Louis CK Keeps Experimenting: Now Bringing The Direct-To-Fan Approach To Ticket Sales

from the no-hidden-fees dept

We’ve written a lot about Louis CK since the huge success of his direct-to-fan sales strategy for the video from his last tour, and he continues to be one of the best examples of how being open, human and awesome is an important part of success these days. Now, while other comedians are following in those footsteps, he’s continuing to innovate: yesterday he announced that tickets for his new tour will be sold direct to fans, exclusively through his website, just like the videos. There are all sorts of benefits for fans, and all sorts of detriments for scalpers (his two core motivations):

Making my shows affordable has always been my goal but two things have always worked against that. High ticket charges and ticket re-sellers marking up the prices. Some ticketing services charge more than 40% over the ticket price and, ironically, the lower I’ve made my ticket prices, the more scalpers have bought them up, so the more fans have paid for a lot of my tickets.

By selling the tickets exclusively on my site, I’ve cut the ticket charges way down and absorbed them into the ticket price. To buy a ticket, you join NOTHING. Just use your credit card and buy the damn thing. opt in to the email list if you want, and you’ll only get emails from me.

Also, you’ll see that if you try to sell the ticket anywhere for anything above the original price, we have the right to cancel your ticket (and refund your money). this is something I intend to enforce. There are some other rules you may find annoying but they are meant to prevent someone who has no intention of seeing the show from buying the ticket and just flipping it for twice the price from a thousand miles away.

Some of these rules may be a pain in your ass, but please be patient. My goal here is that people coming to see my shows are able to pay a fair price and that they be paying just for a ticket. Not also paying an exhorbanant fee for the privalege of buying a ticket.

Tickets across the board, everywhere, are 45 dollars. That’s what you’ll actually pay. In every case, that will be less than anyone has actually paid to see me (after ticket charges) in about two years and in most cases it’s about half of what you paid last year.

The benifit for me is that I won’t get angry emails from anyone who paid a ton of money to see me due to circumstances out of my control. That makes me VERY happy. The 45 dollars also includes sales tax, which I’m paying for you. So I’m making more or less depending on the state.

From the sound of it, CK had to do a lot of work to make all the necessary arrangements and sell the tickets the way he wants to sell them. He appears to be using the ticketing platform Etix but is not actually included in their listings, instead selling only through louisck.com. He mentions that it was hard to find venues that would agree to let him sell the tickets exclusively, so he’s ended up booking some unusual locations and smaller venues where he’ll do multiple shows. He also admits that he’s making less money this way than he would on a conventional tour, but that’s not really surprising considering how cheap the tickets are. He says he just likes doing shows, is “making enough money doing comedy” already, and really wants to bring the price down—plus he probably also knows that, in the long run, having control over all his own sales is likely to pay off.

I’d say it will be interesting to see how this turns out, but there’s not really much question, because CK is pretty consistent about selling out shows. What’s really interesting is the broader picture, in which CK is actively pushing forward to find new business models and demonstrating all sorts of possibilities for others.

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Comments on “Louis CK Keeps Experimenting: Now Bringing The Direct-To-Fan Approach To Ticket Sales”

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Prisoner 201 says:

Re: but but but....

Shut up about media industry gatekeepers. Before a finger is lifted to help them, someone should address the staggering problem of ice carriers! The electrification of ice boxes has brought an entire industry to virtual extinction.

Only by making strong statements in law and policy can this injustice be addressed.

I have no time for fat guys in suits who sell other peoples fiddle fumbles and who have never carried a hundred pounds of ice even once in their life.

PaulT (profile) says:

The whole ticket situation is a good example of why we haven’t seen major mainstream successes using alternative models as yet. The whole entertainment industry is set up so that you almost have to pass through a mainstream corporate entity and pay their dues before you can get mainstream attention, be that ClearChannel, Ticketmaster or whatever. If you don’t play by their rules, you’re locked out of entire venues.

I wonder how many people have tried to do things like this before, but were stopped by rules that forced them to either give up entirely or accept the Faustian deal with pre-approved vendors who just end up ripping off fans before the artist even gets their cut.

Fortunately, the more success people who know what they’re doing without depending the old guard (as CK appear to), the more control those corporations will lose. After all, it’s easier to offer people what they actually want at a price they actually want to pay, than it is to force people to pay a premium for something that’s only attractive because the competition is locked out. The failure of the **AAs is that their business model depends on the latter, and that’s no longer possible.

Vincent Clement (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t have a problem with ticket prices. It’s all the fees and services charges that get added. Was thinking about taking my family to see a Detroit Tigers game this summer.

I live across the river in Windsor, Canada, so going to the box office isn’t convenient. I priced four tickets and the fees and charges increased the final price before taxes by about 30%. WTF? There was a flat fee, a per ticket fee and a shipping fee.

Yinka says:

Re: Re:

I agree, the ticket agents and venue relationship is the deciding factor on the success of this model. As C.K. experienced, you won’t find too many suitable venue who will except this model.

Are there many ‘independent’ venues? As I feel the success of this model is tied to how many decent venue can host events like this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Louis had an interesting bit from his tv show on Fresh Air (WHYY/NPR) where they played a bit about copying material with Dane Cook. It was interesting and followed some similar discussions about copying seen here at TD. Funniest part was Dane cook playing himself. I have a new respect for him after that.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That was a pretty incredible episode, from what is probably the best show on television. Over at TVClub, he discusses how that episode came together – he sent the script to Cook and said, more or less, “no rewrites – you come in and we do it my way or I’ll get someone else to play you”

not sure which part of this interview it’s in, but the whole thing is worth reading for fans of that show anyway: http://www.avclub.com/articles/louis-ck-walks-us-through-louies-second-season-par,61888/

TriZz (profile) says:

He’s notorious for not requiring more money than he really needs. Sure, I bet he’s doing leaps and bounds better financially than any of us…but with that whole direct-to-fans video he did last year, he only kept like a quarter of what he actually made and in a lot of his stand up, he discusses that money “is a resource”. If it pools around him and he just holds onto it…then the resource isn’t circulating and that’s a problem.

He’s really awesome.

ChrisB (profile) says:


Not this stupid scalper issue again. Scalpers are the free market telling you your prices are too low. Here’s an idea. How about you price your tickets at what the market will pay, and then the scalpers have no incentive to buy them, and I feel good that all the extra money I’m paying goes to Louis. So what if some poor person can’t afford to see you live? They can watch your video. Why in Gods name is this so hard for artists to understand?

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Scalpers

Scalpers are imbeciles that couldn’t care less about the artists. He’s damn right, as far as I can see he’s just attaching your credit card to your ticket and he’ll even REIMBURSE you if you can’t go/want to ‘resell’ the ticket.

He’s being plain awesome and he’s tackling the issue of scalpers. Do you have a problem with an artist wanting to sell for fair prices?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Scalpers

Your simple supply-and-demand analogy falls flat because Louis CK is not a perfectly elastic market. In fact, Louis CK is hardly elastic at all.

Scalpers have the right to continue to try to scalp tickets, just as CK has the right to continue to try and combat them. He’s providing extra value to his customers by trying to not piss them off.

What’s your problem with that?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Scalpers

Oh so your a scalper? Really the only reason I would think you would try to justify buying a ticket to a show for an artist you don’t care about and then reselling it at twice the price.

Just because someone is willing to pay twice the ticket price to see a show doesn’t mean that 100 people didn’t try to buy tickets at cost only to find them sold out. Just because someone has more money to waste on entertainment doesn’t mean their excess wealth should give them the right to buy a ticket from a dirty scalper at the last minute when hundreds of fans tried on day 1 but couldn’t get tickets because the dirty scalper bought a ton of them to flip.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: A license for a ticket

You were never buying “a ticket” – you were buying admission to an event. The ticket is just a token to represent that admission. They control the event, and they can permit admission on whatever terms they want.

Buying access is different from buying a license on something like software. Access to an event is inherently limited, which is what makes it valuable in the first place – a license on software or a device is a way of creating artificial limitations to inflate value.

I agree that, ideally, the market would shake things out in such a way that scalpers aren’t a problem – but the reality seems to be that scalpers have found a way to game the system to the detriment of fans. I’m not that surprised to see artists trying to combat that.

bob (profile) says:

Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!

“What’s really interesting is the broader picture, in which CK is actively pushing forward to find new business models and demonstrating all sorts of possibilities for others.”

Where did you get this idea? Andy Rooney and Judy Garland put on a show in their barn and charge admission. They also cut out the gatekeepers? And they weren’t nuts enough to claim they were doing something new or different or iCool or eGenius.

And let’s also look at your wacko claim that Louis CK is being more open, human and awesome. While he may be more awesome, putting his comedy behind a paywall is not being more open. He’s not giving a performance in Central Park that’s free to all– something that was also done before Big Search and the Internet came along. He’s not putting his commedy up for free on YouTube and selling t-shirts.

There is — repeat after me– nothing new here at all. This is not a new business model and it’s not a new way of interacting with fans. Shakespeare did it. Ben Jonson did it. Moliere did it. Comedians have been doing it forever!

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!

Oh please. Go find me a list of national live tours that have a flat-rate price across the country with no added fees and are available exclusively through the artists’ websites.

Thanks for pointing out that Shakespeare didn’t use Ticketmaster, though. That was really enlightening.

bob (profile) says:

Re: Re: Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!

Uh, once again you don’t really understand what the phrase “new business model” means, do you? It used to be the dreamy promise that Mike would make of a world where artists would give away their work and pay the rent by selling t-shirts or something else.

Nationwide tours existed long before Ticketmaster and they’ll exist long after. What he’s doing is NOT new. He’s rediscovering the business models that made the RIAA and the MPAA great. So why don’t you admit it?

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!

Oh stop being a jackass bob. Or, just spontaneously turn into a tulip – that probably has a higher chance of happening.

Nobody has ever said live shows should be free. Nobody has ever said doing a tour is a new concept. What’s “new” is a modern entertainer taking increasingly personal control over their career and sales. Maybe “rare” is a more accurate word than “new”, but I have to admit, I wasn’t really thinking about freaking Shakespeare when I wrote this.

bob (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!

Do you read what you write? Let me remind you:

“which CK is actively pushing forward to find new business models and demonstrating all sorts of possibilities for others”

So yes, someone is saying that doing a tour is a new concept and Louis CK is pushing forward looking for more new concepts. That would be you. But I’ll accept the apology in between the lines of your second paragraph.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!

Taking tours is not what’s considered new. Selling tickets directly to the fans without gatekeepers is what is fairly new. Rare would be a better choice as he mentioned though. Piracy can’t compete with live performances, they are scarce. Watching a video is not enough, I wanna see a good artist live. And I’ll pay for that. And he’s doing a good job keeping the prices affordable and connecting directly to the fans. Stop dodging the real point.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!

Like I said, smart guy, go find me other entertainers doing this.

Seriously. I’ll come check. Bring me a list of performers who directly sell their own videos and tickets to tours. Bring me a list of national tours where the price is fixed across the country, with no service fees and no variations due to tax. Bring me a list of performers whose tickets are sold exclusively through their website.

Until you can show me that, I stand by my position that this is pretty goddamn new in the world of modern entertainment, and Louis CK is absolutely demonstrating a possibility for others.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!

He’s rediscovering the business models that made the RIAA and the MPAA great.

bob, you might want to sit down. I’ve got some really, really bad news for you and it’s definitely going to rock your world:

The RIAA and MPAA are not now, nor ever were, great.

I know, hard to wrap your head around at first, just give it time to sink in. You may hear a click as you snap back to reality.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!

Ah, I wondered how long it would be before the idiot brigade turned up. Since you guys have long lost any semblance of even trying to have a conversation, I now just try to guess which debunked point or personal attack you’ll stoop to this time.

I see you’ve dusted off the “this isn’t a unique thing in the whole of history so it doesn’t count” play from the moron playbook, deftly combined with your usual obsession with paywalls (while proving, yet again, that you don’t understand the definition of the word). Along with an attack on Google and a stupid “t shirt” sideswipe, proving yet again that you’re a conspiracy obsessed fool who still doesn’t understand the real arguments discussed here.

Well, congrats for not directly attacking the artist himself al least, although I’m sure one of your less polite comrades-in-arms will be along to provide the requisite level of personal attacks any moment…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!

“Wow. Go look up the word “ad hominem”. Learn from it.”

Unlike you, I understand language and what words mean, so I don’t have to. Logical arguments and actually proving your rubbish factually wrong hasn’t been working, so I might as well try a different approach. I apologise if you don’t like it, but I’m bored…

“Why don’t you explain how I don’t understand what the word “paywall” means. Why don’t you explain how Mr. CK is not putting up a paywall.”

Why don’t you read the actual definitions of the term and explain how this even remotely matches them? Here’s a couple for you to start with:



Hint: the term refers to attempts to create artificial scarcity on digital goods, which doesn’t apply to a naturally restricted physical resource as per the above.

bob (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!

So he’s not creating an artificial scarcity? Yes he is. He could tell his jokes in front of a video camera and posting it on YouTube. It would be much more efficient and he wouldn’t force everyone to rape the environment and unleash so much carbon just so they could be in the same room to hear the jokes.

It would be cheaper for everyone and easier too if he would use the digital tools available to all of us.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!


Okay bob, now you’ve just gone off the rails.

You think live shows are “artificial scarcity” because he could just “record a youtube video”?

That’s officially the dumbest thing you’ve ever said. I never thought I’d say this, but, please go back to whining about “paywalls”

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!

He is not, space in the live shows is limited and his time is limited. It’s a scarcity. Watching a video on youtube is not the same as seeing it live. And on top of that he’s making it cheaper and fixed throughout the states while pocketing more money.

And dude are you really mixing environmental issues where they are not even remotely connected? Srsly?

Stop embarrassing yourself.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!

Really? You’re now arguing that an artist not only has to give everything away, but stop doing physical shows altogether if he doesn’t want to bend over and get raped by a major corporation? You are incredible!

“It would be cheaper for everyone and easier too if he would use the digital tools available to all of us.”

He does.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!

Really Bob your gonna try this? So movie theaters should just close because they are damaging the environment and all movies should be free on youtube? Sounds good to me.

Truly this is one I hadn’t heard before, “I pirate because it’s good for the environment.”

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re: Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!

PaulT, thanks for pointing out an item I didn’t catch earlier: the t-shirt comment was kind of out-of-the-blue, wasn’t it?

Could bob actually be the infamous angrydude? I haven’t seen anything from him in a long time, but one of his favorite quotes was “looooooooottttsss of t-shirts”…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Nothing new here at all-- it's a paywall!

“PaulT, thanks for pointing out an item I didn’t catch earlier: the t-shirt comment was kind of out-of-the-blue, wasn’t it?”

Not really. One of the earliest arguments when Mike started to argue that selling copies of songs wasn’t the only way to make money was a rather silly assertion that t-shirts were the only possible physical merchandise revenue stream. Utter bunk, of course, but it’s commonly used. The trolls started to avoid that argument after the 300th time it was destroyed, but it still gets trotted out occasionally.

“Could bob actually be the infamous angrydude? “

While these idiots do seem to sing from the same hymn sheet even after being proven wrong over and over, bob does tend to have some more unique arguments (usually similarly wrong-headed) and doesn’t rely on personal attacks as the others do. He even occasionally stumbles across a real point. Angry dude tended to be far more obnoxious and personal in his attacks – I assume that he’s still here as one of the ACs and bob is someone else, but who knows?

Frank Smally says:

Just how does that work

As someone who has dabbled in amateur ticket resales (usually to subsidize my own ticket price for a show I attend), I am wondering how Mr. CK is planning to pull this off.

Usually when you advertise tickets for sale on StubHub or eBay, you never reveal the actual ticket location other than by the section and row. So how will the tickets be cancelled if the only way to know which specific tickets are being resold is to buy them?

I did notice when I was going through the purchase process that there was a possibility that the tickets MIGHT be distributed through ‘Will Call Only’. Other than this ‘nuclear’ option, I don’t see how anyone could know whether the person holding the ticket was the original purchaser.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Just how does that work

No you can print your tickets.

But as you point out I could scam a scalper by selling them a ticket at face and then when they try to resell it the ticket will be refunded back to me.

Not sure what they will do about people listing just section row. Maybe ask the seller for a seat number while posing as a buyer, or maybe just turning that whole roll into will call only. It did say he retains the right to make you go will call even if you print your tickets. But at that point you would only be screwing the person who bought from the scalper not the scalper himself.

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