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

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

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.

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

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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About the Author -
Chris Atkinson joined ReelSEO in 2011. He is a longtime film and television reviewer, and has almost two decades of experience in the theater industry. He also writes on his personal blog - http://nymoviereviews.com. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=634048875 Corey Weiner

    Not only do I love LouisCK's work, I love this experiment. True, it will certainly get watered down by everyone who follows but I just love cutting out the middle men, including YouTube who makes millions off other people's creativity.

  • Jean Renard

    Everyone has been doing this in one way or another for a long time, he just found a sweet spot for price and value content. people don't take free content unless they really like you. He has fans, they like him, 5$ was the right price at the right time. Nothing mind blowing, just a pay off from a ton of hard work. Good for him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=840917678 Debonair Watson

    Louis CK will make more than that before it's over. I actually think he will sell a 1 million copies because the more copies he sell the more people want to watch it just to see what it's all about at the end of the day. Plus he can still sell it to TV and Netflix and others and it's still a DVD market. Tons of people still don't watch stuff online especially people over 35 years old.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6113440 Mike Kelley

    hes a good dude and his fans know the money wont be funneled into adding another wing onto his house or buying a chateau in france - like those whiny pricks from metallica. also he is one of the funniest men alive which cant hurt. his authentic personality coupled with his great comedic work creates the perfect storm and boosts his credibility so people don't steal from him. rock on louie! fuck u metallica.