The film, music and TV industries have long struggled to monetise content in the digital age, trying to shift a product that with some light Googling and software installing can usually be found illegally for free.
Subscription services like Netflix and Spotify might have understood that the days of paying £12 for a film or album are over and set their prices accordingly, but they still lack a powerful influencer in terms of getting customers on board - basic humanity and transparency.
Enter Louis C.K., who this week applied his general ‘why not just be a good guy about things?’ philosophy to his new series Horace and Pete.
Instead of going with a network, he stuck the first episode on his website for $5; the price of a decent cup of coffee.
In an email to viewers, he today elaborated on why this price was set, explaining that it had to be a touch more expensive than his stand-up shows due to the higher production costs.
And with this simple note, he reminded everyone that ‘content’ is not just ‘content’ - a .AVI file to be deleted at a later date - but something someone has worked hard on and cares a lot about.
By simply telling people a little about the filming setup, the costs involved, what he needs to just recoup them and the price plan for future episodes (cheaper price if they work out cheaper to make), he has left many thinking: “Huh, okay I guess I can't begrudge this guy five bucks" - a response that means a lot amid this gulf that piracy has left us in.
Read the email in full:
Hello friend guy lady or other,
Some of you are aware that, last Saturday, I launched a new series on my site louisck.netcalled “Horace and Pete”. I’m writing now to tell you some stuff about it….
Horace and Pete is a new show that I am producing, directing, writing, distributing and financing on my own. I have an amazing cast: Steve Buscemi, Edie Falco, Alan Alda, Jessica Lange, Aidy Bryant, Steven Wright, Kurt Metzger and other guest stars. Also Paul Simon wrote and performed the theme song which is beautiful.
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The response to episode one has been great so far and there are more coming. We are making them now and having a lot of fun doing it.
Part of the idea behind launching it on the site was to create a show in a new way and to provide it to you directly and immediately, without the usual promotion, banner ads, billboards and clips that tell you what the show feels and looks like before you get to see it for yourself. As a writer, there’s always a weird feeing that as you unfold the story and reveal the characters and the tone, you always know that the audience will never get the benefit of seeing it the way you wrote it because they always know so much before they watch it. And as a TV watcher I’m always delighted when I can see a thing without knowing anything about it because of the promotion. So making this show and just posting it out of the blue gave me the rare opportunity to give you that experience of discovery.
Also because we are shooting this show in a multi-camera format with an emphasis on a live feeling, we are able to post it very soon after each episode is shot. So I’m making this show as you’re watching it.
Okay so let’s talk for a minute about the five dollars of it all. If you’re on this email list then you’re probably aware that I always make an effort to make the work I do on my own as cheap as possible and as painless as possible to get. That’s why my specials are five dollars and that’s why I sold tickets to my last big tour here on the site, with our own ticketing service at a flat price with no ticket charges and we have worked hard to keep my tickets out of the hands of scalpers.
So why the dirty fuckballs did I charge you five dollars for Horace and Pete, where most TV shows you buy online are 3 dollars or less? Well, the dirty unmovable fact is that this show is fucking expensive.
The standup specials are much more containable. It’s one guy on a stage in a theater and in most cases, the cost of the tickets that the live audience paid, was enough to finance the filming.
But Horace and Pete is a full on TV production with four broadcast cameras, two beautiful sets and a state of the art control room and a very talented and skilled crew and a hall-of-fame cast. Every second the cameras are rolling, money is shooting out of my asshole like your mother’s worst diarrhea. (Yes there are less upsetting metaphors I could be using but I just think that one is the sharpest and most concise). Basically this is a hand-made, one guy paid for it version of a thing that is usually made by a giant corporation.
Now, I’m not complaining about this at all. I’m just telling you the facts. I charged five dollars because I need to recoup some of the cost in order for us to stay in production.
Also, it’s interesting. The value of any set amount of money is mercurial (I’m showing off because i just learned that word. It means it changes and shifts a lot). Some people say “Five dollars is a cup of coffee”. Some people say “Hey! Five dollars?? What the fuck!” Some people say “What are you guys talking about?” Some people say “Nothing. don’t enter a conversation in the middle”.
Anyway, I’m leaving the first episode at 5 dollars. I'm lowering the next episode to 2 dollars and the rest will be 3 dollars after that. I hope you feel that’s fair. If you don’t, please tell everyone in the world.
Meanwhile, we’re going to keep making Horace and Pete. We’re going to keep telling you the story.
I sincerely hope that you enjoy it. I’ll write you again later and tell you more about it. It’s fun to talk about. But for now I want to shut up and not ruin the experience of you just watching the show.
Here’s the link for the website. Enjoy episode 2 of Horace and Pete. We’re shooting it now. You’ll get it on Saturday morning.
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