Photo by Jungleboy via Flickr
Following the path that musicians like Radiohead and authors like Amanda Hocking have taken, comedian Louis C.K. decided to take his most recent comedy special, "Live at the Beacon," directly to the people who want to buy it.
He directed the video himself and the cost of the production was largely covered by tickets sold for the two live performances that were filmed. DVDs of his previous specials have sold for anywhere between $15 and $20. But this new one? Only $5.
And it seems to be paying off, particularly for fans. Louis CK wrote on his website on Tuesday:
The show went on sale at noon on Saturday, December 10th. 12 hours later, we had over 50,000 purchases and had earned $250,000, breaking even on the cost of production and website. As of Today, we've sold over 110,000 copies for a total of over $500,000. Minus some money for PayPal charges etc, I have a profit around $200,000 (after taxes $75.58). This is less than I would have been paid by a large company to simply perform the show and let them sell it to you, but they would have charged you about $20 for the video. They would have given you an encrypted and regionally restricted video of limited value, and they would have owned your private information for their own use. They would have withheld international availability indefinitely. This way, you only paid $5, you can use the video any way you want, and you can watch it in Dublin, whatever the city is in Belgium, or Dubai. I got paid nice, and I still own the video (as do you). You never have to join anything, and you never have to hear from us again.
You can read his full statement here (beware: there is a four-letter word near the beginning).
As technology makes it increasingly easier for artists of all kinds to cut out the middle men, it will be interesting to see how the business side of art-making continues to change. Does this change the way you look at consuming books, music, films, etc.? How do you prefer to support your favorite artists and entertainers?(2 Comments)
When he hears discussion in the news of long-term unemployment, Paul Jensen grows frustrated. He owns Jensales, a small business a few miles outside Albert Lea in southern Minnesota. The business prints and sells technical manuals -- and it does commercial printing as well. Jensen also owns the local newspaper, The Alden Advance. He currently employs 12 people and has two more openings he's trying to fill: a bookkeeper and a printing assistant. The problem is he can't find anyone.
These aren't entry-level jobs, but they don't require a lot of experience either. It's these mid-level jobs that he's found particularly hard to fill. He's worked with placement agencies and the Minnesota Workforce Center, and he's posted ads in the newspapers to no avail.
The root of the problem, as he sees it, is both a skills gap and an attitude gap. Jensen's seen the skill gap addressed in discussions of unemployment in the media and among employers, but he wants to see community colleges and workforce centers react more quickly to the problem. He doesn't expect people to have all the skills necessary to do the job. All he's looking for is a base level of knowledge that he can build on with on-the-job training.
The more worrying problem to Jensen, however, is what he calls "the attitude gap." Jensen says, "People come in wanting the same job they had in 2008. The fact is, those jobs are gone."
As a small business owner, Jensen can't afford to offer health benefits. He tries to compensate employees in other ways, by allowing flexibility with family commitments and allowing them to work from home. He points to the fact that over half of his employees have worked for him for more than 10 years as a sign that they are satisfied.
Jensen also sees an unwillingness to move to a smaller town like Albert Lea. "People aren't thinking outside the bubble. But living down here is cheap, schools are good and there's almost no crime."
And he says the problem is not just here in Minnesota. He's a commanding officer of a naval reserve unit out of San Diego, made up of 150 people from across the country. He's seen many of them struggle with job loss and several of them have that same "attitude gap." One of the men in his unit had been unemployed for two years but had turned down a number of jobs.
"It's frustrating. At a certain point you have to accept the fact that the jobs are different and you can't have the same job you had a few years ago. And you can't be so specialized. You have to do a little of everything."
If you're an employer, what are you seeing? Have you seen a skill or attitude gap?
To look at it from the employee side, check out this map that my colleague Paul Tosto put together yesterday. We asked people in the Public Insight Network who have dealt with unemployment to tell us about their search for work in this economy and what they've learned. Many of the people who responded did indeed take jobs that were not the same as the ones they had in 2008, some even taking significant pay cuts in order to find work.
View How's it going in Minnesota's job market? in a full screen map(4 Comments)
Eventually we'll know more about why Amy Koch decided to resign as majority leader, but for now we're stuck with the same story that everyone gives for leaving every job: More time with family, and/or exciting new opportunities. Here's how she put it: "I want to explore some other options. I want to spend a little time with my daughter." No surprise there, nor anything revealing.
But here's what caught my attention: Koch's assertion that she didn't think the Senate Republican caucus should be led by a lame duck. Huh? In what sense is she a lame duck?
Only in the sense that Sarah Palin was, when she resigned as governor of Alaska with a year and change left to her term. Those who care about language and the meaning of words have to speak up now, or "lame duck" - a useful term in talking about politics - will be lost forever.
The term refers to an officeholder who is on the way out because of term limits or a defeat at the polls. Here's a handy look at its origins, provided in podcast form by my colleagues Curtis Gilbert and Molly Bloom.
If "lame duck" meant what Koch and Palin are using it to mean, then every politician not planning to run again would be a lame duck. Robert Schlesinger at U.S. News and World Report made the point well a couple of years ago. Under Palin's logic, he wrote,
No president should run for a second term because they would instantly be a powerless lame duck, subjecting the country to four years of utter fecklessness. And if a president is then not going to run for a second term, they automatically become a lame duck as soon as they take office in their first term ... so they should not seek the presidency at all.
(I write this in full knowledge that there's a different word for people like me who struggle to keep language from changing: Dinosaurs. I wear the label proudly.)