He brushed aside college and went straight to the clubs. He went all in, like a gambler in Vegas. And his career was riddled with one failure after another, can you say “Pootie Tang”? But he kept on keepin’ on and now he’s the number one Internet sensation, I’ve gotten more e-mail about the distribution of his Beacon show on the Net than any other subject in months. What have we learned?
1. It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n roll.
You can go on a TV show, your name can be known by millions, but that doesn’t mean you’ve got any staying power. If you want a notch in your belt, a line in your resume, go for instant fame… But I’ve got to tell you, so many of the flashes in the pan, especially the reality TV stars, are ashamed of their notoriety and would give anything to have it fade away and never radiate. Sure, there are those still trumpeting their moment in the sun, but they’re such creepy losers we want nothing to do with them.
To be great, you’ve got to make mistakes. Louie’s FX show may have been nominated for an Emmy, but “Lucky Louie” on HBO was canceled and forgotten. It’s kind of like signing a major label deal and failing to connect and going out and making it anyway. But today people want the label to do all the work and are sour grapes when they don’t make it.
You’re on your own baby, nowhere as much as in show business, where they’re lining up to replace you.
No one arrives instantly formed. I’ve known of Louie for years, but only now has he connected, only now, having matured in years, has he refined his comedy to the point where the masses can relate. He hasn’t forgone his edge, but now he can show his heart.
Someone sent me a Kickstarter campaign for an 11 year old who wants to make a CD. That’s what I want to hear, the wit and wisdom of middle school. Why do we keep on listening to the prognostications and idiocies of the young and stupid when anybody with a brain knows that wisdom comes with age?
What is Kim Kardashian gonna do in ten years?
The same thing Paris Hilton is doing. Drugs. And trying to find a spot in a society that has no place for her.
2. It’s all about your tribe.
Without a fan base, without an audience, Louis C.K.’s Beacon video would have fallen on deaf ears. You can pay a publicist to get you on “Entertainment Tonight”, just don’t expect anybody to care.
People still believe if you can just cross that threshold, you’re in the club. And the way to get there is by signing a deal with a major or working the publicity angle so damn hard that everybody knows you and you’re made.
But you’re not.
Linda Chorney may have gamed the Grammy system, may have even gotten a bit of mainstream publicity, but is anybody listening to her music, has she gained any real fans?
So she can post her nomination certificate on her wall, has a story to
tell, but she’s moved the ball not an inch as an artist.
It’s easy to be famous.
It’s hard to have fans.
The Internet video sale only worked because Louie had fans. First and
foremost who were aware of what he was doing. We’re all on information
overload. You can put out the press release, the paper can even print
it, that does not mean the target audience sees it. You’ve got to have
people who follow you, you’ve got to earn their trust to the point
they’re paying attention to you on a regular basis. You don’t do this
by yelling at them, but by creating work they value.
3. Publicity is a byproduct, it comes after the fact.
I guarantee you Louie had no idea this story would become an Internet
sensation. You just do the work, you never know what will happen. He
did one Q&A on Reddit, posted a bit on his homepage and suddenly
people were forwarding his words around the globe.
This is the story of the 99%. We want to embrace our own, put them on
a rocket to the top. We hate being talked down to, sold to, we’re sick
of homogenized crap made for everyone that appeals to no one. Louie
didn’t edit his act for popular consumption, the fact that he was his
true self blew this thing up.
4. This is proof of concept.
That you can do it without the machine. But don’t expect the
floodgates to open. The first mover gets all the attention. And most
people just don’t want to put in that much work. They’d rather have
someone else do it. But if you want control, and art is all about
control, you’ve got to do it yourself. And the great thing about
having success on your own is you get all the money. Which in this
case could end up being less than a traditional outlet might pay
Louie, but the name recognition and status achieved through the
Internet sale is worth MILLIONS!
5. Trust is key.
Louie didn’t try to screw his customers with DRM and regional locks.
That’s for the fat cats at the movie studio, the 1%ers. That’s why the
entertainment business is in trouble, it’s on the wrong side, that of
the clubby fly private rich as opposed to the unwashed minions keeping
them alive. You can put up all the barriers you want, they’ll never
hold the public back. We see this in politics and it applies in
business too. You’re in bed with your customers, never forget it. And
I’m sure plenty of people torrented this show, but maybe the non-
payers weren’t really fans and now will become ones. Furthermore, fans
paying for Louie C.K. is like Wisconsinites investing in the Green Bay
Packers. There’s no return, just the honor of being involved. What
kind of messed up world do we live in where people believe in sports
teams more than musicians? The players are two-dimensional, artists
turn sideways and there’s still something there. But today’s big time
“artists” have capitulated to the
system. We love those who break the rules, like Radiohead and Louie C.K.
6. The future.
This is a milestone. Radiohead’s pay what you want model wasn’t
repeatable, but it paved the way for artists doing it for themselves,
when the winners take chances, when they don’t play along with the
money, it turns heads, it inspires people. Arcade Fire not selling
out, not making a deal with a major, showed that it could be done.
Everybody won’t be selling their concert videos online and making
hundreds of thousands of dollars but when given no opportunities by
the man, they’ll see they can do it another way.
One of the reasons artists have lost power is they no longer lead.
It’s kind of like our President. He’s so busy appeasing people that
even his natural constituency is turned off. Hell, the public has no
idea where it’s going, it needs those with experience, with attention,
to take risks and lead the way. And they must do this unencumbered by
the system. We’re mired in school, we work for the man, our artists
are supposed to inspire us, not shrug their shoulders and say they’ve
got no option but to rip us off.
People are excited by the possibilities Louie C.K.’s move has
uncovered. You don’t have to do it the traditional way.
But no one’s gonna care if you don’t have the goods. A great marketing
plan is irrelevant if the product sucks.
And a great artist doesn’t repeat what someone else has already done
but tweaks it, improves it, makes it his own.
The dam has been opened.
But really, only a trickle has seeped out.
But our entire nation, the whole world is sick and tired of being
abused and told they’ve got no power. John Lennon was right, POWER TO
THE PEOPLE, RIGHT ON!
Buy The Thing: https://buy.louisck.net/
The Reddit Q&A: http://bit.ly/s9ZGMB
A synopsis of the story (so you don’t have to read the entire Reddit
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, LOUIE’S STATEMENT: https://buy.louisck.net/statement
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