Release Early And Often: Louis CK Realizes He Can Keep Selling Other Digital Downloads

from the rethinking-the-mindset dept

We’ve talked a lot about Louis CK’s massively successful experiment in selling a comedy special direct to fans at a low price with no DRM and (most importantly) being totally open and human about the experience. In response, a few other comedians, like Jim Gaffigan and Aziz Ansari, have basically done the same thing.

However, it looks like Louis CK (like lots of smart, creative artists we write about) is hardly resting on his laurels. He’s realized that there’s nothing that says he has to only sell this one video and then wait a year or more until another one is ready. He’s got the platform, so he might as well sell stuff. A few publications have noticed that he put up another live album (audio only) for the same price using the same system. But in looking at Louis’ site, it looks like he’s actually put up two additional albums — the audio version of his HBO special Shameless (previously only available as video) and a Carnegie Hall tour show that’s never been released.

Both of these were released with basically no fanfare or no announcement other than a brief tweet.

It will be interesting to see what happens here. First of all, some may feel that audio only offerings don’t have quite as much value as video — though it still seems like a decent price. Others may not be as interested in “old” material, even if it hasn’t been released in this format. Also, I wonder what impact there will be for the low-key release. Part of the reason that the original got so much attention was the way he put himself out there: announcing this “big” new thing, doing an AMA on Reddit, etc. Whereas this is just him putting it up. Of course, similarly, there may be some concern of “oversaturation,” where people feel they just gave Louis money for that other thing, so is it worth paying up again?

However, I also like the idea that he’s combing the archives and finding other stuff that people might be interested in and giving them choices for more things they may want to buy to support him. I think that it’s helpful to break out of the somewhat traditional mindset of “I release this album/show and then I’m done for a while.” Louis seems to still be thinking about what else he can do, and I’m sure that will lead to some interesting ideas.

I’m not sure how all these factors and variables play together — and I have no idea if Louis will ever share the results so that the rest of the world can learn with him (though I hope he is willing to do so). I do still love the fact that he’s continuing to try things though.

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Comments on “Release Early And Often: Louis CK Realizes He Can Keep Selling Other Digital Downloads”

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DandonTRJ (profile) says:

I have Shameless, but as a single-track DVD audio rip that I’m far too lazy to split into segments (also, I’d have to come up with segments!), I’ve never heard Word, and I’ve been wanting an audio version of Live at the Beacon (which I bought during the initial experiment) for a while. The fact that he’s giving me the Beacon audio for free is all the reason I need to pick up the other two offerings for a cool ten bucks.

Simon says:

This is kind of ironic given the whole Game of Thrones thing:

The second new thing is even older, actually. It’s an audio release of “Shameless”, my very first hour long standup special that I did for HBO. It was never released as an audio CD, so I asked HBO to let me offer it on this site and they agreed. They also agreed to let me offer it, the same as the rest, DRM free, for 5 dollars. Obviously I’ll be sharing the Shameless money with HBO but I think it’s pretty cool that they’re letting this be out there unprotected like this. Shameless is also 5 dollars, drm free, and you can download it a bunch of times for the price.

Anonymous Coward says:

It doesn’t matter what you release; if it’s out there, there’s always a chance that people will buy it and give you money. If it’s sitting around in a storage room or hard drive, no one can buy it and you’re making no money. Even if he’s released a bunch of stuff already, why stop? It just guarantees that the revenue will be zero. Maybe sales will be slow now, but they’ll pick up a few months from now. Maybe he’ll release a big new thing in a few years and it’ll draw new fans, some of whom will like his material enough to buy his entire back catelogue. It’s obscene how much material is locked away right now at the choice of the distributor/producer/creator, because they think not releasing it will give it more value over time. With the Internet, it does not work that way. Artistic works do not age like wine. Lock it away and the people who want it will just get it for free.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think the industry in general doesn’t understand the value of a solid back catalog at a reasonable price. A small, steady stream of cash is in some ways more valuable than splashes of big money, because it’s more reliable and doesn’t cost anything for advertising (either in money or time, both of which are at a premium for an artist on self-promotion).

I suspect we’ll see many more mildly announced back-catalog works from Louis before he makes another big release and mentions them in the process of advertising it. Because he’s smart like that.

Richard (profile) says:

Louis CK

Just got an email from him:

Hello there. I am Louis C.K. for now. You are a person who opted into my email list, when you bought my Live at the Beacon standup special. As I promised, I have left you alone for a long time. Well, those days are over. I am writing now to let you know that I am offering some more stuff on my site, which you are more than welcome to buy. What does “More than welcome” mean? Well, it means you can totally buy this stuff. Like, totally.
Okay so there are two new products. They are both audio comedy specials. One is called…
Louis CK: WORD – Live at Carnegie Hall
This is about an hour long and it’s a recording of a live standup show that I did at Carnegie Hall in November of 2010 as part of a national tour I was on entitled “WORD” I’ve had a lot of requests from people to release that show as a speical or as a CD. I hadn’t done so because a lot of the material that I did on the WORD tour, was in the second season of my show “LOUIE” on FX. But I decided since it’s never been released as an entire show, and some of the material was not on my show, I’m releasing this now. I’m giving you this long and boring explaination because, as most of you know, I release about an hour or more of new standup material every year and folks can count on seeing a new show every year. This is old material, so I don’t want to be a dick and pretend it isn’t.
Anyway, Louis CK: WORD – Live at Carnegie hall is available for the same 5 dollars as everything will be on It is the same deal as before that you get 4 downloads and the file is drm free. YOu can burn it onto a CD, play it on your ipod, whatever you want. The special is broken up into separate tracks because I think that’s more fun for a comedy album, but they are all just one thing you buy all at one time.
The second new thing is even older, actually. It’s an audio release of “Shameless”, my very first hour long standup special that I did for HBO. It was never released as an audio CD, so I asked HBO to let me offer it on this site and they agreed. They also agreed to let me offer it, the same as the rest, DRM free, for 5 dollars. Obviously I’ll be sharing the Shameless money with HBO but I think it’s pretty cool that they’re letting this be out there unprotected like this. Shameless is also 5 dollars, drm free, and you can download it a bunch of times for the price.
Lastly, I’m offering Live at the Beacon Theater as an audio version, for those many of you who have asked for it. This is just exactly an audio version of the video special. Those of you who have already bought Live at the Beacon theater already own this. If you just return to the site with your password, it is now live and available for you to download at no extra cost. Those of you who now buy LIve at the beacon theater for 5 dollars, will also have the audio version availbable to you. It’s simply been added to the video downloads and streams you already were getting.
Later, I am going to make a version of Live at the Beacon theater, that is a separate audio special, which will be much longer. That will cost money. Because I’m an asshole. But that’s later.
Also later, actually soon, I’ll be putting my first feature film “Tomorrow Night’ up for sale on the site. And also other things. Soon. For now. Please feel free to click on the button below, to purchase some of the new stuff, using Paypal or Amazon payments, we now accept both. Or go to and peruse the new items. I think we have some samples there that you can check out.

You may have noticed that Louis CK LIve at the beacon theater is airing on the FX network. FX agreed to air it 10 times over the next few months. The version on FX is only 42 minutes long and we had to take out the fucks. The reason I chose to air the special on FX is that FX is my people. They gave me my show LOUIE (season 3 premieres on June 28th at 10:30pm) and they have never aired a standup special. So I thought it would be cool to let them air it and bring more people to the site who want to get the complete unexpurgated version. Also FX doesn’t make me cut things for content. Just the big words (fuck, etc)

Okay. that was exhausting. Sorry. I didn’t even ask you how you are. How are you? Oh yea? Oh good. That’s great. What? Oh man. That’s tough. I’m sorry… Oh well that sounds like you handled it well, though. So. Yeah. Yeah. I know. I know that’s… yeah. Well… Just remember, time will go by and that’ll just be on the list of shit that happened to you. You’ll be okay. Yeah. Huh?… Oh. Really? HE DID? Oh my GOD! hahaha!! That’s CRAZY! No. no. I won’t tell him you told me. Of course not. Alright well… uhuh? Oh wow. yeah. Alright well.. I really gotta go. Thanks for listening. I’m glad you’re basically okay. Stay in touch.

your friend,

Louis C.K

Anonymous Coward says:

Gofasterstripe have been putting up some interesting stuff for download
Good points ?2.50 for an audio only of Stewart Lee pea green boat
Herring’s 12 tasks of Hercules Terrace
Also Simon Munnery and Tony Law

Bad points
Really slow to download aaaargh
please guys if you don’t have the bandwidth seed a torrent, we will still be likely to pay for it and it would save about an hour.

HuwOS (profile) says:

He didn’t go on a major blitz true.
But what he did do, is make use of those email addresses that people asked him to make use of when they bought his beacon theater gig.

“Hello there. I am Louis C.K. for now. You are a person who opted into my email list, when you bought my Live at the Beacon standup special. As I promised, I have left you alone for a long time. Well, those days are over.”

Only those of us who preferred to not opt in to receiving further emails have been taken by surprise here.

Nice one again Louis

phlynhi (profile) says:

Louis CK.

Checked out the site. bought WORD (five bones). Hilarious LCK note about torrenting and that is worth 5 bucks by itself. Now I realize that TechDirt hates artists and is run by (communists? pirates? freetards? pre-schoolers?), and I have been know to download and upload bits and bytes for the sake of convenience and/or principle (but never for profit, for some dumb reason), yet here is TechDirt leading me to this site to BUY, for the sake of convenience and/or principle, WORD. Besides, LCK posted his Paypal profit from the first 5 days or something, and there must be at least 200K lazy/principled people in the world. that is encouraging…

Thanks Louie. Thanks TechDirt. You give me hope.

HuwOS (profile) says:

It is a little that he thinks it’s cool of HBO to allow him to sell it DRM free.
DRM doesn’t work, sure it’s cool that they have allowed him to do it, but only if it is cool for them to not force him or his fans to jump through hoops.
It’s not exactly taking a risk because DRM doesn’t work and everyone knows it, it annoys people who buy the products but it doesn’t stop anyone from copying them.
But while it’s not actually cool that they’ve allowed it, it is kind of cool that perhaps reality is beginning to trump the fantasy world of DRM.

PaulT (profile) says:


I also received the email, and it’s nice to see more material at a reasonable price in formats that don’t assume I’m a criminal. I may well buy, especially as exchange rates mean I will pay the same for this as most will pay for a DVD rental.

To reiterate for some of the trolls here: I had heard CK’s name before this started, but I’d never seen or heard any of his stuff, and there was no way I was going to blind buy full priced DVDs. The combination of good pricing, complete availability, unrestricted formats and easy access made me put down the $5. I don’t think he’s the greatest comedian in the world, but I laughed often and hard enough to be willing to throw another $10 his way. That’s $15 he would never have seen if he had stuck to the traditional model, and a new fan to boot.

You’d be amazed at how much more I would spend if more people would actually take my money in this way. If only they would agree to take it…

PaulT (profile) says:


“It is a little that he thinks it’s cool of HBO to allow him to sell it DRM free. “

Apart from audiobooks, it’s fairly clear that DRM is dead on audio sales at this point. No major music retailer deals with it now AFAIK, unless they’re involved in renting or streaming (where DRM is less odious as you don’t supposedly own the music). Hopefully, the dramatic success of the previous video offering (which was also DRM and region free – relatively unusual for video at this point) gave him leverage in whatever negotiations he had to make.

It does seem a little ironic that they did this in light of the recent Game Of Thrones stories, but hopefully this means that some people there know the realities of their marketplace, especially with older material. Who knows, maybe projects like this will be something whose success can be highlighted to those in charge of TV shows…

SoreGums (profile) says:

Excellent, $10 and Jokes on my phone

Didn’t know about this guy – he is funny and I bought both of his audio files as I drive a lot or go on planes and travel. Video is nice however most comedy works in audio only mode.

Since it is open and DRM free I could have jumped on usenet and got it for free (surely??), the reason I didn’t? his site is awesome!! you can listen to a preview to see if it is funny then you can download it and have it on your pc quicker than searching usenet.

Plus he has interesting content regarding the process of putting this content up and seeing what happened, so I have something to do while I wait for the download to complete.

Seriously content creators need to get a clue and have this extra access to their wares, people with cash will part with it…

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