Following up on our previous news regarding Monty Python material on iTunes, Mashable is now reporting on a staggering increase of Monty Python DVDs sold on Amazon soon after the Python crew made some of their their more popular material free on Youtube. And by staggering, I mean 23,000% worth. Mashable notes that Monty Python’s DVDs climbed to the #2 spot on Amazon’s Movie’s and TV Bestseller List, and you don’t have to be a genius to follow that the sales were probably influenced by the Amazon links found on all of their Youtube clips.

When launching their massive Youtube effort, Monty Python made their intentions fairly clear:

“We’re letting you see absolutely everything for free. So there! But we want something in return. None of your driveling, mindless comments. Instead, we want you to click on the links, buy our movies & TV shows and soften our pain and disgust at being ripped off all these years.”

With this news, it seems their “crazy plan” was a success—and why wouldn’t it be? After all, most of their sketch material is tailor made for the typical Youtube viewer, and it’s not as if they would have been better served by a traditional television marketing campaign.

While I’m glad that the Monty Python crew is getting richer (they certainly deserve it), I’m more interested in what this massive success spells for the entertainment industry. Could it be, despite all of the RIAA and MPAA’s clamoring about piracy killing their business, that free and less restrictive content is actually the answer to their woes? We’ve seen other entertainment artists have similar success with free content, and it seems the music industry is finally wising up to DRM-free music, so it’s not as if the possibility is altogether foreign.

Wired’s Chris Anderson argues this point in a recent cover story, and I would have to agree with him. At this point offering a certain amount of content for free (as we see on Hulu, Last.FM, and countless other sites and services) seems like one of the best ways to convince consumers to actually pay for media.

All of this points to a simple, yet seemingly elusive, fact: Treating your consumers like criminals may not be the best way to convince them to buy your shit. Just sayin.

(Correction: A kind /Film reader has mentioned that not “all” of their material was on Youtube. This post was updated to reflect that change.)

Discuss: How do you feel about free content? Does it actually convince you to buy more stuff, or do you think it’s a complete waste?

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