Jump to content

    Louis C.K.’s Direct Video Sales 

    So what can be we learn from this fat, bald, red-headed, Mexican guy?


    Well currently he’s the #1 touring comedian, and has broken a lot of ground for comedians.  


    Rule breaker #1:
    He decided to start selling tickets to his shows by himself.  No TicketMaster, no scalpers, no jacking up prices at the last minute.  He decided to accept ticket sales through his own website and email list by charging a flat $45 for tickets on a first-come-first-serve basis. 


    He kind of pulled a “Southwest Airlines” move on this one.  



    Rule Breaker #2: (the topic of our post today)
    He started selling his video specials directly to the watchers for $5 each. No silly file-protection, no ads, no sponsorships…..you just pay $5 to Louis CK and he gives you the actual video file. 


    You see, Louis CK is damn-well clear that a lot of people will torrent his video specials or upload them to YouTube (or other sites)…..and keeping track of that is a losing proposition.  

    The traditional comedy-special route involves selling your special to Comedy Central or HBO (assuming you can pull that off), then getting paid that one time with some small royalties.  

    Instead in 2011 Louis CK played “an experiment” where he’d sell the specials himself and just see what happens.  

    It worked! 

    The first special made $1,000,000+ in the first few days of release.  

    NOW WAIT.  Those results aren’t typical.……he was the #1 rated comedian out there at the time AND this little stunt got a lot of publicity, but the experiment proved he could make more money selling through himself than going through a traditional media outlet.  


    As someone who spends my days reviewing email campaigns and webpages selling stuff……I could easily see one of the reasons he was able to get more than 200,000 people to buy in just a few short days was…….

    Because his selling was soooooo shitty! 


    Ok let me re-phrase that…

    Replace the word “shitty” with “authentic”.

    A huge mistake people make when selling (and I’m guilty of this also) is they put out tons of great content on a blog or something, then they direct people to a sales page that looks TOTALLY DIFFERENT AND SALESY compared to their normal content. 

    This creates the feeling of being “incongruent” with the material the reader fell in love with.  Aka….their Spidey Sense is triggered because it feels like all of a sudden this person (or website) is trying to pull a scam. 

    Perhaps you’ve felt like this before when buying from a site.  

    It goes down like this:


    Wallet closed.  Sale lost.  

    They ALMOOSSTTT had em too!  

    So what could’ve been done differently?  

    Well for starters, they should’ve been congruent.  

    You see if people are browsing your site for a long time and enjoying it, you are ALREADY:


    • Building trust.
    • Giving them value.
    • Telling them about your products in a non-scammy way. 
    • Making them want to buy certain products you are mentioning.
    This means when they’re ready to buy, you can literally mention the product inside a blog post and send them directly to a PayPal button (or whatever payment). 

    In this case you don’t need to direct them to a whole other sales page that tried to jam the in the head with why they need your product….you’ve already done it! Just take their money now! 

    Louis CK did a good job of being very authentic and simple and NOT salesy in his checkout process. I took the hit and spent the $5 (poor me) so you can see the simple checkout process:

    Very simple (almost easy-to-miss) text link on his website directing you to the right place.



    He very honestly gives a description of WHY he’s selling through this method, and even mentions the very obvious fact that you could probably illegally download this for free, but he’d LOVE if you pay $5 to help support the cost of production (click for full image):


    Pay through PayPal (can also pay through Amazon and Dwolla):


    The download page lets you easily download whichever format you want.  After all, it’s YOUR file: 


    Then you get a small little email with your personalized login information if you ever want to download it again:


    ……and that’s it!  That’s the whole checkout process. 

    Super authentic.  Super simple.  Super non-salesy.  

    NOW….I’m not saying this is the “best” way to do things, but overall it worked well for HIM to make it look like a “one-man shop that needs the money.”  

    His dis-interest in optimizing the hell out the page actually works congruently with his persona!  

    He’s normally a jeans-and-black-tshirt kind of guy, and the whole checkout process reflected that.  


    It’s a good thing.  

    Neville N. Medhora


    Have you ever been perusing a site, liked their stuff a lot, was willing to purchase something, then SOMETHING triggered your Spidey Sense and you closed your wallet?  Care to share below in the comments?


    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Great post Nev.

    I totally agree with you regarding congruency. I think another reason why people are more inclined to spend the $5 in this case is because they like to feel that celebrities are being personal towards them. If you add a personal touch (and it fits in with how your persona is perceived in the media) you can make it very easy to sell things.

    I recently acquired a Pink Floyd collectors box; full of previously unreleased recordings and memorabilia. As a huge fan, the fact that the copywriting on the product has a personal touch makes it seem that much more desirable.


    Link to comment
    Guest Devesh Khanal


    Love this! He'd be great at PPC to landing page funnels :)

    But here's what I think could be improved in his kopy: the whole "please pay because it costs a lot to make this" shtick from a multimillionaire celebrity is tiring. He's not an indie rock band from your hometown. 400k*$5=$2M. It doesnt cost $2M to record that show and put it online.

    Maybe that schtik works better for his audience that wants to think they're sopporting some indie cause, but it'd be interesting to see if kopy like this performed better "We think $5 is a great price for a show that took me 18 months to craft from club to club. Its a fraction of the monthly cost of HBO and you'd be paying more than that every month for Netflix. This show is one of my favorites, and you'll be able to keep it forever...no streaming, I just give you the file so you can watch it on the plane or anywhere else as many times as you want."

    Link to comment

    Hmm, I don't think you can directly compare this to Netflix - at least not how you've put it. People pay £5.99 p/month for Netflix (about $10?) but with that you get hundreds of shows, rather than a single comedy special.

    I do see your point, I'm just being picky :-)

    Link to comment
    Guest Neville


    Totally agree Sam.

    It's funny how "trying to sound professional" normally has a negative impact unless you're a lawyer or other profession where stodginess is favorable because you're trying to confuse people with your BS :-)

    Link to comment
    Guest Alexandre


    Those "all equal Video Sales Letters" with EXACTLY SAME script makes any Spider Sense goes crazy.

    If you're FORCING to sell it to me, that's something wrong...

    Link to comment
    Guest Dave Bross


    Along the same lines...and also funny.


    Check out this guys' other stuff too - Warning! DANGER! Fecal, bloody (not the Brit interpretation but +guts) and bizzare humor - average citizens may experience revolting side effects while laughing uncontrollably.

    - Now you've got to go look, don't you? -

    This call-to-action close brought to you by the concept born in the Viagra warnings...

    four hours and still going? get thee to a hospital?

    Yeah, right.

    Link to comment
    Guest Devesh Khanal


    That's cool he's transparent like that...hadn't seen that before, thanks!
    Link to comment

    I recently stumbled across something like this.

    I was looking for a WooCommerce extension that would allow me to do upsells/downsells at strategic points during the checkout process.

    Ended up stumbling across one of those ridiculous internet-market-y over the top sales pages, and had to suffer through all the overblown promises and INSANE HYPE to figure out what the thing actually could do.

    The thing is, it was exactly what I needed, but my trust "spidey sense" (love that) was on high alert and almost drove me away immediately.

    The developer could simplify and tone down his 3,000 word sales page, edit the embedded YouTube video down to what starts at the 2:30 mark, and just trust that his product is good enough to sell itself.

    If you're curious to check it out, it's here: http://www.storeapps.org/product/smart-offers/

    Link to comment
    Guest Neville



    If I REAALLLYYYY want something, it almost doesn't matter what the checkout process is like.

    Link to comment

    Louis quickly brought in a million dollars with his first download a while back. Here's an article about what he did with the money


    "So what's Louis CK going to do with that million dollars? He's going to do really good stuff. In his own words:

    I've never had a million dollars all of a sudden. and since we're all sharing this experience and since it's really your money, I wanted to let you know what I'm doing with it.

    • The first 250k is going to pay back what the special cost to produce and the website to build.

    • The second 250k is going back to my staff and the people who work for me on the special and on my show. I'm giving them a big fat bonus.

    • The third 280k is going to a few different charities. They are listed below in case you'd like to donate to them also. Some of these i learned about through friends, some were recommended through twitter.

    • That leaves me with 220k for myself. Some of that will pay my rent and will care for my children. The rest I will do terrible, horrible things with and none of that is any of your business. In any case, to me, 220k is enough out of a million."

    Link to comment

    Yeah I loved the whole easy $5 deal by Louis CK. Really smart. Just like his comedy. Incongruency is something I've been wrestling with - 2 clients who want to stand out as big shots in a tough guy kind of industry, so they keep rewriting my rewrites so they look like actual big time rollers in their field. It's a little like guys who drive Hummers, if you follow my drift.

    Anyway, I have found sites that offer free and premium plugins for wordpress sites to be the worst ever in terms of copywriting. There are loads of cool free plugins offered by very talented nerds but their explanations of how to use them are written in shorthand for someones just like them. How many times have I wanted to write them: 'Dude/Girlfriend: please spell it all out like this....' ......but I don't because by the time I have figured out how to make something work (or not), I'm fried. Hey now, there's an idea.....

    Link to comment
    Guest Neville


    HOLY CRAP that's over the top!

    In the "internet marketing" world it almost seems people like that cheesiness.

    At AppSumo we did some tests once, and whenever that kind of cheesy marketing was shown, the smart people like developers and designers etc HATTTTEEEDDD IT!! They were allergic.

    But I've seen people release stuff like that to the "Hopeful Harry" type person who wants the next magic pill, and sadly it works well.

    For good software it's easiest to just show the damn thing in action and how it helps a person. So much easier than cheesily selling it and losing smart customers.

    Link to comment
    Guest Neville


    Loved how transparent he was!

    Although his tours are probably what brings in the big bucks ;)

    I remember him selling out the ACL theater which is about 2,700+ seats, doing 4 shows, at $45/ticket.

    That's around $486,000 in revenue for Austin alone. I'm sure there's lots of costs involved, but I assume this is where he brings in the $$

    Link to comment
    Guest Neville


    Well a lot of times those free plugins just need some good screenshots or a simple 1 minute video showing them working and they'll take off!!

    You don't need a lot of CONVINCING someone to get a plugin if it's exactly what they're looking for and it works well.

    The overall psychology behind the scammy pages is sound, but the hype and over-promising is what peeves people.

    There's nothing wrong with a one-page sales page that has testimonials, feature-lists etc on it. Just don't over-hype if you're selling to a smart crowd.

    If your customers are all idiots, then go for it. Although that would suck to have a customer base of all idiots :-/

    Link to comment
    Guest Eric Gross


    For me the thought is that $5. And its Louis CK, you know its going to be good, and at $5 bucks there's no risk.

    As a marketing strategy, its a good way to get someone in the door, and develop rapport. Just wish I could develop something decent at that price point. I'm a graphic designer, with photography skills and a bit of code writing skills. Seeing what some designers will do on fiverr makes my soul hurt. Any thoughts from the Nev list? Maybe some sort of templates? Much appreciated.

    Link to comment
    Guest djcrunk


    Yeah, like DAMN, I just traveled 10 years back in time when ADWORDS + CLICKBANK CRAP were still a thing.

    You know, like "Make 100,000 gazillion a day, pressing a button while sitting on your fat-ass eating tacos till you clog an artery and get a heart attack"-sorta thing... good times lol.

    Link to comment
    Guest djcrunk


    At that price point I think there isn't really much risk factor, even if he wasn't as famous and well known. I think about it like when I find street performers on my way to work.

    Which where I live that could be a flame-breather guy on stilts like it was XIV century florence (which is kinda cool), or a guy that comes from the street with a violin gets into a restaurant and starts playing.

    Cause when you like their art and it reaches you on a personal level (you get to like the guy, cause he's good at what he does and is unapologetic about it), you won't even think twice about giving them money, you actually root for him.

    Cause he ain't a faceless corporation, selling me crap I don't need, at whatever price they wanna give me. Which the internet is turning more and more into an obsolete model. People want what they want, and not what businesses want them to like, specially mainstream media, ironically enough.

    They have given you real value, at a fair price point, according to your perception (Whatever you want to give them). So you don't need a second thought (even when you got the choice of giving them nothing, after all they already gave you the product and didn't even ask if you wanted it!).

    And let me tell you, some of these guys have extremely good conversion rates, and actually make decent money heh.

    The problem I personally see about working with designers as a marketer is... they walk the line between art and business, and some of them are stubborn and snobbish about being more of an artist and cling to the old, big advertising pre-internet (data) agency.

    Cause let me tell you, I have actually bought graphics from fiverr guys, that ended up making me money. Then came back and paid more, without a second though.

    So maybe you should consider that your definition of a decent $5.00 graphic, may not be the same for your customers. Why not focusing on very simple graphics that deliver great CTR and CR.

    Unless you really just wanna work with big companies with unlimited budgets, in that case you shouldn't even worry about $5 usd graphics and fiverr, and I don't think they use those, heh.

    Cheers and good luck.

    Link to comment

    Hey Nev -

    You're saying plugins are like shooting fish in a barrel?

    There have been many a time when I was checking out plugins for something I needed and thought x would work maybe. But too hard to tell from their lousy descriptions! I sometimes went back to the plugin sites to download only after someone else on another website explained it all out for me. And I've got intermediate tech skills.

    Maybe I just suffer from a lack of imagination.

    Link to comment

    I buy tons of products for business online. I needed a water filter system for two commercial ice machines, but I didn't know what I was buying. So one day I was eating lunch at a Korean Tofu restaurant and since they didn't speak English so well, I went back and took a photo of their super duper filtration system-I felt like Steve Jobs and font. I went to the site and picked out the $500 system and YOU CANT PURCHASE ONLINE!!!! You have to call the dude and they email a credit card form, scan and email back...I signed it as "YOU ARE A PAIN IN THE ASS TO BUY STUFF FROM"

    ps I only used them because they spent so much time getting me a beautiful system-which is buried behind the ice machines.

    Link to comment

    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

    • Join 55,000+ people getting our newsletter

      nev-and-logo-going-into-email (3).gif

      - Get notified of new posts -
      - Get weekly S.W.I.P.E.S. Email -
      - Get a free masterclass in copy -
      - People love our emails, see testimonials -

    • Create New...