Paramount Thinks That Louis CK Making $1 Million In 12 Days Means He's Not Monetizing

from the does-anyone-take-these-people-seriously? dept

One of the more annoying things about debates on copyright law, is that when we talk about alternative business models that do not rely on copyright, some people feel the need to insist that this means making less money -- or, even, making no money at all. There is just this assumption that an alternative business model means something along the lines of "give it away and pray," when nothing could be further from the truth. Yet this kind of thinking is so ingrained, that even in stories of artists making a ton of money, some maximalists simply assume that they're not making any money. We saw this recently in the comments to one of our recent posts about Jonathan Coulton which talks about how he made $500k last year -- at which point, someone said that such examples are useless since no one will pay.

It appears that Paramount's "Worldwide VP of Content Protection and Outreach" Al Perry also fits into the same unthinking mode. We've already discussed Perry's recent talk to Brooklyn Law School, but there was one section that caught my eye and deserves a separate post. It comes right at the beginning:
Perry opened by noting that one has to articulate a problem before seeking to solve it, and he refers to the problem as “content theft.” He pointed out that copyright law gives creators the right to monetize their creations, and that even if people like Louis C.K. decide not to do so, that’s a choice and not a requirement.
Now that seems bizarre and totally unsupportable. Remember, Louis CK made over $1 million in just a few days -- an amount that he admits was much higher than what he would have received just for a straight up performance. In what world does going direct-to-fans, building a good relationship, automatically mean no money made at all? Not the one we're based on.

Filed Under: al perry, jonathan coulton, louis ck, monetization
Companies: paramount

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  1. icon
    Philip Storry (profile), 16 Apr 2012 @ 2:58pm

    What we have here is a failure to communicate...

    I think that we're seeing two worlds fail to understand each other.

    Louis CK made money, yes. But he failed to MONETIZE.

    By which it's meant that he failed to make the most out of the process.

    Not the product, mind you - the process.

    Louis had a very simple proposition: Pay me money, I give you something funny.

    Louis CK viewed DRM as a cost that wasn't worth it, and that alone is a threat to the MPAA's reality. It's also what most people here have focused on, because of this guy's job title.

    But we need to ignore the job title, and remember that this guy is steeped in an industry. Language shapes how you think, and I believe we can see more than just DRM being referred to here.

    Louis CK didn't sell plushies, action figures, and clothing. Or re-release earlier goods with a little sticker on them that advertised the new product whilst pretending to be a reference of quality ("From the man who brought you...")
    Louis CK didn't do that not only because he didn't have the rights to previous works, but because that would be a waste of time and money. He could - nay, should - be writing material or working on the new product.

    He also didn't choose to get paid for holding a particular brand of soft drink whilst he did his act.
    A smart move, because even if $sponsor were to pay for him to be using their product during the filming, the costs of lawyers to land the deal would leave him with little money.
    And the sponsor would no doubt want some "creative control", to ensure he didn't say anything that they don't want their brand associated with...
    Which is effectively self-censorship for the project. And when you realise that the deal will probably land him no more than minimum wage (given how long it will take to do the project), suddenly he needs more sponsors, which means a death spiral of more censorship...

    Basically, Louis CK is smart. He saw what people wanted, he budgeted it out, he delivered JUST WHAT THEY WANTED, and didn't waste time doing much else.

    But that's not what Hollywood does. Hollywood doesn't just sell films to customers, it sells advertising space in those films too. It doesn't just sell a film, it sells merchandising - or at least the rights to it. It doesn't just sell a medium with the film on it, it sells the rights to distribute those films.

    THAT'S monetization.

    That's how the MPAA thinks. Total control for maximum profit. Don't take risks, and do whatever it takes to get the most money from every stage of the process.

    Who cares if the film is sanitised by sponsorship requirements? Who cares if the distribution chain creates artificial delays that encourage piracy? Who cares if merchandising is shoddy? Who cares if DRM means buyers are annoyed by unskippable adverts?

    Not one of those is a concern to this man.

    The business he lives and breathes in a "monetized" world. He may not quite understand how the new generation of Connecting-With-Fans and Reason-To-Buy artists can make money without doing this.

    Subconsciously, he's almost certainly wondering why Louis CK didn't "monetize" as I've described. Because such monetization is all he sees, every day.

    Which is slightly frightening.

    But what's also slightly sad is that he probably hasn't even considered the downsides I've listed. He's not even capable of seeing them as serious downsides, because everyone around him sees only the upsides - the bottom line from the deals.

    I've always wondered if Hollywood execs are just unscrupulous salesmen. They often seem to share one key quality - they only care about the money that they, individually, bring in. If the sale hurts business reputations, or damages future sales, then they don't care. "Just look at this quarter's bottom line! I'M ON FIRE!"

    That's monetization. The pursuit of many individual bottom lines, with no care for the effect on the final product.

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