The Louis CK Online Video Experiment Is Now Worth A Million Dollars

The Louis CK Online Video Experiment Is Now Worth A Million Dollars

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Two weeks after Louis CK offered his downloadable streaming concert, “Live at the Beacon Theater” for $5, the experiment has now crossed the million-dollar mark.  A couple of days ago on CK’s website, he decided to tell everyone that he had made a million and what he was going to do with the money.  He even has a picture of his PayPal account showing the balance.  The questions raised by this successful venture become, “Do people copycat Louis CK in the future?” and “Can others be successful following Louis CK’s model?”

Louis CK: Live At The Beacon Theater Hits A Million Bucks

What is CK doing with the money?  On his website he says he’s splitting it up into 4 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 to his staff and the people who work for him.  Christmas Bonus!
  • The third, 280k, is going to charity.  These charities include The Fistula Foundation, The Pablove Foundation, Charity: Water, Kiva, Green Chimneys.
  • The remaining 220k will be his.  I love this explanation:

Some of that will pay my rent and will care for my children. 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.

And he plans on giving more away should he make any more with this special.  At $5 a pop, he’s sold 200,000 units.  That’s a freaking lot.

Is this whole “It’s $5, Don’t Steal It” experiment something others will copy?  I think you’ll see a few other comics (and maybe musical acts) probably do this, but I have to think that a lot of this money is coming from the fact that people like the idea of it.  Some are buying the experiment as much as they’re buying CK.  If a bunch of entertainers start doing this, the experiment starts becoming less special.  It’s hard to come up with a great idea like this and have it stick because the more it happens, the more it gets watered down in the public’s perception.

Yet, a DIY experiment like this doesn’t have to make a million dollars to be a success.  $5 is extremely reasonable, something that does make pirating less attractive.  The special was already a hit in its first day when it sold 50,000 for $250,000.  I think many DIY entertainers would take that in a heartbeat for their final sales, and for CK it was just the beginning.

It opens the door for a lot of people to try this on an even smaller scale.  We’ve seen authors self-publish with great success.  Radiohead released 2007’s In Rainbows with a pay-what-you-want model and ending up with a best-selling album.  What if someone like Freddie Wong made a movie for his YouTube channel and charged his viewers $1 to watch it, and he got even a quarter of the views he normally gets?

Whatever your take on the experiment, you’ve got to love Louis CK for trying it, succeeding, and ultimately sharing his money with so many people.  The guy has won fans just through that alone.


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