Louis C.K. has stepped out once again to prove that Hollywood is bullshit. A big, bureaucratic waste of money and resources. How does he prove this? His latest hour long special, Live at the Beacon Theater was a production he put together himself, with the intent of selling the special on his website for $5 a DRM-free digital copy, with permission to burn to a DVD, save it, watch it over and over, whatever you like. The point of all this is to fund the special, which cost $250,000 to make, in the hope that it will afford him the chance to do it yet again, without having to rely on companies like HBO or Comedy Central to fund the special.
So far, Louis has grossed $1.2 million from the special, at $5 a copy. That’s 240,000 digital downloads at $5 a piece. He was able to recoup the $250,000 production cost, pay his staff and crew fat bonuses (with another $250,000), and he so far donated $280,000 to a variety of his favorite charities, most of them focused on sick children. The remaining money will go toward his living expenses as his fee for performing, his earnings. As he exclaims on his website, $220,000 is enough of a million for him. Here’s a quick statement from Louis himself:
“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 (after taxes $75.58). This is less than I would have been paid by a large company to simply perform the show and let them sell it to you, but they would have charged you about $20 for the video. They would have given you an encrypted and regionally restricted video of limited value, and they would have owned your private information for their own use. They would have withheld international availability indefinitely. This way, you only paid $5, you can use the video any way you want, and you can watch it in Dublin, whatever the city is in Belgium, or Dubai. I got paid nice, and I still own the video (as do you). You never have to join anything, and you never have to hear from us again.”
Now, the biggest thing to consider is the fact that without doing previous specials, and without the branding that his name has become, he probably wouldn’t have the high amount of interest that he has drawn to the show. However, he goes on to prove that no one needs to charge $20 a copy for a video to be profitable. Hell, it doesn’t even need to be the $10 that iTunes charges for most similar specials. Direct from artist to viewers is indeed a viable marketplace, despite the fact that major studios and big distributors complain that their product is being stolen. Your product is not being stolen, it’s just not good enough to pay for, so people don’t. When it is good enough to pay for, people will. The proof is in Louis C.K.’s Paypal account.
As for the show itself, there is a reason Louis C.K. is the best working comedian right now, because he’s also the hardest working. As a comic who their favorite comic is, and it seems 9 out of 10 will say Louis C.K. because not only is his comedy widely digestible, it’s smart, sharp, and it doesn’t pull any punches. Louis is sick of bullshit, and he’s not afraid to express his discontent.
The biggest aspect of his show is his preparation, a real journeyman comic, Louis spends most of his time performing live, honing his material, and refining it before exposing it to national audiences. The best part of a new Louis special is the fact that it will all be new material, he never likes to make a fan pay for the same thing twice, and he has said himself he gets sick of telling the same jokes over and over, because even though the crowd might be new, he still has to hear them.
The show is on par with the rest of his recent work, top shelf comedy from a top shelf comedian. Plus, you get the entire picture, in front of and behind cameras, where Louis is exposing the system for the broken, corrupt beast that it is. He proves that quality will always shine through, and that people want to pay for good content. However, they’re very discerning, and if there is a chance your content isn’t up to par, be ready to be torn down. His confidence and good will allows Louis to do this without fear of reprisal or failure, even though he was taking a big risk putting up his own money to fund the special and build the website to sell it on, which was no small feat in itself. Not only is Louis C.K. proving that he’s on the cutting edge of comedy material, he’s on the cutting edge of distribution technology, and he understands what the fans want, which surely isn’t over-priced, under-produced garbage. They want quality for their dollar, and they’ll gladly pay for it. If you’re interested in seeing the special for yourself, it’s a measly $5 via Paypal over at Louis C.K.’s website. A small price to pay for the best working comic today.