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Thursday, December 15, 2011
Louis CK's Excellent Business Adventure
The production of the video cost him $170k and the website around $32k, but he decided to offer the video for only $5 to his fans as an experiment, since most of his previous DVD releases where about 3 times that amount.. Within 12 hours he had 50,000 purchases and broke even, and after 4 days he made another $250k in pure profit with total sales of over 500,000. He claims he could have initially made more if he sold it to HBO, but if the video keeps on selling as it is, maybe not.
This goes to show that if you have an audience, you don't need a record label/broadcast entity/big company to turn a profit, and even better, retain control over your product. The problem is that you need to have that audience first in order to pull something like this off. How do you get the audience? Most of the time it's from exposure from that big company that we all hate so much.
This is the conundrum of the Music 3.0 artist. You've got to build your market, and the only way to do that is with the same old fashioned work that artists all over the world have done. You gig. Louis CK is just like any musical artist in that he played the small comedy clubs everywhere, but he did it for 25 years before he built his audience and chops to the point where a major entertainment entity took notice. Then when he got his chance, he delivered (even though his HBO show was cancelled after a short run), but in the process was able to build his audience to the critical mass required to break out on his own. Plus, he was willing to take the chance, which not many artists are.
One of the advantages to living in Music 3.0 is that it's easy to respond to your fan base when a situation like Louie's arises. That's why social media, your website and your mailing list is all so important. With all those in place, you can have the online success of Louie, Radiohead and Trent Reznor. If you hang in there, grow your chops and your audience, and stay in touch with them, you'll be able to capitalize at some some point.
Do you have that kind of perseverance? If you do, build that mailing list and social media contacts now. If not, maybe it's time to think hard about that day job.
Read all about Louie's grand experiment on his website statement.