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Louis CK's Paypal Experiment Already a Success

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Along with being arguably the funniest stand-up working today, Louis CK is an incredibly shrewd businessman.

His brilliant, critically acclaimed, semi-eponymous show Louie on FX (NWS) was pitched with a unique business model. As long as Louis did the show on the cheap -- $300,000 per episode after a successful $200,000 pilot -- he was able to do whatever he wanted creatively. The workhorse comedian writes, directs, acts, and edits every episode, and because of his total creative freedom and powerhouse live shows, Louis CK has earned a rabid fan base.

So when Louis decided to follow up his tremendous 2010 special Hilarious with another stand-up special, he had the freedom to take another unorthodox approach for its release.

Rather than debut his newest special, Louis CK: Live at the Beacon Theater, on a cable network and have fans wait for a DVD release, Louis launched the program online and directly toward fans. And like an affordable Fugazi show, he priced the performance at five dollars, which would be paid directly to him via PayPal (EBAY). No distributor, no network, no middlemen.

And only after a few days of release, it's already a huge success. (Possibly too much: The site selling the performance has been slammed with traffic and is still down at the time of this writing.)

In a statement, Louis revealed that he's made $500,000 in sales and, after expenses, $200,000 profit. And because of his loyal fans, quality product, and admirable distribution approach, he said he hasn't seen much piracy. Most people are not only willing, but also want to pay the five dollars if it's going to the artist directly -- certainly a lesson for iTunes (AAPL), Google Music (GOOG), Amazon (AMZN), or any studio or record label that takes a hefty percentage from the performer.

"I really hope people keep buying it a lot, so I can have s***loads of money, but at this point I think we can safely say that the experiment really worked," Louis writes. "If anybody stole it, it wasn't many of you. Pretty much everybody bought it. And so now we all get to know that about people and stuff. I'm really glad I put this out here this way and I'll certainly do it again. If the trend continues with sales on this video, my goal is that I can reach the point where when I sell anything, be it videos, CDs or tickets to my tours, I'll do it here and I'll continue to follow the model of keeping my price as far down as possible, not overmarketing to you, keeping as few people between you and me as possible in the transaction."

Hopefully now he's able to cover that negative-ten dollars in his bank account.

(See also: Google Maps First-Person Shooter Shot Down by Google and Google Engineer Calls Google+ a Complete Failure)

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