Comedian Louis CK (aka Louis Szekely) is the current king of stand-up comedy, and as king, he can decide how his media empire is run. His most recent move has been to take control of ticket sales to his comedy shows by requiring those interested to buy them through his personal website, reports Wired. This calculated effort to thwart ticket scalpers and save fans from ticket outlet markup has proven to be a popular move among fans, but not so much among ticket sellers.
Embracing creative control
In a tradition that too few artists have deigned to follow, Louis CK has taken it upon himself to reinvent the media business. He is the brand, and he is taking control of how he is interacting with the public, every step of the way. It began with his television show on the FX cable network, “Louie.” Instead of accepting more money for his starring role in the program at the expense of creative control, Louis CK agreed to much less so that he could retain total creative control. The show has become an award-winning success.
Following in the footsteps of artists like the music group Radiohead, which posted a “pay what you want” price on an album in 2007, Louis CK began selling video recordings of his stand-up act for $5 via direct download DRM-free from his personal website, LouisCK.net. By eliminating the middle man like iTunes or a brick-and-mortar store, he passes on the lack-of-markup savings to the consumer, and garners goodwill in the process. And by not shopping his comedy specials to cable networks like HBO or Comedy Central, Louis CK didn’t lose money, according to reports. On the contrary, his $5 downloads led to over $1 million in sales in under two weeks from the time of release.
Louis CK puts butts in the seats
In a move that is inspiring in a time of corporate greed and rampant celebrity narcissism, Louis CK decided that a flat rate of $45 per seat, regardless of seat location or city of performance, is enough. The price includes all taxes, fees and the like, but it does not include the kind of markup a ticket seller would require in order to be a distributor. Louis CK will sell all seats for the remainder of his stand-up tour at the $45 price.
Wired suggests that the global music industry could take a number of points out of Louis CK’s playbook, in the following ways:
- Provide a top-quality product
- Maintain creative control as an artist so that your work does not become too watered down
- Offer the public simple deals. A set price with no moving parts, bundling or anything else but the product itself. Louis CK has proven that simple works
- Don’t charge markup. It infuriates the public more than Louis CK’s decision to sell tickets himself infuriated TicketMaster.
Owning the relationship with fans
According to Louis CK, owning both the artistic product and the direct relationship with fans makes great financial sense.
“Making my shows affordable has always been my goal but two things have always worked against that,” he writes. “High ticket charges and ticket resellers marking up the prices. Some ticketing services charge more than 40 percent 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 e-mail list if you want, and you’ll only get e-mails from me.”