How to Make a Million Dollars, Be Honest, and Reject the Status Quo in 12 Days. Or, how Louis CK does his “thing”

Louis CK is a fantastic comedian. He’s funny, honest, crude, and challenging during his shows. His style of social commentary and humor will make you laugh while realizing he’s insulting you and challenging our way of life. Which, he admits, he freely does as well. At the bottom of the page I’ve linked a clean version of a clip of Louis CK on Conan, talking about how much social media has impacted our ability to live life in front of us. Before I go on, let me be clear that he can be incredibly vulgar in his live stand-up, but I also believe he speaks the truth in a lot of areas. He also just won a Grammy for Best Comedy Album, solidifying his status as one of the best comedians today.

Most importantly though, Louis CK has gained a lot of press for the method he used to distribute his latest comedy film, Live at the Beacon. Instead of following the “normal” rules, Louie and his team filmed, produced, directed, edited, and released the film all in house. The only place to buy “the thing”, as he calls it, is at his website. Because he saved so much money on production, fees, marketing, and paying record companies, he’s offering the film for $5. In comparison, Dane Cook’s Vicious Cycle film sells for $20 on Amazon ($25 most other places). Louie says that he was strongly advised not to go this route, because releasing a non-drm protected film would make it easy to share via social media and torrents, losing him money. Louie said this about torrents:

To those who might wish to “torrent” this video: look, I don’t really get the whole “torrent” thing. I don’t know enough about it to judge either way. But I’d just like you to consider this: I made this video extremely easy to use against well-informed advice. I was told that it would be easier to torrent the way I made it, but I chose to do it this way anyway, because I want it to be easy for people to watch and enjoy this video in any way they want without “corporate” restrictions.

Please bear in mind that I am not a company or a corporation. I’m just some guy. I paid for the production and posting of this video with my own money. I would like to be able to post more material to the fans in this way, which makes it cheaper for the buyer and more pleasant for me. So, please help me keep this being a good idea. I can’t stop you from torrenting; all I can do is politely ask you to pay your five little dollars, enjoy the video, and let other people find it in the same way.

To me, and apparently lots of people, this willingness to cut out the gatekeepers and make it easy for his fans to connect, is refreshingly honest. If you look over his site, you can also see that it’s pretty simple, and the content was written by Louie himself. 3 days after releasing the film, Louie wrote a post about how well the experiment had gone, and felt comfortable to give more context for why he wanted to release the film his way.

As of today, we’ve sold over 110,000 copies for a total of over $500,000. Minus some money for PayPal charges etc, I have a profit around $200,000 (after taxes $75.58). This is less than I would have been paid by a large company to simply perform the show and let them sell it to you, but they would have charged you about $20 for the video. They would have given you an encrypted and regionally restricted video of limited value, and they would have owned your private information for their own use. They would have withheld international availability indefinitely.

This is incredible, right? That Louis CK’s experiment went so well, that he bypassed the gatekeepers of production and pricing, and customers responded to his honesty by overwhelmingly paying to appreciate his art and dedication. We’ve seen this a few times before (Pearl Jam, Radiohead), and it always seems to go well. Radiohead was especially brave in simply telling their fans to “pay what you want” for their album In Rainbows. Using this model, In Rainbows generated more sales in 7 weeks than their previous major label release, Hail to the Thief.

But that’s not the end. Live at the Beacon had sold over 200,000 copies and made a million dollars after 12 days. No, really. See?

Louie wrote another post on his site, expressing his gratitude and wonder at how well the experiment was going. He also stated his intentions for how he was going to use the money. It’s a bold statement:

People are paying attention to what’s going on with this thing. So I guess I want to set an example of what you can do if you all of a sudden have a million dollars that people just gave to you directly because you told jokes.

Here’s what he’s going to do:

  • 250K to production, website, and hosting costs.
  • 250K to the people who work with him and helped on the film and show.
  • 280K to charity.
  • 220K for himself and his kids, to pay rent and do terrible things that are none of our business.
If you want to read his entire post, click here.

So what does this mean for us? For starters, this is another example that we don’t have to sit around and wait for permission, waiting to be picked by the gatekeepers. Ask yourself what makes you happy and is worth doing, and go do that. The web has made it incredibly easy to share your art, whatever that may be. Use WordPress, Etsy, Flickr, Vimeo, Blurb, Soundcloud, or any of the hundreds of services available. The time for excuses is over.

The other memorable aspect of Louis CK’s experiment was his honesty and openness about the whole “thing”. I know I used to get uptight about people taking advantage of the writing I published, but that’s a dead-end road. Louie didn’t let that fear change the way he connected with his fans, and relied on their honesty. I believe the way that he released the film and communicated with people compelled them to be a part of his tribe. You can certainly count me in that number. He had their permission to be a part of their lives and provide laughter, and we all want him to continue that.

For you, me, and others that have small tribe we’re a part of, keep doing the work, being honest, and accessible. Keep showing up, hitting publish, and contributing. Remember that Louie didn’t accomplish this all over-night, he began his stand-up career in 1986. His 1st performance at comedy club was in 1984, but he felt so poorly about his performance that he didn’t try again until 2 years later. So yes, here he is, America’s most talked about comedian, after 25 years on the job.

We need to get to work. 

As promised, here is Louis CK on Conan, talking about social media. Enjoy!


Finding Your Voice

Here is another worksheet of mine from Jeff Goins’ Intentional Blogging course. Jeff is doing a fantastic job with this course, and if you ask nicely, you can still get in. I’ve posted a similar sheet before, on generating topics for your blog. This sheet is geared towards finding your voice in writing. Other writers discussed include: CS Lewis, Wendell Berry, Christopher McDougall, and Anne Lamott. All of these writers have an impact on the way I write, even on how I live. As before, if you want to follow along, make space for roughly 30 minutes of work, and listen. Enjoy.

Just Start

Creative Commons via Jake & Lindsey Sherbert

Hello everyone, it has been a few days since I posted. I’ve been running, travelling, and visiting family. I’m actually writing this in my old bedroom of my parents house. Yes, everything is wonderful between me and my wife, that’s not why I’m in my old room. I’m on the road giving presentations for Camp Rockmont, and have been able to spend a couple days here. I know you were all dying to know those details, why would I even think you would? Well, let’s start there.

Writing has become enough of a practice for me over the past several weeks that when I don’t do it for a few days, I miss it. I get antsy, thinking about essays and topics to present. That feeling is also present when I don’t exercise or read for a few days. So that’s a good sign. The problem is that right now it’s 12:48 am, I’m tired, and want to go to bed. But that’s how I felt last night, and will probably feel the next 3-4 nights. Trying to come up with a good topic or inspiration in that frame of mind is difficult. But that’s ok, because it’s not always flowing prose and witty dialogue when any of us sit down to write. I even when over to my list of idea drafts, ready to remember and be inspired. That didn’t happen. I stared at them, trying to remember what the heck I was talking about in that idea. Then I felt a brief peace, and had the thought “Matt, just start, and see where it goes”.

So here I am, seeing where this goes. That’s why I started with a few details from the past few days. I needed a starting point. I can tell this is going to be one of those terrible essays about nothing that make people cancel their email subscription. I apologize, but I needed to write. We will all have these days and nights where the work isn’t happening, it’s just not our day or simply our moment (because in fact, I’ve had a great day). I planned on writing this evening, on sitting down and taking my time with an essay. But then I ended up talking with my parents for 2 hours about all kinds of things. That was important, I needed to do that and it was great to talk with them for that long. We don’t get the chance to do that very much anymore. A lesson in that is, maybe you don’t always get to do what you planned on, even if it’s good and important work. Because there can be just as important work, even more so, waiting in a good conversation.

Regardless of that, I still felt I needed to write today. Because on top of all that goodness I experienced throughout the day, I wasn’t quite done. I hope you can all keep that in mind too, that if you feel that you still have work or writing to do in a day, especially an intentional hobby like writing, that you make the commitment to making that part of your day. Because there is a cumulative effect to putting it off another day. The act of writing, or drawing, or woodworking, or exercising, becomes easier to say no to when you’ve practiced saying no for multiple days. You don’t have to do any of these things, but if it’s important you, if you love it, you will be compelled to sit down, and just start.

Let’s see what happens when you do.

Visual Example of Generating Blog Topics

Before you is a visual example of a 30 minute process on generating subjects, themes, topics, and intentions for your blog. A big thanks to Jeff Goins for putting these lessons together (if you didn’t get on his Intentional Blogging program, bummer).

What matters to you and why are you sharing it through an online presence? There are many things for me, as you see in the subject field. This process helped me narrow the subject down to actionable steps and topics, generating a flurry of ideas for posts. I hope that seeing how I went about it helps you guys do the same. If you would like the original photo file, just let me know in the comments, but you should just be able to right click and ‘save as’. Enjoy!

Blogging Lesson #1 - Focus

Anything is Possible

When did we lose our collective sense of the possible? Really, anything can happen at any time. I didn’t think September 11, 2001 was different from any other day, walking to class as a senior in High School. Or the day in 10th grade when I was introduced to my future wife (5 years in May). How about the day I was suddenly the Head Coach of a girl’s lacrosse team, after 2 weeks of coaching experience?

Anything is possible. It’s a statement that can carry a lot of fear, but also a lot of power. When anything is possible, you can do things, initiate projects, make stuff matter. As you consider giving that homeless person a few minutes of your time, and some food, or someone you don’t know a ride, you could also miss a car wreck in the amount of time it takes you to pull over. I’m not trying to make you think about checks and balances and filling up your ledger with good deeds, but feeling a security in the fact that anything can happen.

In your work, community, church, family, the people who are making a difference are the ones who are ok with doing things and being present with others. It doesn’t always work out, no one is perfect. But wouldn’t you rather be working/playing/living with someone who is willing to do something, anything, to make a positive difference. I think we are more comfortable with them failing in the act of doing than those who never try to make a difference at all.

Handwritten Posts: Starting a Journal

I received a new moleskin journal for Christmas, courtesy of my brother and sister (wonderful people). I did have to finish up my last one, but was still putting of beginning this one. The art of beginning is a difficult one, and this is what I wanted to share with you. Enjoy!


(As an aside, I published this post at 10:25 pm EST. I have normally been publishing before 9:00 am. Any thoughts on which is better? It will be interesting to see if the stats change in any way. Please leave any thoughts/ideas in the comment box, thanks!)

Just Do Something

I said last week that I was going to “ship” an e-book on May 1st, and here is a piece that I wrote back last Spring that has been languishing in my notebook. As we all know, ideas that aren’t shared die. So here is a sneak peek at what I’ve been working on, I hope it inspires you to act.

Just Do Something

We are the anonymous critic

Watching the doers from afar

Seeing the end result

And judging it subpar

I can paint that

Write a song of great beauty

Hit a receiver in the flat

When all along

Sounding quite snooty

The secret we miss

Is that it is all in the doing

Of having a goal

That’s worth pursuing

You think it’s the first show the band has played?

Don’t forget the smoky bars

And rickety stage

The thousands of passes the QB will throw

And millions of brushstrokes

to make a big show

While we all sit

Comfortable in our ways

I’m up here afraid

But doing just the same

Forward and backward

Not afraid to start

Join me now in the doing, loving, and living

At hand