In fact, there are ways to make some quick, easy money in this industry. Most of them, as in most industries, end up being very bad business practices, and can get people into much more trouble than they are worth. I want to review four of the most common mistakes I have seen people make in their attempts to skim the cream off the milk. Most of them wound up with nothing but stale cheese!
The First Key to Failure: Shooting for the Big Audience.
It's tempting to look at the world as a big wallet, and try to design your business around the areas where most of the money is. You slice the pie, and figure that by going for the category with the biggest market, you have the best chance of getting some money no matter what you produce.
For example, you might start with the assumption that most consumers are men. Further, you might notice that most of the products targeted at these men feature women with large breasts. From this, you could conclude that if you produce content featuring large-breasted women, you will be able to secure a part of this large market segment for yourself. That could be a sound analysis, but it leaves out the most critical element of passion.
If you, personally, are not attracted to images of women with large breasts, then you are very unlikely to produce content which appeals to men who are. Focus on the areas which ignite your personal passions, and develop original, unique content which appeals to you and others who share your interests. Your products will be more compelling, and you may be able to secure a leadership role in a coveted niche market.
The Second Key to Failure: Sloppy Paperwork
It is tempting to jump into the adult entertainment industry with a casual attitude. After all, this isn's something serious like producing paper clips or selling coffee. This is erotic entertainment, with all the associated free-love and personality. You don't seriously think that all those porn stars actually bother with things like contracts, agents, distribution agreements, and legal forms, do you?
You bet they do! Whether you want to be in front of the camera, behind it, or just running a website of other people's work, this is a business just like any other. There are forms to be filed, content tracking requirements, taxes to pay, and laws to track and obey. The pubic face of this industry may appear carefree, but behind all that partying is usually a team of lawyers, accountants, bookkeepers, administrators, and filing clerks making sure all the t's are crossed and the i's dotted.
If you want to fail, don't learn about the paperwork requirements. When the government asks for the cross-indexed hard copy model release for the picture which appeared on your web site six months ago, you need to be able to produce it immediately, or your entire business could be shut down.
The Third Key to Failure: Stealing Content
With all the "free porn" available on the internet, and all the neat tools to copy it, making money with a commercial website should be the easiest thing in the world, right? All you have to do is download a few hundred pictures, put them up in a private gallery, and start charging folks to see them. What could be simpler than that?
Original content is the life's blood of this industry. It may look as if there are no consequences to sharing downloaded porn, but you must be prepared to pay for what you use. The companies who produce this content spend thousands of dollars annually on models, sets, photographers, equipment, and lawyers to protect their rights. If you try to make money from their work without paying them an appropriate licensing fee, they can and will come after you for what is rightfully theirs. And they will win.
The legal right to produce and promote adult entertainment comes with the obligation to behave in a professional manner. Producers of adult content enjoy the same rights to protection under the law as content producers in any industry. The costs associated with violating these protections can be much higher than the possible short-term gains.
The Fourth Key to Failure: Hiding
So once you have found your passion, gotten your paperwork in order, and produced your original content, the money should come rolling in, right? Not unless people can find you. It's all well and good to have the best "women with hairy elbows" website in the world, but if people who like that sort of thing don't know that you exist, you're not going to see any money from all your hard work.
You cannot succeed if you are hiding from your audience. To make a mark in the industry, you and your site have to become synonymous with the niche market you occupy. This means sending out press releases, buying advertising space, and generally making yourself known to as many people as possible. Build it, and they may never know. Promote it, and they will come.
If you are shy, you may need to hire someone to act as your spokesperson. There has to be someone from your company out there, visible to the target audience, embodying the dream that keeps them coming back for more.
Making a success of an adult entertainment company is not impossible, but it does require some specialized skills and some careful attention:
If you are not passionate about the type of work you do, it will show in the product. Repeat customers are the bread and butter of this industry, and nobody's going to give you a second chance if you disappoint them the first time.
If you fail to keep careful records, you are at risk of violating the law and sacrificing more than your business and your profits; you could sacrifice your liberty. The record keeping laws change from time to time, and you must keep yourself current to stay within the protection of the law.
If you steal other people's work and charge for it, you are not only disrespecting your colleagues, you are subjecting yourself to possible prosecution. This industry has fought hard for the legal protections it enjoys, and does not take the matter lightly.
If you don't stand up and take credit for your hard work, nobody will ever hear about you. Your audience wants to support your work, and perhaps even live vicariously through your exploits. Give them a chance to get to know you. It will pay off for everyone!
The event ran from 5:00 PM until midnight, and it was totally crowded by 6:30. It was fun to see all the old faces, along with a broad selection of folks I've never met before, but wouldn't mind getting to know better! (Yes, I'm talking to you. But next time, lose the kilt! )
Ken and I managed to stay until a little after 10:00, but at that point I just konked out. I know the rest of you are taking Labor Day off, but porn never sleeps.
Thanks to everyone who made it out to the party. And if you weren't there this year, I hope I'll see you next year!
I'm having a wonderful time this week, despite the sobering news from New Orleans. The weather has been unseasonably hot, but it's cool and pleasant here in the CyberBears studios. There are definite advantages to being in a thick concrete-walled building!
The news is so full of increasingly depressing stories about the tragic mismanageement of resources by the Federal Government around the storm relief in the gulf states. There's no doubt in anyone's mind that the foolish waste of life, time, and money that has been the invasion of Iraq is to blame for much of the suffering happening now in Louisiana and Mississippi.
The most sickening aspect of the news is the blatant avoidance of any mention about the racial inequity. Such a disproportionate percentage of those suffering now in the streets and washed-out buildings of New Orleans are people of color. Yet every report I see tries to focus in on the one or two white faces in the crowd, as if this is the time to pretend!
I firmly believe that there would have been more and better support for our disrupted American neighbors if the majority of those displaced by the storm had been of European extraction. And that's not the way it was supposed to be.
Of course, there would still be a great deal of suffering regardless. The real culprit is the brazen incompetence of letting such a well-anticipated event result in people dying of dehydration, simply because nobody had the resources to get bottles of clean water to the folks in New Orleans.
Even the refugees in the war in Afghanistan had anticipatory relief packets of food and water dropped from American airplanes.
I feel so safe and dry and frustrated here at home, watching the news. I urge everyone else who's also having a wonderful week to donate to the Red Cross, and say a prayer for our friends down there.
June 23 has come and gone. A number of companies spent an outrageous amount of time and money getting their records in order much more quickly than was appropriate. A few companies shut their doors entirely. A few others simply ignored the hullablaoo and decided to wait and see.
The most interesting result was the ruling on the case brought by the Free Speech Coalition and a couple of co-plaintiffs against the regulations. As a result of their case, the justice department is prohibited from demanding the records of any company which is a member of the FSC, or a co-plaintiff in the case, until August.
What's amusing is that they are also prohibited from requesting a list of the member companies.
If there is a company they want to investigate, the justice department must submit the company name to the judge, who can check against a sealed listing to determine whether the company in question is a member of the FSC. If so, the investigation will need to be suspended until August.
As you might expect, this has resulted in a rush to join the FSC--which is not a bad idea in any case--but I can't imagine how such a ruling was allowed. It seems to me that the ruling sets a precedent appropriate for any company which has its records examined before the August date. After all, there is no such thing as a special protected class of businesses in this great country of ours. If one group wins the right to some extra time for record management, then that right is automatically accorded to all others.
Either way, I wouldn't want to be associated now with any company whose records are not maintained according to the new regulations. I agree that it was unfair to set such a short deadline for compliance. I agree that the notion of a five to ten year jail term for failing to keep records in the proper format, regardless of whether the information itself is being kept or whether it indicates that any participants were under age, is unconstitutional. I also agree that there is a question whether there are issues regarding the right not to self-incriminate.
But part of being a citizen of a country is adjusting yourself to the local laws. Happily, as a citizen of this particular country, we also have the opportunity to make changes to those laws when they go further than we are willing to adapt.
I mean, it's either that, or move to Canada, right?
The mood is getting a little more somber in the adult entertainment world.
I just spent the last weekend hosting a booth at Erotica-LA, and I met a lot of nervous people. To those who have been in the industry for a while, the current change in regulations around record keeping rings a familiar tone. It is likely the first of several coordinated moves aimed at tightening in the reins on our freedom of expression, freedom to do business, and freedom for adults to see what they want.
To wander around the floor of the convention as a customer, you might not think of it as a conservative crowd. The racks of discounted adult DVD's were stacked high, the latest high-tech sex toys for today and tomorrow were on display, and the performers were out signing autographs for their long lines of devoted fans.
But even though the focus of attention was ostensibly sexual, there was an almost puritanical sense of reserve in the air. The most revealing and eye-catching costumes were being worn by visitors. The displays and banners were nothing you couldn't see on any subway train, television commercial, or billboard across the country. Even the erotic dance shows on the stages failed to generate more than a few polite hoots from the audience.
When I talked with folks who worked at the different companies, I got a pretty consistent story. We were all glad to be there, hanging out with others from the industry, but there was a sense of foreboding. The first shoe is scheduled to drop on June 23, and nobody knows how many feet this bureaucratic monster has.
The recent changes in the regulations stimulated a renewed interest in the few civil rights groups which have made a name by speaking for the adult entertainment industry. But as in all times of uncertainty, more of the chatter was based on fear than anger. Some folks whispered in confusion about whether any lawsuits brought on behalf of the members of those groups would be applied to companies who did not contribute to one or another. Some wondered whether companies who joined would be the first on the inspection lists when the new regulations start being enforced.
I thought the 1950's were over.
I also heard stories about companies who are throwing in the towel this month, rather than face the costs and insecurities of inspection. One example is Bound and Gagged, an admittedly extreme provider of fetish content for several years. Visit their homepage while you still can to see the compelling message from the founder about his reasons for closing down.
CyberBears and Salamander Studios are fortunate to have had the foresight to prepare for the coming changes, so we won't be going anywhere. Our records are on file here and with all of our distribution partners. Our performers have all agreed up front that their personal information is part of the company records, and they all understand that it can and will be shown to the appropriate authorities upon request.
The indignity of that request, in the United States, in the 21st century, is just something else we'll be able to tell the next generation about when their time comes.
Let's hope it's another 50 years at least.