Why the Louis C.K. “experiment” will not work again
At least, not in the same way. Andrew Mayne wrote on Google :
“Much of the sales were generated by the news sites and blogs covering the story. This works great once, but is hard to repeat it. Other comedians, even established ones aren’t going to get as lucky. The publicity was a black swan event. We can’t draw any conclusions from it about how it will play out in the future.”
I agree with this. We’ve all seen it before – in different ways – that when someone is doing something “all new” there is a bunch of news about how they are taking a risk and doing something differently. Notice how most of the news regarding Louis’s video was about how it is new, how it is different, and how much money it made. The news wasn’t about how funny the special was.
I’m not saying the special wasn’t funny. Louis is consistently hilarious anytime I’ve seen him in just about anything. But his act wasn’t what made waves with the media over the last few weeks. It was because he spun this in a way that made everyone believe he was doing something different. And that is, as Mayne pointed out, impossible to repeat.
BTW, what Louis did was nothing different or new. It was new and a bit different for a relatively well established comedian to pay for and distribute their own special via the web – all without charging the customers too much, without putting undue restrictions on the use of the product, and without spamming the people that bought it with email. But this model has worked pretty well for a lot of media on the web including music. (think, Nine-Inch-Nails) But that doesn’t matter. It was new for someone like him to do something like that and he deserves credit for taking the chance that it would have flopped.
I’m fairly certain that Louis is popular enough that, if he should do another special like this, that he’ll sell enough copies to cover his costs within the first few days like he did this time. But it won’t be because the way he’s distributing it is new. It will because people love Louis. It will be because its great and well worth the cost. And those are very good reasons.
So, on the whole, we learned from this experiment something we’ve always known; new, novel ideas that are well executed, inexpensive, of decent quality, and put the customer’s interests first will generally do very well.