Comedian Louis CK Releases DRM-free Stand-up Show

Comedian Louis CK has announced the results of releasing his latest stand up show "Live at the Beacon Theatre" without Digital Rights Management (DRM) - turns out he sold over 110,000 copies in the first four days.

Filmed with his own money, edited by him and then distributed through his own website, CK certainly took a non-traditional tack when it came to handling his comedy production. However, this allowed him perfect creative control, as well as retaining ownership of the show and making it possible to keep the price as low as $5 per purchase.

Traditional comedy DVDs, CDs, ticket sales all go through intermediary companies. They might offer up a larger pay check to performers, but they also jack up the price. Yesterday on the Opie and Anthony radio show, CK was heard discussing Ticket Masters' practice of almost doubling ticket prices of performances to increase their own cut.

So, four days on from releasing his DRM free, region free, SD or HD video file of his performance, how has Louis CK's brave outing fared? So far he's sold over 110,000 copies, generating him some $500,000. "Minus some money for PayPal charges etc, I have a profit around $200,000," CK said on his official site. Bear in mind that this is only with a little bit of online and radio promotion. There's been no bill boards, no TV ads, just word of mouth in a few well populated areas. Of course with almost a million Twitter followers, you could argue that CK has a good audience to pitch products to, but how often do you buy something recommended by someone you 'follow'?

"At this point I think we can safely say that the experiment really worked," he continued, citing that in future, he'd like to do all releases in this fashion: tickets for shows, CDs, videos and more. "I'll continue to follow the model of keeping my price as far down as possible, not overmarketing to you, keeping as few people between you and me as possible in the transaction."

Considering most Christmas period stand-up releases cost anywhere from £12-£20, $5 completely undercuts every other release out there. For what amounts to around £3, you get an hour of entertainment, can use the file anywhere you want, how you want. Also for such a low price, Louis has guaranteed multiple purchases, as for many it'll be easier to simply buy it again at a friend's house if they want to watch it there.

The other part of it is that users like the idea of giving money directly to the creative person behind everything. As a customer paying to watch a stand-up comedian that I like, I want to pay that person. I don't want to be giving money to the studio that produced the show, or the theatre. Let me give my money to the man behind the content, the performer and let him pay those that helped him in the process. That's a perfect procedure.

The real interesting part about what CK is doing though, is the social experiment of it all. Gamers, music users, movie fans, for years they have all been saying they dislike DRM, they dislike region encoding and they dislike high price tags. These are many of the excuses used by those that illegally download media. By removing these obstacles, many wondered whether people would follow through, or continue to download his shows for free. Some did, and Louis took to sites like Reddit to discuss torrenting, but the majority didn't.

While independent game developers like Cliffski and companies like GoG have been advocating DRM free sales for years, perhaps the tide is beginning to turn, with people like Louis CK helping to lead the way. This is how people want to consume their media: easily, cheaply and with no restrictions. It's been proved that it's possible and that it's profitable. Hopefully others will follow suit.

Finishing up his blog post, Mr CK thanked fans for all this "crazy shit," and said that he'd learned a lot about money. That "It can be something that is hoarded, fought over, protected, stolen and withheld. Or it can be like an energy, fueled by the desire, will, creative interest, need to laugh, of large groups of people. And it can be shuffled and pushed around and pooled together to fuel a common interest."

Well put.