We were planning on doing a break down of how the porn industry currently works, to give you guys a primer on what we’re doing differently, but we’re much happier letting Benjamin Wallace do the work, since he’s a much better writer than we are:
Here’s a few of our thoughts on the article:
“Tubes are going to destroy our industry,” says Sunny Leone, 29, an Indian-American knockout who is celebrating eight nominations this evening. “Fans don’t understand that if they don’t pay for porn, we can’t make a living. They’ll have to watch crazy European porn.”
Opening with the porn stars and their message of “if you don’t buy the videos, we’re out of work” is a great angle to start it on because the stars are really who not paying directly for porn is going to affect. However the same holds true for “crazy European porn”, other than it’s slightly cheaper those people also need to get paid.
My specific role in the porn industry has been producing the actual video content for these pay-sites, and for the past few years I’ve had to deal with shrinking budgets and more of said budgets being put towards licensing existing videos.
There’s been a “porn bubble” bursting, where the costs of shooting new scenes was going up while the value of new scenes was going down. HD shooting necessitated better control over the lights and sets used, as well as an increase in the fee for make-up artists as they’d have to do full body work to make the girls look as good as they could. But on top of those costs, as the budgets for shooting were going down, we were unable to negotiate a drop in the rates of these girls to go along with them.
Let’s be clear: We do not blame the stars themselves for this “price fixing”. If there’s anyone to blame for it, the more likely targets would be their agencies. One day we’ll do an article about the good and bad of porn star agencies. Quick preview: it’s mostly good except when it isn’t.
No, the blame is on our human natures to be myopic when it’s in our self-interest. George Carlin once said that dogs think everything will last forever, because their memory is so short (specifically that if they’re eating out of their dish and they finish everything, they look around going “where the fuck’s the food?!”).
We kept pressing that we could shoot more scenes overall if we made each one of them less expensive, and were shocked to see prices continue to go up. Prices had gone up with the boom of online gonzo, particularly by the popularity of Brazzers, and stars had gotten used to the rates, as had their agencies. The prices were kind of understandable, as they’re being paid for their likeness rights in perpetuity as well as for their performance and time. But in the pressures of having to do more with less, something had to give, and the stars rates seemed to be the one thing that wouldn’t.
This effectively stalled all production where I was employed. When you’re looking at spending $2,500 for one brand new scene versus licensing fifty existing scenes indefinitely for the same price, it’s hard to argue the value.
When the old porn companies complained that the tube sites were stealing their content, the tubes claimed, as YouTube did, that the “safe harbor” provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act absolved them of responsibility for “user-uploaded” content.
Piracy seems to devolve into a “chicken or egg” argument, is it caused by people wanting to steal or is it a result of people offering easy stealing. It’s the latter that is only slightly true in our opinion.
The DMCA is fascinating because at the same time it made sure no one would ever be able to do something with Mickey Mouse (like say, make something interesting) except for Disney, it also established rules as to who was responsible in cases of online copyright infringement.
Now, the DMCA is unbelievably flawed. But in a world where you’re computer is connected to a network which connects to an ISP which connects to a global network which is connected to another ISP, another network, and another computer or server, plus all the DNS and other gateways it takes to direct everything everywhere in-between, all running automatically, the source of blame needs to be established on who actually initiated the copyright infringement. Please treat that run-on sentence as further illustration of how many complex links there are in the internet chain.
So the real question is: Are these sites actively trying to profit off these illegally-distributed clips? We believe the answer is yes and no, in that they aren’t specifically trying to do so but they don’t mind that they do so either, not a position with a lot of integrity. However, we also believe the question is completely moot in view of a larger question:
Unlike recorded porn, live cams are immune to piracy, which has made them especially successful as a business proposition. In this sense, the cams function as anti-tubes, but the two technologies have together opened up an entirely new frottage industry, so to speak: a grassroots, DIY porn democracy where anyone with a bedroom, a cam, and a web connection can set up as a one-woman or -man operation.
Any time the question revolves around what’s going to be done about piracy purely in terms of stopping it, you’re already primed for defeat as it’s a war that cannot be won.
Brazzers playing both sides of the field is only really a moral issue in that some people don’t like liars (corporations shouldn’t necessarily have morals, but keeping some things secret is different than telling outright lies) but it does reflect an acknowledgment that in regards to tube sites, the pandora is out of the box (or however that story worked).
The fact that tube sites are free is definitely a compelling bullet point to use them, but beyond that their user experience is much much better than the typical pay-site. They require no username/password to forget, you can recall previously viewed clips you liked by just checking your browser history or bookmarking pages, and it’s generally one click to start watching something. Some of them are streaming to mobile phones as well.
If paysites are offering these things, they aren’t advertising it properly. They also don’t offer anything beyond tube sites, usually less selection and video formats that are antiquated.
Cams have an interesting two-way format of content, where consumers actually affect what’s being produced. I oversaw a few “cam-girls” during my time and was shocked at how much we were able to charge for exclusive shows for one member only or how many of them would buy presents for them, a bizarre mentality but definitely pirate-proof.
In October 2009, the U.S. Secret Service’s Organized Fraud Task Force in Atlanta seized about $6.4 million in funds from two Fidelity bank accounts controlled by Mansef, the Brazzers holding company. By this point, the company was already experiencing internal troubles.
This was one of two major incidents that have recently shook the entire adult industry, the other being the censure and eventual shut down of ePassporte. Mansef was so large, that when they suffered delays in paying their invoices just before xmas in 2009, it caused a few companies to shutter and quite a few more to shit themselves.
This is the perfect story to begin the end of the porn bubble, because for some reason when things equalized in early 2010 it seemed like everyone had memories like goldfish, and assumed that the industry would go back to “normal”.
“It’s a huge misconception that the industry is doing badly,” Feras Antoon tells me over rib eye and lobster tail at Delmonico, the Emeril Lagasse steakhouse at the Venetian in Las Vegas. “It’s moved on. It’s as simple as that.” And he insists that the tubes haven’t cannibalized paid content: People who consume only free porn, he argues, are people who, in the past, would not have consumed any.
This isn’t precisely true. The major players are moving on, and it’s because they had the money to weather the transition the industry is still in. But if you talk to some of the people working at those big companies you’ll hear a different story. They’ve either lost their jobs or they know their job will eventually be threatened.
Every week we hear from another program that is either going under, or being bought up by one of the big boys. The incident with ePassporte has also shut down many of the mid-sized affiliates, but again more on that at a future date.
Allie Chase, operator of solo-site NaughtyAllie.com, takes issue even with the five-minute trailers that plenty of producers deliberately upload to tube sites in the hope of whetting appetites. “Do you honestly think that your average guy watching a five-minute porn, or several of them, won’t be able to get off? Of course he will. And once he’s shot his load all over his keyboard after watching my free five-minute video, he certainly isn’t going to be pulling out a credit card to join my site.”
We believe the same thing, that’s why our Free Preview is restricted to one minute clips. Gives you a sense of the technical and content quality, and unless you’re pre-pumping it’ll interrupt before you shoot off.
BTW Allie is great a performer who’s never faking it and really sells some great amateur fantasies, click here to check out her stuff and sign up.
A few minutes into our conversation, a middle-aged guy in a plaid shirt walks hesitantly toward us, leering at our trade-show lanyards printed with the logo bang bros. Almost shyly, he asks, “How would I get into that?”
“You mean become a performer?” Randazza asks.
The man nods.
Randazza looks at him wearily, like he gets this all the time. “Honestly,” Randazza says, “the gay side’s where all the money is. There might be 30 straight guys who can make a living at it, but if you’re willing to get fucked in the ass, I can get you five grand right now.”
The man’s smile quavers, and he backs away.
Invariably it comes up that we’re involved in the porn industry, and the question comes from both men and women about what it’s like for the performers and, sometimes, what’s the best way into the industry.
We’ll go into more detail on this in a future entry, but for now, know that what he said is 100% true.
And to sum it up:
“Stolen porn irks the hell out of me.” She tries, at least once a month, to buy a DVD from an adult video store, “so I feel like I’m giving back a little.”
It’s such a sad thing to see people competing with each other to sell products to consumers, but over and over again blame the consumer for not buying enough. Regardless of the legalities of some of these tube sites, they offer a different product, and in most cases a superior product. People don’t mind paying for things, but you owe it to your customers to make it worthwhile.
The day you begin to actually work to compete with free or pirate alternatives instead of bitching and moaning how the only constant is change, is the first day of the rest of your career. You cannot change the landscape, only what you do within it.
Listen to Geek Kings of Smut NYMag.com as a Blogcast (.mp3)