Aziz Ansari, an extremely funny standup comedian, has just released "Dangerously Delicious," a comedy special that follows Louis CK's Live at the Beacon Theater DIY, DRM-free concert video, which netted CK over a million dollars. Ansari, who was an outspoken critic of SOPA and PIPA, is also asking for $5 for his DRM-free download, and has a very good ecommerce setup for buying and downloading the video, and is also using it to promote an upcoming tour.
Ansari isn't the only comedian who's trying this. As Mike Masnick notes on Techdirt, Jim Gaffigan is also following suit. Masnick laments that both Ansari and Gaffigan are slavishly copying CK's exact methodology, and wishes that each would experiment some with pricing, delivery and so on, in order to learn if there are ways of improving on CK's experiment.
The one thing that concerns me a little about this is the fact that the deal terms are identical. I can understand why they're doing this. It's basically "don't mess with what worked for Louis." But I worry that the message people are getting is "$5 direct offering off a website is the secret." I don't think that's it. Lots of people have offered up a product for download off their website for a variety of prices. The key to making it work is not just the pricing. It's the way the offering is presented. I think it would be even cooler if some of these comedians experimented a bit more with branching out creatively around this business model. It wouldn't be hard, for example, to build on what various musicians have done, and offer up different tiers of support. Or something else. The real opportunity here is in how it's presented -- in a way that treats fans as fans, rather than assuming they're criminals or that there needs to be a big impersonal gatekeeper in-between the fans and the artist. But, unfortunately, some are going to look at these experiments and say "the lesson" is "$5 off your website is the secret." And when that doesn't work for some content creators, they're not going to understand why.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.