18 Apr Monty Python Tries Something Completely Different
They say if you love something, you have to set it free. While this idiom is almost certainly not talking about making your intellectual property free online, the legendary comedy troupe Monty Python may have found a way to make it apply after all.
After years of seeing their work ripped and posted to YouTube by fans without seeing a dime of compensation, the group had to make a decision: either take these “pirates” to court (or maybe a Piranha Brothers-style shakedown operation), or try and find a peaceful resolution. What they decided on is something most people were not prepared for.
They decided to post it online for free. And it increased their sales 23,000%
Man’s Crisis of Property in the Earlier Half of the 21st Century
The reasoning was this: if you can’t stop it from appearing online, make sure it appears in the best possible light. The group started their own YouTube channel with perfectly restored versions of their work. Those clips were properly labeled, categorized, and organized for easy access and proper attribution.
What’s more, they also added new and exclusive content that property thieves couldn’t possibly have access to. There’s exclusive interviews with the cast and other celebrities, brand-new content, and behind-the-scenes looks that you can only find on their YouTube channel. This results in audience retention that would be impossible when their work was spread out all over the web.
Amidst all of this, the only thing the Pythons stuck to their guns about was one small link in the videos. Under each of the videos is a link to the troupe’s Amazon store where viewers can buy copies of the movie or episode they just watched. Nothing pushy or in-your-face, just the option. But by merely offering viewers the option, they got some pretty incredible results.
Shortly after they adopted this new approach, their DVDs shot to the top of Amazon’s Movies & TV Bestsellers list. When all was said and done, they had seen a 23,000% increase in sales. This makes it hard for anyone to argue that making your content available for free is a bad thing.
Always Look On the Bright Side of Change
Monty Python’s remarkable experiment might just be the answer to something companies have been fighting for the last two decades: how to handle pirating. Even with the most vigilant and aggressive legal team, it’s pretty near impossible to keep your content from leaking out. What Monty Python has shown is, if people are going to get it anyway, you need to be the easiest and most authoritative source for it.
And any company can take a lesson from this. People go to the most trustworthy source they can find. If they find the right information, clearly laid out, and easy to access, they will keep coming back. The Pythons have also proven that this standing in the information marketplace can lead to drastic results in the actual marketplace.
I’m a Python Fan and I’m Ok
So that’s the business side. Now for the personal one.
I am a huge, unabashed Monty Python fan. I own every one of their movies, including Live at the Hollywood Bowl. I own the entire series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. So naturally, I sometimes want to pull up a certain sketch I had a craving for, but didn’t want to pop in a DVD and find it. I even linked to one of their sketches in an article I wrote for this very site.
So that’s the added bonus to the 23,000% increase in sales: goodwill. I can now pull up a great-looking version of my favorite sketches to share with friends, and perhaps net them even more fans. Or I can just sit back and enjoy the kind of laugh that only Monty Python can bring.