LOS ANGELES — Adult film producers, both veteran and startup, gathered Thursday at the Sofitel Hotel to talk shop and strategy during a string of seminars presented at this year’s XBIZ 360° Adult Entertainment Film Conference.
Seminar topics included the evolving distribution platforms, movie trend recognition, branding through social media among porn performers and a special “Sex and Politics” debate with Free Speech Coalition CEO Diane Duke moderating.
While each hour-long seminar featured its own unique panels of top industry players discussing the subjects at hand, all were tied by one age-old maxim: give the customers what they want.
“Give the people what they want in the manner they want it most,” said Robert Plarski, executive vice president of sales for Pulse Distribution.
“Whether they want to buy on DVD, VOD, on their mobiles, or even if it’s West Virginia asking to mail in a check… you have to adapt. We went from VHS to DVD some time ago and it wasn’t the end of the world.”
Plarski spoke as part of a seminar titled “Adult Entertainment Delivered: The New Spectrum of Distribution,” moderated by Exile Distribution head and veteran industry sales manager Howard Levine.
Joining Plarski on the panel were HotMovies.com’s Jesse Phelps, AdultCentro’s Alex K. and LFP President Michael Klein, who spoke to broadcast’s booming international dominance, noting LFP Broadcasting’s acquisition of VOD giant New Frontier Media and Hustler TV’s formidable presence in the market. The network is now available in more than 55 countries throughout Europe, Latin America and Canada.
Klein told the standing-room only crowd that DVD was no longer the primary source of revenue for LFP and many other studios, but just the gravy — a source of ancillary profit.
Phelps echoed Klein’s comments.
“For many content producers, VOD is now the primary and not an alternative source of income,” Phelps said, while encouraging producers to maximize their profits by embracing all legitimate methods of distribution.
“Work with everyone,” Phelps stressed. “Not just Hotmovies. Go to AEBN and Clips4Sale too. Make sure you’re making the most profit possible by working with those who can help you. If you have a dedicated buyer — be it DVD, VOD or mail order, whatever — sell them.”
Levine shared an anecdote from his days as a salesman for Vivid Video to illustrate how the DVD market had changed.
“We used to say ‘somewhere, someone just turned 18… we have a new customer.’ But, that’s not the case anymore is it? Eighteen-year-olds are no longer buyers.”
Phelps cited the change to what he called the “evolution of the customer.”
“When Hotmovies emerged, consumers paid 10 cents a minute to watch the content they wanted,” he said. “Then the tube sites came along and they were not good for our business. You can’t compete with free… even at 10-cents-a-minute.
“But, we now have a library of over 170,000 videos and many of those people now come to us because they know they can find what they want, presented in the best quality and virus free.”
Despite the general consensus that distribution models such as VOD, mobile and broadcast are the future for adult, Plarski noted that DVD will continue to sell… at a lower price.
“The market is still there,” Plarski said. “It’s the price points that are changing. We are moving a lot of DVD, but at lower prices. Moving catalog and grab bags keeps DVD surviving.”
At the “Kink Factor: Top Selling Genres in Adult Entertainment Today” seminar, moderated by veteran adult star Nina Hartley, discussion also turned to DVD’s future and viability.
“I’ll support it [DVD] as long as there is a shelf in an adult store,” producer Jules Jordan said.
Jordan addressed the issue of tube sites, acknowledging that while he is diligent in protecting his intellectual property — be it legally or through practices such as water-marking — he doesn’t pursue the end user.
In addition to piracy, Jordan identified distributors that sell DVD at heavily discounted prices (as low as a dollar in package deals called grab bags) as dangerous to the medium. “We charge a premium price,” he affirmed of Jules Jordan Video.
The “Kink Factor” panel also included Third World Media owner Steve Scott, Plaid Bag Media President Peter Reynolds, Grooby Productions President Steven Gallon and AEBN vice president of sales and marketing Jerry Anders.
The group spoke about popular niches in adult and spotting the next trends, a task that is far from science.
“Something that was hot last year will stop being hot this year and then be hot again next year,” Reynolds summarized. “But, the days of generic porn are dead. There’s just too much competition.”
Anders agreed with Reynolds, and added that while a niche like “massage,” which was popular for a few months during 2012, may suddenly go cold, what continues to draw people to any particular genre is an emotional connection — drama. “People want to identify with or at least recognize the set-up,” Anders said. “It makes the experience more enjoyable.”
Gallon said the same was holding true for fans of the transsexual genre, the majority of which, according to Gallon, come from mainstream porn. Scott, whose Third World Media specializes in transsexual and authentic ethnic content, added that it was beneficial for producers to not only tap into consumer tastes, but provide new experiences based on those tastes.
“Niche a niche until a new segment is formed, and a new customer is found,” Scott said. “There’s no harm in it.”
Customers can also be found by engaging in social media, but it’s a sensitive practice according to BurningAngel.com founder Joanna Angel. “You can spend a lot of time interacting with fans on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr… only to find out they’re not members of your site,” she said.
“You don’t want to be a bitch, but you want to guide them to your website to buy a membership or a video. It becomes a question of whether you think it’s worth it. These days, it’s kinda necessary.”
Angel spoke at the “Next Gen-Stars: New Success Factors for Adult Film Performers” seminar, moderated by XBIZ managing editor Dan Miller. Along with Angel, the panel featured Wicked Pictures exclusive Jessica Drake and director Brad Armstrong, porn star couple Manuel Ferrara and Kayden Kross and porn legend Ron Jeremy.
The stars identified social media and mainstream exposure as keys to longevity in the business, noting that social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr keep their fans informed on upcoming projects and provide an opportunity for interaction, something the customer always appreciates.
A performer’s popularity online can also benefit her bottom-line. “There are girls that I would never have used in the past — either because they’re not pretty enough or couldn’t act in the part — that today I would have to consider based on how many clicks they get and how many friends and followers they have,” Armstrong admitted.
Evil Angel founder John Stagliano brought the XBIZ 360° Film Conference to a close with a keynote speech that began by urging those in adult to vote Libertarian, because Democrats, like Republicans, will never care about those in adult.
“More and more areas of our lives, from healthcare and retirement to social security, are being taken over by government,” Stagliano warned. “And, if they do a bad job… they don’t go out of business. Innovation, in any aspect, only works when people have choices.”
Stagliano went on to discuss the business model that has made Evil Angel a success, one which allows the studio’s directors to own their own product, ensuring that they remain invested in their work. Breezy and confident, Stagliano acknowledged that the porn business wasn’t as booming as it once was and joked about his lack of internet savvy, crediting general manager Christian Mann for the company’s success online.
“I think we live in a great world; a very exciting world,” Stagliano said. “If someone were to ask me if I prefer to live in a world like the one that was in 1993, before the internet got started, and I was making a ton of money and all my content was safe and I didn’t have to pay anyone to make sure it stayed protected… or live in the world that is now…
“I’d have to say that I’m better off with the world we have right now, even though I make less money… because it’s so exciting and it keeps me young and working hard, and that’s important.”