I considered a reasonable price. Alas, it never really lived up to the hype. But I'm still a member, hoping the selection gets better.

        • Re:I'm shocked! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by mistiry (1845474) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @07:17PM (#38377382)

          Although it definitely lacks some content, I too use Netflix for this reason.

          It has actually reduced the amount of stuff I have to pirate, because it gives me a moderate collection of mostly-HD TV shows and movies available for $8/month on my Wii, Xbox, computer, and phone.

          Rather than waiting for a torrent to download, I can boot up the Xbox, find something interesting, and within 10 seconds I'm watching it in full HD.

          I am happy to pay the negligible $8 each month to legally do this.

      • by Urza9814 (883915)

        Yup. Recently discovered this band MAYDAY! (maydayonline.com) and even though I could find all of their music on Youtube and rip it from there (and already had for dozens of theirs songs), as soon as I found them for sale on their website (bandcamp), I bought every one of them. Why? It's easier than ripping from youtube, they give you any format you could possibly want (FLAC, MP3, AAC, Ogg, even ALAC [wtf is ALAC?]) and you can download them instantly for only $5. Worth it. And I know I'm actually supportin

        • Re:I'm shocked! (Score:5, Informative)

          by mistiry (1845474) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @07:23PM (#38377470)

          I'll gladly pay if I know it's actually supporting the artist. But what I WON'T do is pay mony that I know will go towards suing their fans. Or pay the same price as a physical CD for an online download. Or pay $20 for a five track EP.

          Agreed. Why should I give my hard earned money to a label, that honestly serves less and less of a purpose every day, who in turn leaves a pittance to the actual artist.

          Of course, how many bands/singers that are signed by these labels are truly 'artists' anymore? I wouldn't define an artist as someone who sings songs written by someone else to music composed and played by someone else, all through auto-tune.

          Now, a band like MAYDAY, or an indy musician like Dan Bull [itsdanbull.com], those are true artists, and deserve to be compensated accordingly.

          As for the last part of your comment - you are spot on. Digital media should be cheaper than physical media, and a five-track 'album' is just another ploy by the label to get more money out of the fans.

    • by mmarlett (520340)

      When you give consumers a product that they want, at a price they find fair, in a form factor (format) that is convenient for them, in a location that is convenient for them, they are happy to pay for it!

      Yep. I bought it right away when I saw it online the other day. I started watching it on my computer but transferred it to my PS3 for big screen entertainment. Im watching it right now.

    • There were people in NYC getting like 750 kbps download. Ain't no way you'd see that when torrenting.. or even using megavideo's paid version. Very much : Want. Click. Have.

    • When you give consumers a product that they want, at a price they find fair, in a form factor (format) that is convenient for them, in a location that is convenient for them, they are happy to pay for it!

      ...and, by extension, if you don't offer it at a price they find fair, in a form factor that is convenient for them, or in a location that is convenient for them, then there are surprising numbers of consumers out there who think that the appropriate (and sometimes even moral) response is "therefore, I am happy to stiff you and get it free off the Internet", not "therefore, I will not pay you any of my money and go without your overpriced, poorly distributed wares."

    • Re:I'm shocked! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by theweatherelectric (2007596) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:41PM (#38376892)

      When you give consumers a product that they want, at a price they find fair, in a form factor (format) that is convenient for them, in a location that is convenient for them, they are happy to pay for it!

      The hard part is making that happen in the first place. From the article:

      Louis CK used the $500,000 to pay off several costs, including the $170,000 it took to produce the show, and the $32,000 he spent on building and editing his own website.

      Leaving aside the possibility of people acquiring the video without paying for it, he had $300,000 of costs (they don't indicate where the other $100,000 went, maybe the $202,000 figure mentioned was the up front cost and the next $98,000 was distribution). Sure, he could have perhaps found a lower cost way to distribute it but it's still $170,000 in production costs. Part of the deal with publishers of any kind is that they're taking on the risk of producing it. If it doesn't sell it's them who will be losing money, not the author or act or band, etc. In this case, Louis CK put himself in a position where he would potentially lose $170,000 at the minimum. It's only established acts who have the opportunity to take that sort of risk.

      • by Above (100351)

        Leaving aside the possibility of people acquiring the video without paying for it, he had $300,000 of costs (they don't indicate where the other $100,000 went, maybe the $202,000 figure mentioned was the up front cost and the next $98,000 was distribution). Sure, he could have perhaps found a lower cost way to distribute it but it's still $170,000 in production costs. Part of the deal with publishers of any kind is that they're taking on the risk of producing it. If it doesn't sell it's them who will be losing money, not the author or act or band, etc. In this case, Louis CK put himself in a position where he would potentially lose $170,000 at the minimum. It's only established acts who have the opportunity to take that sort of risk.

        The costs you site are at best loosely coupled to the price of the show, and in many cases not coupled at all.

        Round numbers, let's say there was $300k of costs and $200k of profit. In this case Louis took on all the costs, and took home all the profit.

        He could have gone to some finance person (anyone from a bank to a full blown producer, and lots of folks in the middle) and cut a deal like perhaps, finance person puts up $300k, Louis and Finance person split the profits 50/50. Now finance person is out th

    • Re:I'm shocked! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tverbeek (457094) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @07:02PM (#38377166) Homepage

      But the question is whether these experimental results can be reproduced.

    • Re:I'm shocked! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 19thNervousBreakdown (768619) <davec-slashdot AT lepertheory DOT net> on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @07:06PM (#38377232) Homepage

      Being literally the funniest man alive doesn't hurt.

  • Every time an artist does something like this, it pays off greatly. Think Humble Indy Bundle. Yet all the major publishers claim they'd be bankrupted? Pirates gonna pirate. Haters gonna hate. Don't screw over your legitimate users with malware!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Endo13 (1000782)

      Every time an artist does something like this, it pays off greatly.

      The most surprising thing here is that anyone finds this surprising.

      Artists have been doing just fine in the face of rampant piracy for decades now. Every industry affected by piracy has continuously gotten larger and more profitable.

      The only things that have ever hurt these industries are the same things that hurt *any* industry: poor quality products, poor marketing, poor judgement by the manufacturer in setting the MSRP, etc.

  • Louis CK's experiment is proof that you don't need DRM to make a profit and, a decent amount at that. Good for him! It is nice to see someone with behaving rationally!
    • Re:Proof (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bonch (38532) * on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:26PM (#38376654)

      Didn't Apple already prove this when they converted their music store to a DRM-free format? It seems like nobody around here gives them any credit for that...

      • by Myopic (18616) *

        It doesn't feel the same when the "person" doing it is the world's most valuable multinational corporation, and siphons off thirty percent of every sale as a toll, before passing on the payment to more huge multinational corporations to siphon off more, before giving the artists their pittance. I guess for me the DRM is less important than those other things, though still more important.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          SO? Apple makes some money. 30% isn't really that bad when you look at costs to operate iTunes.

          Hey, musicians, self publish. Don't sign the contract.

      • Re:Proof (Score:5, Funny)

        by recrudescence (1383489) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:38PM (#38376852)
        Heh. You remind me of this quote from a movie. I don't remember the exact movie, but the quote went something like this:
        - I saved a man's life once!
        - Yeah? What did you do?
        - I stopped kicking him.
    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Well, more importantly, it proves you don't need a major publishing company to make a profit.

  • It's trying to continue to make money off it for the next 50 years, which the RIAA/MPAA are trying to do.

    Good effort, though.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:37PM (#38376834)

      This is exactly the point. He gets paid just fine for the work that he just did, but to continue to get paid he needs to do new work. This is how the system should work, as opposed to the RIAA/MPAA model of do a work and then try to lock it up and get paid for it for the rest of eternity. The public domain is being robbed by these kinds of jokers who think that once something is made it should be owned forever, rather than becoming the shared cultural heritage that it really is and belonging to all the people who saw it when it was initially made.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:51PM (#38377016)

      Louis C.K. is real big on that. He claims, and his shows seem to back up, that he tosses his old jokes each year and moves on to new ones. He doesn't keep doing the same material over and over. Means that if he releases a new special, well there is probably a reason to watch it.

  • I think this demonstrates something that I've believed in for years. When doing business, sometimes it's wise to leave a bit on the table. You won't be maximizing profit or getting the absolute best deal that you could have, but the goodwill earned can be priceless and can pay off in ways you can't envision.
  • I find it amusing that the link itself and the link the site refers to, both say the opposite things. The article basically has him saying he dosn't think any if many people stole it at all, the article he links to says at least 500 people stole it. Now what would be more fair to say would be that the piracy is the same or less then if the video had the DRM, and that the piracy did not appear to have reduced sales at all.
  • The Humble Bundle is a great example of what people will do when they have the option of either getting something for nothing, or getting that same thing and paying for it when they know their money goes somewhere besides a publishing exec's pocket.
  • by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:41PM (#38376898)

    Back when allofmp3 was still alive and well, I bought hundreds of dollars of music from them. Even a lot of stuff that I already owned on CD since it was much more convenient to download the album than to find a good ripping program and to sit around and load CD's.

    After I lost the ability to add funds to my allofmp3 account, I pretty much stopped buying music at all, except the very occasional MP3 album. At $2.00/album I'm willing to buy lots of music, even bands I don't know well. At $10/album, I'm much more selective to the point of almost never purchasing.

    Not to mention the fact that I already have a few hundred albums of music I like, so I don't really feel a strong urge to purchase more. The more music I own, the less I'm willing to spend on new music. If I have only 2 albums, I might be willing to spend $20 on a new one just to get variety. But if I have 200 albums I don't add much variety to my collection by buying something new, so I might want to pay only $5 for a new album unless it's some artist I really like.

  • by Crudely_Indecent (739699) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:47PM (#38376982) Journal

    I found it odd that TFA didn't mention the site, or where one can go to get this fine drm-free video.

    https://buy.louisck.net/ [louisck.net]

    I think it's great, personally. He's getting $5 from me. It's a fair price, and he's a funny guy.

  • by LazyAcer (105424) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @06:47PM (#38376988)

    LCK says he doesn't get torrents, but I think he does, this is very smart. Many people who watch the torrent version will gladly hop over to his site and pay their $5 and not even bother to d/l again. Movies should be like this, what if you could pay on the way out of the theater after you've seen the movie, wouldn't that make alot more sense?

    You know it'll never happen, but it's a nice idea

    =D

  • But the only method is to use paypal.
    I had to change my email to get rid of those cretins.
    The level of their malevolence I leave to others to describe.

    Too bad, I wanted to reward Louis for his efforts.

    I've not made a few other purchases for the same paypal reasons.

  • Direct link (Score:5, Informative)

    by slasho81 (455509) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @07:38PM (#38377700)
    Why not do as Louis does? Cut out the useless middleman and link directly to his statement [louisck.net].
  • I bought it. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Beelzebud (1361137) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @07:39PM (#38377722)
    $5.00 for an h264 720p non-DRM video, an mp4 standard definition file with no-DRM, and the option to stream it over the internet two times. It was a great deal, and I thought it deserved support. The fact that I got 2 copies of the show, that I can use on whatever device I choose, is great.

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