the selling of words, pictures, and sound has changed forever


CC-licensed photo by joelogon.

Though it competes more-than-somewhat with a major part of how I’m able to feed and clothe my kids, I’ve been very interested, fascinated, and a fan of alternative methods of selling music, books, and video. I was a huge fan of the way Radiohead sold “In Rainbows” as a name-your-own-price download, how various bands use Bandcamp to do the same, and how ebooks are trying to rewrite all the rules when it comes to book sales.

Have you heard about what’s been going on with Louis CK? In under two weeks of making a live video available for puchase exclusively via web download, he’s made a million dollars. ONE. MILLION. DOLLARS. (Of which he says he’s keeping $220,000 of, the rest being donated to charities or paying for the website itself.) Amazing numbers, and a harbinger of what’s coming for media sales. And his statement on piracy is priceless, no pun intended:

To those who might wish to “torrent” this video: look, I don’t really get the whole “torrent” thing. I don’t know enough about it to judge either way. But I’d just like you to consider this: I made this video extremely easy to use against well-informed advice. I was told that it would be easier to torrent the way I made it, but I chose to do it this way anyway, because I want it to be easy for people to watch and enjoy this video in any way they want without “corporate” restrictions.

Please bear in mind that I am not a company or a corporation. I’m just some guy. I paid for the production and posting of this video with my own money. I would like to be able to post more material to the fans in this way, which makes it cheaper for the buyer and more pleasant for me. So, please help me keep this being a good idea. I can’t stop you from torrenting; all I can do is politely ask you to pay your five little dollars, enjoy the video, and let other people find it in the same way.

Louis C.K.

In another smack to the established media-selling, Elvis Costello recently wrote a piece called “Steal This Album,” in which he urged fans not to buy his latest album:

Unfortunately, we at find ourselves unable to recommend this lovely item to you as the price appears to be either a misprint or a satire.

All our attempts to have this number revised have been fruitless but rather than detain you with tedious arguments about morality, panache and book-keeping – when there are really bigger fish to filet these days – we are taking the following unusual step.

If you should really want to buy something special for your loved one at this time of seasonal giving, we can whole-heartedly recommend, “Ambassador Of Jazz” – a cute little imitation suitcase, covered in travel stickers and embossed with the name “Satchmo” but more importantly containing TEN re-mastered albums by one of the most beautiful and loving revolutionaries who ever lived – Louis Armstrong.

If on the other hand you should still want to hear and view the component parts of the above mentioned elaborate hoax, then those items will be available separately at a more affordable price in the New Year, assuming that you have not already obtained them by more unconventional means.

This is important stuff. The writing has already been on the record store walls — where does one GO to buy CDs and DVDs? I remember practically living at Tower Records and the Virgin Megastore — and book conglomerate and book conglomerate goes out of business as sells more ebooks than paper books. 

Things are changing. Because it’s where my brain lives, I’m fascinated by what this means for education. More to come on that…