Monty Python's Meaning Of Free: The Holy Grail Of Massively Increased Sales

from the and-that-is-the-speed-of-an-unladen-swallow dept

Last year, we wrote about Monty Python’s decision to put all its content online for free hoping that would drive people to buy more of its scarce goods — such as DVDs. And, as a bunch of you have submitted, it appears to have worked wonders. Monty Pyton’s DVD sales jumped an astounding 23,000% and are now the number 2 best selling item in the Movies & TV category on Who was it that said “you can’t compete with free” again?

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Comments on “Monty Python's Meaning Of Free: The Holy Grail Of Massively Increased Sales”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I’ll point it out and get it out of the way early;

“monty python were already world famous this doesn’t prove that free works for unknown entertainers”

Also, as a side note, I’m amazed that sales increased, simply because of who monty python are. I would’ve honestly figured that anyone who would have bought their DVDs in the first place would have owned the whole collection already.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, there’s a few factors for me (yeah, i know you were just pointing out the usual cliche with the “world famous” bit…

First of all, you might be surprised as to how many people there are who are unfamiliar with the original Python TV shows. Sure, most people know who John Cleese is, and a lot of people have seen the Holy Grail. But, the original TV series? Not as many as you’d think.

While Monty Python as a brand are world famous, younger people wouldn’t have had the regular exposure that older people had access to, and what there is was probably buried under 300 other channels of new and repeated material. Giving a new outlet for the material ensures that a new audience (who might not watch broadcast TV to begin with) become familiar with, and develop a taste for, their shows. In addition, people who hadn’t thought about Python for years may stumble across the clips, be reminded of how much they like them, and then go out and buy DVDs they’d previously not considered.

It’s the same old argument that’s regularly put forward here – no exposure = no sales. Favourable exposure, even if free-of-charge, can generate sales and profit as long as the business model’s set up properly and the material’s good. Both are true here, so DVDs sell and everyone’s happy.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I would’ve honestly figured that anyone who would have bought their DVDs in the first place would have owned the whole collection already

This is real easy. They’re actually getting new people interested in their material. People who didn’t watch Flying Circus on TV or their movies, because they were not even born when those first occurred.

DC says:


So, the link to the 23,000% increase on techdirt points to a similar article by, which also contains a link on its 23,000% increase which points to something completely unrealted.

I looked on’s best seller list for movies and tv ( and Monty Python isn’t in the top 25.

Perhaps I’m looking at the wrong thing, if so, can someone point me to the real data? If not, it seems that this is based only on hearsay…

(yeah, I like to check my sources… and yeah, I’m a big fan of successful free business models and I like to be able to back my examples with facts not hearsay…)

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: References?

Amazon’s lists update hourly, so the reported positioning won’t be valid any more. They currently have the top spots in the “British” category as I write this (strange, as the top “general” comedy disc is Extras, a British show, meaning it should outrank them), but it’s not a great chart to base any meaningful data on other than the actual sales figures (which aren’t listed directly)…

Either way, the original source for the 23,000 figure would appear to be Mashable rather than Amazon, and it’s unclear where they got the figure from… Yeah, confirmed figures would be nice but the DVD are obviously selling either way.

ServerMonkey says:


“by Jesse – Jan 23rd, 2009 @ 10:49am

23,000 percent of what? What were the initial sales?”

Lets say that they only sold 2 DVD’s in December. SO sales increased from 2 DVD’s to 46,000. Even at that small number of initial, 46,000 in one month is nothing to sneeze at. So essentially it doesn’t matter. The number is still impressive even if it was 23,000% of 2.

Tom says:

Re: ???

I love percentages.

Let’s go back to your example, initial sales of 2 dvds.

A 23,000 percent increase would mean that 462 dvds were sold in the next period. Certainly attainable. Not quite as impressive as your calculation.

23,000 percent means 230 times as many, not 23,000 times as many.

A 100 percent increase in sales means that sales have doubled.

Eclecticdave (profile) says:

Not all of Python content

While I can’t argue that this is a fine selection of clips, it is very far from being all of Monty Python’s sketches.

Whilst this is a good example of someone providing some of their content for free in order to increase sales of the rest, I feel I have to point out it is not an example of someone making all of their content available for free and making money from scarce goods.

Tom Pilkington says:

Generation gap

Being in the generation that first saw Monty Python on late night PBS. I can say that the generation that is after mine does not know who they are. They are just coming out of collage getting jobs and are hooked on the social networking sites. They also are now just getting a paycheck from somewhere other then fast food.

Of course nothing would have happened if they didn’t have a good product. You might not be able to beat free, but you can use it to make quality pay.

Evan Ravenelle (profile) says:

Re: Generation gap

Being in the generation that first saw Monty Python on late night PBS. I can say that the generation that is after mine does not know who they are. They are just coming out of collage getting jobs and are hooked on the social networking sites. They also are now just getting a paycheck from somewhere other then fast food.

I have to disagree there, Tom. I’m 22, I dropped out of college three years ago, and have been getting payed substantially more at my job than a fast food joint would pay me since then. I have also known about Monty Python and have been a fan since I was thirteen.

I’m glad to know that you were ‘one of the first’ to see the Pythons on PBS, but you can’t claim to be the only one, and you certainly can’t claim that the ‘generation after yours does not know who they are.’ Get with the times, gramps.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Generation gap

Yeah… but does that make you a typical member of your generation… or atypical? Of those who do know Python, how many just know the movies and not the TV series? How many could recognise “The Bishop” or “Sam Peckinpah’s Salad Days” rather than just the parrot, Spanish inquisition or argument sketches?

I dare say that the majority of people under 25 wouldn’t know all the sketches. Either way, who cares whether they’re exposed to Python through PBS or YouTube as long as they like it?

Prestone says:

What do Monty Python and Trent Reznor (NIN) have in common?

They get new media:
“We’re letting you see absolutely everything for free. So there! But we want something in return. None of your driveling, mindless comments. Instead, we want you to click on the links, buy our movies & TV shows and soften our pain and disgust at being ripped off all these years.”
And you know what? Despite the entertainment industry’s constant cries about how bad they’re doing, it works. As we wrote yesterday, Monty Python’s DVDs climbed to No. 2 on Amazon’s Movies & TV bestsellers list, with increased sales of 23,000 percent.
The wealth of live tour footage that recently surfaced was released with the hope that fans will come together to edit a wide variety of video content, from music videos to full DVDs. Several different projects to this effect are already underway, and we’ve created a new forum to help everyone keep organized.

In the new forum you can find downloads of materials, seek out others who may have footage of their own, and join groups of fans who are working on various editing projects. And if you just want to view the results, keep an eye on the video galleries – particularly Victoria, Portland, Sacramento, and the fan video gallery.

Jeffry Houser (profile) says:

I'd love to see this quantified differently

To me this seems more like a single anecdote; as opposed to something I would based my business on. I followed the links, but could not find any statement / quotes from the Pythons themselves.

I’d love to see these quantified differently; but following the links doesn’t appear to shed any light on it. What does number 2 on mean in terms of units sold or dollars profit? How were other avenues of sale affected? What were sales before?

Does the increase relate directly to units sold? Or does it relate to sales rank increase?

Neverhood says:

Re: Reissued content

[quote]The majority of this work was already paid for by traditional sales models for the last 30 years or so. New artists without any recognition should not expect a similar response. Perhaps it is a lesson to learn for successful artists to supplement their income, not for new properties.[/quote]
What is your basis for saying “New artists without any recognition should not expect a similar response”? Here at there are many many examples that disproves your statement. Do you have any examples to back up your claim?

Ima Fish (profile) says:

To me this seems more like a single anecdote; as opposed to something I would based my business on

God, exactly where is it written that the world needs only one business model?! Who cares if their plan does not work for you? Microsoft’s business model does not work for GNU-Linux and vice versa. Does that mean either should give up?!

And, unless you happen to be as talented as the cast of Monty Python, I would strongly guess that their current plan would not work for you.

Robin says:

Re: Re: Jeffry v. Ima

Jeffry, it sounds as though Ima hurt your feelings. I’m with her… why did you insert your comment about the business model not working for you, if your key point was the validity of the data? If you were a regular reader of the blog, or if you read it with comprehension, you would know that one of the fundamental issues that is discussed here, with acres of concrete examples, is that there are multiple potentially workable business models to use, and that saying that one particular one wouldn’t work for you personally is not a valid argument against anything. Yet over and over again, we see comments like yours… and it gets tiring and boring to say the least. RTFB and perhaps you’ll achieve enlightenment man.

RD says:


Paid, PAID, PAID!! For the love of God, its PAID! There is no such word as “payed.” Hate to be such a spelling nazi, but this is the 5th article I’ve read on TD in the last 2 days where people used “payed.” Also, its not “ludacris”, that is a rapper, not a word. In case you didnt know, they CHANGE the spelling of words to use as their names. Though this doesnt explain NAS, is he a storage device? I dont know.

I know its “kewl” to be “hip” by using trendy spellings for everything, but come on! Get just a LITTLE education and spell common fricking words right. Or put them in quotes so we KNOW you are “kewl” and doing it on purpose.

Tom says:


We hour not talking about are own people misusing language and using the wrong words to get are ideas across.

We loose the meaning of language when are people use the wrong words. I have lose change in my pocket.

You should losely tie the knot around the ball so you don’t loose it. Then you can untie it better because it was lose.

When hour people going to fix are problems? Can we all don’t care no more?

Is it so annoying to read what I right?

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