XBIZ 2018: Highly Popular Talent Track Enlightens, Entertains

XBIZ 2018: Highly Popular Talent Track Enlightens, Entertains
Alejandro Freixes

LOS ANGELES — The halls were abuzz with echoing voices at the XBIZ L.A. show, as attendees raced from panel to panel, with the six-course educational Talent Track proving immensely popular over the span of two days.

Jam-packed beyond capacity, the panels on camming, clips, social media, porn performing and the future of adult filled each and every chair in the room, forcing overflow audience members to sit cross-legged on the floor or stand in the back by the door. Many could not even enter the studio, so great was the demand to bask in the charismatic presence and hard-earned wisdom of such a talented assembly of top cam and porn stars.

Throughout each of the hour-long courses, panelists discussed how they first got into adult entertainment, strategies for building an enduring fan base and the variety of revenue streams they actively pursue.

And while each speaker identified primarily as a cam model or an adult movie star, it became very clear that the lines separating them were blurring more and more each passing month, given how frequently each engaged in content production (via traditional shoots with established studios, indie clips or content trades) and live shows (via cam networks, personal website streaming or social media platforms like Snapchat).

The camming panel on Jan. 16 featured a stellar lineup of XBIZ Cam Awards winners, each of whom were crowned at XBIZ Miami this summer during the inaugural ceremony at the Versace mansion: 2017 XBIZ Best Cosplay Cam Model Catjira, 2017 XBIZ Best Cam Model in North America Vera Sky, 2017 XBIZ Best Male Cam Model Dave Slick, 2017 XBIZ Best Cam Duo BlondeRider/RobxxxRider and 2017 XBIZ Best Trans Cam Model Mrs. Kelly Pierce.

One of the main topics they explored was how closely they interact with viewers, with Pierce keeping firm business-only boundaries, because she is “just about ‘worship me and pay me,’” whereas Sky will actually sell her personal cell phone number for a high price, limiting texts and calls to a reasonable degree.

And while the Riders are open about their relationship, given their duo performances (“…as far as people getting jealous, everyone’s cool with him being the stunt dick,” BlondeRider shared, “and we both try to be open to everything”), Sky limits such information. “At the end of the day, in my opinion, we’re here to be a fantasy,” she said. “Some of us dress up as Harley Quinn, so why not pretend to be single?”

As for Catjira, she reinvests many of her earnings into producing cosplaying content.

“Cosplay is very expensive,” she related. “The way I use camming is a sort of tool to support my productions. Really, the way I built my brand is I started from the absolute shittiest bottom you can imagine. I couldn’t get a single person in my room for months. I had to make myself a big deal. I’m always trying to do the most and come out with bigger and better things. My work is really eccentric too: I cosplay men, I gender bend a lot." And, in a reference to her cosplay of Game of Thrones character Daenarys Targaryen, she said, “I eat horse hearts!”

For Slick, his audience is unique, given his crossover appeal and performances for both gay and straight markets. “What a fucking ride it’s been,” he said. “It is definitely a lifestyle, regardless of what platform you choose. And if you want to do mostly private shows, you’ll make great money, but the audience will be smaller. In general, most of my customers are men, whether it’s hetero or gay. If it’s hetero, they are there for the girl. It might be crass to say, but people watch hetero to see a girl get fucked by a guy, not a guy fucking a girl.”

When an audience member asked about roleplaying as straight vs. gay, Slick cautioned, “If you’re bullshitting people, they can tell right away. Authenticity is key.”

Then, the clips panel was agleam with radiant creatives like iWantClips co-founder Bratty Nikki, ManyVids stars Evie and Catjira, plus Clips4Sale’s Miss Leya. They examined not only the types of content that sells best for them and their approach to promotion, but also the ideal pricepoint/length for videos.

Nikki said, “If you’re new to custom clips, $5 per minute seems to be typical. If you have a following, $10 per minute, and if you have a lot of demand, I’ve seen $20 per minute. As far as regular non-custom content, $1 per minute is fine. I price mine at $2 per minute because that’s in line with my brand.”

Leya noted that her bestselling clips “were around 10 minutes long,” though one of her top money earners was 30 minutes, which surprised her because “I figure they’ll get red and sore by the end.”

Catjira, however, sells mostly 20-30 minute videos, given the cosplaying content for which she often charges $39.99. However, she does not get the majority of her income from ManyVids, which she uses primarily as a promotional tool for her camming.

“I just got a 4K camera,” she said, observing how far she has come since her earliest days, before she could afford such luxuries. “When I first began doing cams, I was a struggling student, a dog groomer, but now, I spend a lot of money on different types of lighting. I use Final Cut, but I spend a lot on plugins, for extra special effects. Even if the special effects are not in the actual video, you can use them for the promotional material, which is really effective.”

Once a clips star has established a solid client base, Nikki believes that the best bet for getting repeat business is releasing them fast, even if a customer does not expect to receive custom clips for four weeks after ordering them. “I noticed the ones that sell a lot of custom clips have a quick turnaround time … if you can keep that momentum up and turn it around, they’ll order another, and another,” she encouraged.

In terms of challenges that clips creators face, Evie said, “Living with so many roommates, who are not in adult, is very difficult … having to say a lot of filthy things in earshot, especially making noises in the shower when my roommates are like ‘hey, I gotta pee, let me in.’” Still, despite these hurdles, she has gained tremendous success. “I’m somewhat new to it, being 19 years old, I cater to an audience that is into teen stuff. A lot of people are into me that watch anime, because of my aesthetic.”

As for Leya, one of her biggest challenges is finding other talent to perform with, given the lack of suitable candidates where she lives. “Living on a tiny little island, it’s difficult finding another woman who wants to smash vaginas together,” she said, prompting delighted laughter. “But then, I come to the States where I know some of the top girls in the industry and it’s much better.”

Next was the social media panel, with 2017 XBIZ Web Star of the Year Harriet Sugarcookie, 2017 XBIZ Best MILF Cam Model Jenny Blighe and ManyVids’ Lena Spanks. Topics included being shadowbanned on Twitter, frequency of posts on various platforms and monetizing social media traffic beyond indirect brand awareness.

Spanks mainly relies on Instagram, with which she has “a love/hate relationship because they’re not very supportive of sex workers.” She has not given up on Twitter, despite being shadowbanned (only Sugarcookie had avoided being shadowbanned on the panel, given her adhere to SFW content only), but Spanks prefers the easy video content capabilities of IG. “Stories are important on Instagram, especially if you go live, since it’ll bump you up on the order of appearance at the top of everyone’s feeds,” she shared, noting that this tactic once resulted in her live video spiking from 200 viewers to 14,000 when it became a featured livestream.

To increase rank on Instagram, Spanks and Sugarcookie advised making use of all their newest features, like filters, hashtags, geotagging (with caution, to avoid stalkers tracking down talent) and polls, thereby boosting algorithm priority. Sugarcookie also recommended using Reddit every couple months and even Facebook (for cutesy SFW videos). “On Facebook, it’s about having, for example, a sympathetic video on taking a dick pic,” she offered. “Social media is all about personality, whether you’re a model or corporate. It’s the best chance you get, the one chance we can be sarcastic and make memes.”

As far as branding, Spanks described herself as “the girl-next-door who can take a 12-inch dildo,” much to the amusement of the audience in the room.

Blighe, who primarily focuses on Twitter, noted that trolls are inevitable, but that performers should refrain from engaging with them. “I don’t give them attention,” she said. “Believe me, I’m human, so I type out what I’d normally say to them, save it as a draft, and never post it. That way, I can vent!” Overall, though, she remains non-controversial in her postings, since she doesn’t “tweet political or religious content.”

The following day on Jan. 17, the panel on performing in adult rocked attendees socks off with the likes of 2017 XBIZ MILF Performer of the Year Cherie DeVille, 2016 XBIZ Girl/Girl Performer of the Year Vanessa Veracruz and 2018 XBIZ Male Performer of the Year nominees Small Hands and Michael Vegas.

DeVille underlined the importance of expanding a fan base right away, via aggressive social media promotion and showing up to sets on time, with a pleasant personality. “For performing, maybe the top 20 to 30 girls can make a solid income, for the moment, so long as they maintain their popularity,” she said.

“Now, though, there’s lots of ways that male and female performers can make their own content,” she added. “One of the things I had to get used to is, even though my popularity was increasing, I had to get with the social media program. I’m 39 and social media doesn’t come naturally, but you always need to embrace what is happening right now in adult, which is all about being a multi-faceted performer. We can’t be that one-trick pony that only shoots and maybe feature dances. You’re not going to be making good income.”

As for Veracruz, who is branching out into non-adult ventures now, she said, “You have to take the business that we do, as a business. You have to have a clear understanding of where your life is once it’s over. It’s all fun, this is all going to fade, so you have to be smart with all of the choices that you have.”

To ensure lasting stardom while the getting is good, Vegas said, “Hashtag everything you put out. It’s going to be that stupid photo you thought was junk getting massive retweets, so be sure to set up systems of success. I’m inherently a lazy person, so make it easy for yourself!”

He agreed with DeVille on the importance of cultivating a positive reputation. “It’s the 13th grade, and after everybody gets off set, you have to have people like you,” he said. “Leave a good impression, because you want to be the name that pops up when people need a replacement. And if you do that well enough many times in a row, you’ll pass that two-year hump for dudes in the biz, and you’ll become a priority rather than a backup.”

Hands reflected that at the end of the day, if you have a strong fan base, the rest is much easier. “At the end of it, this is all great and fun and interesting, but if you have fans, fuck everything else,” he said. “There’s a lot of companies that told me they couldn’t shoot me, because I’m covered in tattoos, not even buff and it took a while, but now, I get shot a lot, because of my fans and reliability.”

Fortunately for Hands, even in the slow times, he has many other talents to utilize. “I’ve never only done porn,” he said. “For those of you who don’t know, I’m Burning Angel’s post-production, box cover designer, soundtrack creator, that’s what I do. But as far as getting booked, even if I don’t fit most of the porno traditions, I always show up on time, I don’t show up hungover, I try my hardest to make a woman feel like I want to have sex with them.

“Combined with the fact that I come from the music world, I’ve lived a lot of lives,” he continued. “But if your band doesn’t have a lot of fans, maybe you need to write a different song. You have to also think, am I what a director wants?”

Next up was the “future outlook” panel, which brought together the star power of multi XBIZ Award winners (and power couple) Anikka Albrite and Mick Blue, as well as XBIZ Award-winning Romi Rain and Manuel Ferrara. Given their enduring legacy and continued popularity, the panelists first delved into their history and what the business was like when they joined.

No matter what technologies and revenue streams arise, Ferrara (who has built a very successful Twitch following as a livestreaming gamer) said the core elements of the job have not changed.

“I come from an old time where we used to watch porn on tapes,” he explained. “Honestly, as a performer, my job hasn’t changed that much from the beginning, through the evolution of tapes, DVDs and the internet. It’s still the same job, where I get to have sex with beautiful women and get paid for it. Now, I get to play video games and get paid for it too, so my friends really hate me!” Everyone laughed.

“Some companies want you to do things a certain way, but I’m kind of a diva, because I do things my way and you book me because you want me to do me, or you don’t book me,” declared Ferrara. “I’ve always wanted to fuck my way.”

Blue concurred, “I agree with what Manuel says. We still have sex in front of the camera. From 15 or 20 years ago, the sex itself hasn’t really changed. The companies changed, but that’s about it. I think the biggest thing that’s changed over the past 10 years is the possibility for girls to create revenue with what they do, because 10 years ago, the main income was for scenes, and now … there are many, many other options. Less scenes overall, but more opportunity to do OnlyFans, Snapchats and cam shows.”

Echoing her peers, Albrite remarked, “I definitely agree with Mick. Even going back to 2011, the amount of girls in the industry doing webcamming has exploded. The different platforms where you can make money, where they’re using Snapchat, OnlyFans, their own websites … it’s also more demanding too, because you have to be on all the time. Even when you’re at home, you’re still expected to carry on with your fans.”

Likewise, Rain stated, “A girl can build herself up and have her own image. There are girls who aren’t even in porn, making bank off other revenue streams. All these residuals are much more than before, which is true, because we don’t get a lot from shoots. Guys are making bank off of stuff like OnlyFans and Snapchat. There’s a lot of ways to do that now, and I think that can be very beneficial for girls that are on their own. It’s really true that the webcamming world has exploded.”

Keeping the discussion grounded with his rough charm and wry smile, Ferrara said, “It’s basically more sex for everyone, with more women watching porn than ever before, and even if there are drones, it’s just a way for people to see buttholes from way up high.”

Blue noted how critical it is to stay abreast of the latest technology. “Demands are changing, technology is changing and you have to go with the trends,” he said. “How you shoot things, like with drones, you can just spend 1,000 dollars for something that would have cost 20 to 30K around five or seven years ago.”

When it comes to this kind of self-produced content, Rain observed, “Even if you shoot your own stuff, you have to be wary of creating good quality or having good webcams. I’m sure every girl has their own lighting setup. Even clips, like little 5 or 10 minute clips require it. And if you’re playing to every niche, it’s ideal. Some days I’m body painted, some days I’m doing fetish stuff like feet or BDSM. This is why I think webcamming is the future. Now fans can reach out and touch us a little more. Anything that audiences can connect to is key.”

In what was perhaps the most telling statement about the blurred lines between porn performers, cam models and even the traditional divide separating studios and fans, Rain noted, “A few companies nowadays are shooting what I consider glorified customs, taking scripts practically written by fans and using them now as legitimate scenes for sites.”

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