Sean Parker wonders why any artist would sign with a major label these days.
But maybe the better question is why any established artist would do the same. Just outside of the music sphere, the latest direct-to-fan feat comes from Louis C.K., who just grossed $1 million on his self-released stand-up download, Live at the Beacon Theater. “Yesterday we made a million bucks,” C.K. told Jimmy Fallon.
And it’s just been happening, just like that. “It just goes into my phone like ‘bling,’ it’s crazy. I’ve never had one million dollars all at once,” C.K. described. And C.K. didn’t have to share a gigantic percentage with a major media company, but he is sharing the proceeds with various charities while rewarding staff with Christmas bonuses. Production costs, which came out of C.K.’s wallet, were around $250,000 and easily covered.
If you’re just tuning into this one, C.K. recently positioned Live at the Beacon Theater for $5, directly to fans. The download was straight from his site via Paypal (here), and totally financed by the comedian. “They said everyone was going to steal it, so I just wrote a note that said, ‘please don’t do that,'” C.K. joked. But seriously, at least 220,000 people (and counting) opted for the low-priced, legal alternative.
It’s a great story that keeps getting better, but one we keep seeing in the music world from bands like Pearl Jam and Radiohead. These are groups with well-established audiences with an appetite for more, but also access to mainstream media outlets and a history of huge label marketing support.
Perhaps the error is to link these accomplishments with developing artists, because creating stardom is now an entirely different game. Heading into this, C.K. had major television exposure, access to shows like Fallon, and an audience that wanted more. That doesn’t diminish the accomplishment, but definitely changes the perspective. Because in the end, Louis’ challenge was less about building fans, and more about satisfying and monetizing the ones he already has.