Louis CK: Connecting With Fans & Giving Them A Reason To Buy By Being Polite, Awesome & Human

from the simple-as-that dept

A little over two years ago, we wrote about how (the absolutely incredibly brilliant) comedian Louis CK had gotten some news by asking politely for some fans to take down a video from a file sharing site, noting that it was new material he was working on, and he wasn’t ready for it to be seen widely yet. The request worked. Louis himself stopped by our comments to provide some more detail. Throughout the entire situation, he did what he does, and what makes people like him: just be himself — and be thankful and appreciative, while explaining his reasoning. In that case, he noted that he wasn’t against file sharing, it’s just that he didn’t want this work out in the world yet. He even said that once the same work is released officially on a DVD or special, he’d be fine with the original clips going back up on file sharing sites. He was also quite clear that he didn’t demand anyone take down any content, he just asked politely.

Given that attitude (and given plenty of other things he’s done recently) it came as little surprise that he’s released his latest “live” video directly himself off his own website, for $5 via Paypal, and is offering it with no DRM or anything like that. There are download and streaming limits, which I assume are to avoid bandwidth issues. There are a few ways he might have been able to deal with the bandwidth to offer more downloads or streams, but on the whole, he appears to be doing everything he can to make the process as simple and convenient as possible. He even put up a short note about file sharing on the page:

To those who might wish to “torrent” this video: look, I don’t really get the whole “torrent” thing. I don’t know enough about it to judge either way. But I’d just like you to consider this: I made this video extremely easy to use against well-informed advice. I was told that it would be easier to torrent the way I made it, but I chose to do it this way anyway, because I want it to be easy for people to watch and enjoy this video in any way they want without “corporate” restrictions.

Please bear in mind that I am not a company or a corporation. I’m just some guy. I paid for the production and posting of this video with my own money. I would like to be able to post more material to the fans in this way, which makes it cheaper for the buyer and more pleasant for me. So, please help me keep this being a good idea. I can’t stop you from torrenting; all I can do is politely ask you to pay your five little dollars, enjoy the video, and let other people find it in the same way.

Once again, as he did a couple years ago, it’s a polite and friendly request, not a demand or any sort of threat or anger. On top of that he explains his reasoning. In both cases, he comes across as being human, which all too often doesn’t happen with stars.

To market this release, he hit the perfect target audience for this thing, doing a Reddit IAmA discussion (basically a Q&A for those unfamiliar with Reddit). Once again, throughout that discussion he was… incredibly human, and he answered a ton of questions. Not surprisingly, it’s a really fun and interesting read.

Sometimes, when we talk about business models built around CwF+RtB (Connecting with Fans plus a Reason to Buy), people seem to falsely assume that means you absolutely have to give away all your content for free. We’ve said time and time again that that’s simply not the case at all. If you can really connect with fans, and then make it convenient and reasonable for them to support you, they will do so (as I did). And that’s exactly what Louis has done here.

I don’t think anyone doubts that the film will end up being available from unauthorized sources. It may already be available that way. Hell, I’d bet that Louis himself expected it to show up for free pretty quickly. But the point is that the people who still “pirate” the video really don’t matter. Those people were never going to pay anyway. What Louis has done, this way, is give tons of people (including plenty who normally don’t pay for content) a really good reason to buy: which is by being polite, awesome and human. Compare that to so many who are rude, mediocre and programmed.

He seems to recognize this directly in some of his comments, where he notes that he went to The Pirate Bay for the first time the day before the release, and tried to think about what to do:

I don’t know yet if I’ll do it again. It hasn’t run it’s course. But I AM SO HAPPY I DID IT. Just so fun and it has been massively gratifying to share the positive of it with so many people who have written and expressed their feelings.

The day before I posted the video I went on pirate bay, which i had never visited and i read the guy’s thign where he posts letters from media co’s and artists and then his nasty and kind of hilariously chest beating responses. I thought “jesus. This guy is a piece of work. I would NEVER tangle assholes with this guy.” and then I thought about it. What do I say to these people? To hope they don’t make me regret putting it out there naked like this? So I wrote that little “to torrent” letter, just being a guy saying “dude. please?” it’s the best I can do. If it doesn’t work, well.

I’ve talked a few times now about reasons to buy, but the more and more we see success stories, I tend to think the simple list I have above is really a key point. Being polite, awesome and human takes you a hell of a long way towards both being able to connect… and giving people a reason to buy.

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Comments on “Louis CK: Connecting With Fans & Giving Them A Reason To Buy By Being Polite, Awesome & Human”

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fattyboombatty says:

Re: Re: Re:

He’s saying he downloaded it via torrent rather than the official web site, not that he uploaded the vid to the torrent site.

I did the same thing – paid the $5 and grabbed the vid from a torrent site.

he only gets $5 from you and then 100,000 people view the material without giving him the $5

These people are already torrenting the thing. Louis is being smart and giving people a reason/motivation to give him money. The whole point of this is that people are going to torrent it whether you try and stop them or not. Why not take an approach that may get you some money rather than being a douche about it

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well a 100 thousand people didn’t give him five and so did another 7 billion people.

7 billion in the world and he is reaching 140 thousand that is 0.00002% of the entire population of the world, if we had a global currency that was easy and secure like coins he could probably easily reach 0.02% of the population and that would be 140 million people that if they had to pay $0.01 would be $1.4 million dollars.

So I would be working on a way to translate that work to every language possible, probably using fans to do it crowd sourcing the effort, using not only Paypal, but credit cards, Flattr and that new one that only charges $0.025 per transaction and trying to get as much exposure as possible, because he could be doing better, this was a timid attempt, that has much, much more room for growth.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

True, but the cost for me to torrent it is 0 to him. There is no cost for the upload bandwidth he has to pay. So instead of me giving him $5 and having it cost a nickle to dl from the site, he gets $5 and gets to keep all of it(well all of it minus fees from processors etc). Also since I seed till %1000 or more, there is a greater bandwidth available for others to get it faster. All of this at no cost to Louis. If the people who I seed parts to do not pay for it, that is their choice.

So not only does he not have to pay for the Bandwidth for my sale but he is also not paying for the Bandwidth of others. So his net cost per sale drops(meaning his profit per sale increases). That is how he recoups the cost FASTER with me paying and torrenting, then he would get with me just downloading from his site.

You should try reading comprehension skills as this was stated in my first post, though in a less comprehensive fashion.

athe says:

Re: Re:

You see, the problem with your “reasons” is that respect only goes one way – from consumer to creator. Respect is a two-way thing though, and it is earned, it can’t be expected.

Perhaps in the case of “big content” the creator has respect for the consumers, but it’s a damned shame that the gatekeepers that stand between creator and consumer don’t (and show it in astounding more and more draconian ways).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If you want people to pay for abstract concepts, perhaps you should try selling those.

In this case you are selling music/video. The DRM free and the low price are the reasons to buy. The things you mentioned would fall more in the connecting with fans portion of the equation. And just so it is clear, you don’t “connect with fans” in court where you are suing them for millions of dollars.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Old advice

So, by “Heaven” he obviously means in the cloud/internet where their digital perfection lay untarnished and nothing is stolen because perfect copies can be made at a marginal cost of nigh zero!

Hey, how about that!! The Bible has been trying to tell the MAFIAA how wrong they are the whole time; it all makes sense!

Ryan (profile) says:

I actually bought it and downloaded it myself. The facts that Louis is a cool guy and $5 is somewhat reasonable for an hour of this type of content definitely pushed me in that direction, but it was the lack of DRM that definitely got me to pay. I checked to make sure that it was being offered without any actual DRM before I purchased, since that would have been a huge deal breaker. So I’m definitely glad that he chose to release it that way. And I don’t know who his “well-informed advice” came from that recommended against a file that’s easy to use, but I don’t think that he should take advice from that person anymore. At least not on the subject of digital media.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes, all you victims out there, it pays to grovel towards those that are enslaving you by ripping you off.

Well, there’s your problem right there. You think that fans who want to pay to support an artist are “enslaving” that artist and ripping them off.

Maybe if you treated your own fans with a modicum of respect, you’d connect with them and wouldn’t be such a failure.

Louis figured it out. Why can’t you?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Maybe I’ve just gotten more cynical over the years, but I’ve been reading techdirt for 6 years or so now and I’ve noticed you seem a lot angrier these days Mike. Maybe it’s just ’cause so much of the news you right about is the infuriating stupidity of others (not this piece, but SOPA, PIPA, etc…) and Lord knows that’s gotta be stressful. Just wanna check though, you doing ok?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

He seems more optimistic than ever to me, really.

I would think that the absolute flood of people that have started to share mike’s view on SOPA and PROIP is probably really raising his morale. Not to mention the large number of people who are starting to come around, usually independently, to his ideas & business models.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Funny, you’d think that someone would have stepped up to refute those “lies” by now. And yet Mike’s analysis has been validated by hundreds of legal practitioners, analysts, and commentators who’ve arrived at the same or similar conclusions. Considering these laws are available for anyone to read, it’s amazing how much traction these lies have gotten! Almost like they’re, I don’t know, supported by the text! Yeah, that kind of lie is hard to dispel – the kind that’s true. I sympathize with your frustration.

Violated (profile) says:


Being polite sure wins you a lot more respect. These people are your market, fans and buyers. Running around screaming “evil thieves” and wanting to stamp them out like ants is not a way to make friends.

So as we see they can even take down the entire *distributed* media simply by asking nicely and offering a good reason. Such situations helps you to remember they are all just people here looking to enjoy themselves in a fair way.

One phrase to keep in mind though is “If you are not pirated then you are a nobody”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yes we will, but that’s rather orthogonal to being burned by pirates, because regardless of how much or how little he makes, he isn’t being burned by pirates (unless of course he actually is being lit on fire by sea-faring robbers, which is an entirely different discussion). People who aren’t going to pay for your stuff aren’t going to pay for your stuff. The difference between a (copyright) pirate today and one 30 years ago is that one has the content and the other doesn’t. The difference between a paying customer today and one 30 years ago is nothing (except that today most paying customers get DRM’d content rather than non-DRM’d content).

Very Bad Panda (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Funny, I was quite capable of getting this for free, but I paid the $5 and downloaded it the other night. I did it because he was cool about it and seemed sincere, and the outtake was quite funny.

It’s quite sad that your view on humanity is that they will take anything not nailed down, all as a big ol’ “FU!” to you. And I thought I was cynical…

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Huge part of human nature, is that individuals believe other people will act the same way they do. So if you are a liar, a thief, take advantage of people for a living, and always deal with people that act the same way, you believe everyone else is the same way. If you look at the content industry, you have a group of individuals that have been doing this for over 100 years. This way of thinking has become part of their culture. It defines their actions. You can see it historically in their reaction to the player piano, radio, VCR, DAT, CD, mp3, and internet. They attack it like someone is going to use this technology to take advantage of them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

No the basic tenet of human nature is that people want to help others, and they will do so in any way they can.

Even brainless machines eventually cooperate to achieve something, because it is the easiest path to any kind of reward, that you can’t see it or understand it just shows that you are not even in the “with a brain” league yet.

But people communicate with others with words with path signals to each other and when the time comes to do something about it, everybody that can will do so, people don’t live in your fantasy world of monopolies that are full of people who have no empathy or regard for others and that is why you people will fail in the end, you don’t know how to create unity and will fall by the sidelines eventually.

Handyman says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I too am a freak of nature as I paid $5 for this one.

I don’t torrent games as steam makes it easier and safer to get, I’ve purchased 131 games in the past year on steam. Which is odd as I’ve only had time eto finish three of them.

I don’t have decent access to music, movies or television in my country, so I get these from alternate sources. Make it easy for me and I’ll reward you with my custom, make it hard and i’ll find something that works… THIS is human nature.

Franklin G Ryzzo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s not possible to get “burned by pirates”… File sharing does not equal lost sales. From the article:

I don’t think anyone doubts that the film will end up being available from unauthorized sources. It may already be available that way. Hell, I’d bet that Louis himself expected it to show up for free pretty quickly. But the point is that the people who still “pirate” the video really don’t matter. Those people were never going to pay anyway.

What this doesn’t address is that many people who download the video (who weren’t going to pay for it and hence wouldn’t be exposed to it without unauthorized access) might actually go and pay for it because they liked it and recognize it’s value. This is why the “piracy can boost sales” argument is made so frequently.

I wish Louis all the best with this project and truly appreciate his release without crippling, annoying, deal-breaking DRM. I want to give him 5 bucks just because I’m impressed with his attitude.

robin (profile) says:


This I thought was the best thing Louis said on Reddit. Shows an intuitiveness that all of Hollywood lacks:

oh one other thing before i go. i did read what that uploader wrote and i will say it was funny to me because he seems or is acting like he’s in terrible pain when he does it. he’s having a crisis of concious and just… oh man i’m so sorry but I have to do this!” but the crazy thing is, if it’s at all bothering him, why is he doing it?? he’s sharing it, not taking it. Well, if you look at the page, it’s because he’s promoting his own stuff and using my project as an attractor. that’s happening on youtube also. So i’m learning that SOME pirating is caused by people piggybacking their own product on another. interesting.

Jeremy7600 (profile) says:

Just bought it.. I like dhow easy he made it.. really simple, and i can understand the limits on downloads and streams.

For my part, I just downloaded it, and I will be able to watch it as many times as I want.

This is a perfect example of CWF+RTB.

He totally gave me a reason to buy with his no-nonsense, straightforward approach, no DRM, and super easy buying process. I hate that paypal is involved, but I won’t hold it against him. Its the other parts that sold me.

PaulT (profile) says:

OK, I’m holding off for one thing before I pay the money and I just want to check this out…

The T&Cs state “Downloading: You may download the Program to two compatible download devices.”

So, I presume that there’s DRM on the files you download. Does anyone have the info on the formats, DRM format, etc. being used? I’ll be downloading on a different device to the one I’d play back on, and my home internet’s not working right now so streaming’s not an option.


(Quick note to Louis CK: whatever DRM you’re using, it will have been stripped and an unprotected copy is out there for the pirates. You’re either stopping people like me from being willing to pay, or limiting their use of their purchased product, by applying the DRM – while placing no restriction on the pirates. Please don’t do this for your next release!)

Benjo (profile) says:

Reasonably priced + quality non-DRM'd content + simple delivery = Win?

I’m all for supporting a performer that I enjoy watching, so there is definitely a feel good factor that goes in to this. However, the risk/reward of 5$ on a non-DRM stand up special of a comedian I’ve already listened to (so I know I have liked at least some of his stuff) is actually by itself too hard to ignore. Content creators need to pay attention to cases like this and re-evaluate if they want to work with the traditional gatekeepers that seem perfectly fine with never adapting.

Anonymous Coward says:

You know, I don’t really know anything about this guy;
however, I am going to buy this video to give it a shot. He sounds like a pretty cool, approachable guy.

Hopefully I will get a laugh or two out of it.
At the same time, I am supporting the future of other artists taking the same path. He has made it easy for me to get his material for a reasonable price, and made it as easily accessible as possible.

Kudos to Mr CK!

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