SOPA Opera

Louis C.K. On the Profit and Loss of Turning ‘Pirates Back Into Paying Customers’

screen shot 2011 12 14 at 7 41 24 am e1323868202440 Louis C.K. On the Profit and Loss of Turning Pirates Back Into Paying Customers

via "Live at the Beacon Theater"

Louis C.K. made the Internet very happy this week. Need proof? Check out the swath the comedian cut through Reddit’s Ask Me Anything or AMA forum, where, in between some radically transparent answers (He turns down female fans who try to pleasure him between shows! He’s not an atheist! ) even a brusque “Shut up” or “Fuck you” elicited swoons from Redditors. IAmA Person who Louis C.K. said shut up to,” wrote newjunkieGR.

Similar praise and awe was given to Mr. C.K.’s web experiment: pay $5 to access his latest special, “Live at the Beacon Theater”, DRM-free.

Redditor gimpbully wrote:

This is exactly what a sizable portion of us have been begging for for close to a decade now. Seriously, this is the type of move that makes pirates back into paying customers. Thank you so much.
The video format is perfect, the encoding is clean, it’s dirt cheap and was hosted on a fast server (and damn fine content to boot). That’s all we ask for. I promise you half of us labeled pirates just want a specific or usable format that works with our home entertainment setup. We’ll gladly fork over gobs and gobs of money if you just continue to provide content in this style. It’s simply not a price thing for many of us.

Redditor mikelj had a similar response, although he advised Mr. C.K. towards an “opt-in” mailing button next time:

“Opt out” as the default is such a minor thing, but it makes people feel good. Just like your bit about “feeling good about thinking about doing good things”, it makes all of us internet people used to both being fucked (with DRM, spam, closed players, etc.) and admittedly fucking (pirating every fucking thing) feel like we’re finally doing something good by spending $5 and opting in to your list.
Human psychology is bizarroland.
Thanks for doing this, man. Good shit.”

But did the people of Internet have the same life-affirming affect on Mr. C.K. who paid for both the production and online distribution of the special himself?

In a statement released yesterday, addressed to the “People of Earth (minus the ones who don’t give a shit about this),” Mr. C.K revealed that in four days, he sold more than 110,000 copies, earning $500,000 in gross sales, minus PayPal fees. Within 12 hours of the video going on sale, he had 50,000 purchases, breaking even on the website itself, which cost $32,000 to develop, and production of the video. (The $170,000 directing costs were largely covered by ticket sales at the venue). After that, Mr. C.K. says he made a profit of more than $200,000 thus far.

Said Mr. C.K.:

“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. I really hope people keep buying it a lot, so I can have shitloads of money, but at this point I think we can safely say that the experiment really worked. If anybody stole it, it wasn’t many of you. Pretty much everybody bought it. And so now we all get to know that about people and stuff. I’m really glad I put this out here this way and I’ll certainly do it again.”

That said, fans have a way to go before hitting that $8 million mark, at which point Mr. C.K. promises to get back into the movie game.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com