Hofstetter proves digital distribution works for indie comedians; lands spot on late-night TV

When we last left Steve Hofstetter, last100’s favorite digital comedian, Steve had offered up his latest album using the pay-what-you-want-model.

So how did that work out for him?

Not bad. Not bad at all.

In addition to making more “take-home” money on this album than the previous two, Hofstetter has landed a spot on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” his first late-night appearance. Hofstetter’s segment, taped at the end of July, will air the night of Sept. 3 (check local listings for airtime).

Hofstetter’s recent success doesn’t end there. Hofstetter, a small, independent artist far from the superstar status of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, embraced digital distribution and alternative business models, and they’ve embraced him.

Just last month, iTunes picked Hofstetter’s second album, “Cure for the Cable Guy,” as a staff pick and one of its top 15 favorite comedy albums of the past five years. “And it’s not even my favorite,” Hofstetter says.

Hofstetter continues to prove that indie artists of all sorts can build impressive careers using alternative distribution methods and business models, social media, and social networks like MySpace and Facebook. In addition to “The Late Late Show” and iTunes, Hofstetter has two scripts in the works — one for a sitcom, the other for a sports comedy show — that are getting attention.

“I told [“The Late Late Show”] that I can’t tell you if it will be a great show or not,” Hofstetter said, “but I can tell you that 15,000 people will be watching, and that’s just my mailing list.”

“The Late Late Show” gig almost didn’t happen. A fellow comedian recommended Hofstetter to a “Late Late Show” booking agent, but before anything happened the booker left and someone else was in charge of arranging the show’s talent.

Hofstetter sent a demo tape to the new booking agent, who rejected it — “a crushing blow to my spirits,” Hofstetter jokes.

As it happened, “The Late Late Show” has a second booking agent who saw one of Hofstetter’s live performances in Los Angeles. Hofstetter, a New Yorker, did the same exact jokes that were on the demo tape, but this time he wasn’t rejected.

Figuring routines about the “Bible” being fiction and kids and drugs would be censored, Hofstetter was surprised to find that censors were more sensitive to jokes about potential advertisers. “They made me change a reference to a Kia Rio to a subcompact car,” he said.

Hofstetter expects that “The Late Late Show” appearance — and the subsequent uploading of the four-and-a-half minute routine to YouTube — will provide another bump in the digital sales of his three albums. These are available for digital download in many online stores but can only be purchased in physical form at live shows and through his Web site.

Hofstetter is also considering ending the pay-what-you-want plan for “The Dark Side of the Room” because it has done what he wanted — reward faithful fans and attract new ones through attractive pricing and novel distribution.

And he’s noticed something else recently about digital distribution: People like iTunes and other online stores for fair pricing and convenience, even when the album is available for as little as a buck.

last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

One Response to “Hofstetter proves digital distribution works for indie comedians; lands spot on late-night TV”

  1. David Mackey says:

    Nifty. Always good to see people succeeding as they innovate on this front. Its been painful over the last few years seeing where the digital revolution could go and waiting for it to catch up with the vision…still on our way.

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