WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — An up-to-the-minute status report on the state of the gay adult industry in the age of President Trump was a central topic of discussion of a raucous panel at the 2018 XBIZ Show held at the Andaz hotel in West Hollywood. Additional panels included a discussion on marketing all-male adult and tips and tricks for successful camming.
Davyd Dixon Entertainment Presents: Gay Adult Films: Marketing in 2018
Dixon’s publicity firm represents marquee gay adult brands BelAmi and CockyBoys as well as VOD network NakedSword and billing company OrbitalPay.
His panel included Toby J. Morris, vice president of marketing for the Falcon Studios Group. Dixon described a noticeable increase in attention from mainstream — or, rather, non-adult-oriented — media outlets. And social media, especially Twitter, is at the center of the marketing universe right now, particularly in the wake of such disgraced public figures as Harvey Weinstein.
“You have to expect to be held accountable for your actions,” he said. “Fans really want to know the model is being taken care of. They really want to know that he enjoys what he’s doing. They will hold you accountable. The adult industry, for a long time, has been under the radar. There was no one out there to talk about it. Today, there is. More than ever. And I don’t think Twitter has ever been more relevant in the gay porn space than it is today. It’s huge and it continues to blow up.”
The relative freedom afforded by Twitter as opposed to the more restrictive regulations enforced by Instagram and Facebook allows for multiple marketing possibilities. The flipside is that Twitter and such apps as OnlyFans allow models to create and market their own content. Morris spoke to ongoing, occasionally tense discussions with directors and several popular Falcon performers about how their social media postings — as well as the content they create on their own time — could affect the company’s carefully fine-tuned marketing and publicity campaigns.
“Something you put out on social media can turn into a story,” Morris said. “It can turn into something that could be positively or negatively construed by the marketplace. It’s a very slippery slope. You have to be careful about what you’re putting out there and how you’re presenting your brand and your models and the content you produce.
"(Falcon) has been criticized at times about pushing too much product and not making it about having a very specific voice. There are pros and cons. When you start getting into having a voice, if that voice says something that is just off (from) what your customer base feels like they connect with, it can be a real turn-off. You have to be very mindful of how you continue to have that (conversation).”
Dixon stressed the industry is not paint-by-numbers.
“There’s no one way to do this. The same rules don’t apply to everyone. What BelAmi can do, regarding promotion, is very different from what a new, niche site can do. Internal marketing, affiliate marketing, email marketing, those are the ways, if you’re a small site and you don’t have a ton of new eyeballs, to monetize what you have in front of you.”
Cybersocket Presents: The Age of Trump — A New Golden Age for Gay Adult Businesses?
The raucous midafternoon panel was standing-room-only and led by Morgan Sommer of Cybersocket. Guests included Gary Jackson of CCBill, Karl Edwards of XXXEdit and YouLoveJack, Frank Gannon of Epoch, model and activist Buck Angel, Keith Miller of Helix Studios and director Chi Chi LaRue. Sommer opened the discussion by asking: Does President Trump and his administration pose a risk to the all-male adult industry?
“Yes,” replied an audience member. “Not at all,” responded LaRue. “I think people are packing a lot more money onto their credit cards right now,” Gannon observed. “With this buoyancy in the stock market, and the deregulation, I think people are just charging everything on their cards. We are in a little bit of a boom (market) right now.”
Edwards offered another perspective: “If you’re going to jerk-off in the head office, it’s going to trickle down. It’s trickle-down pornography, folks.”
“We have a turd in the White House,” said LaRue. “But when we had Bush in there, I was afraid during Bush. They were always going to come down on the adult industry. There was always this (anxiety). I don’t believe Trump will have any effect on us. He’s too busy doing other stuff that’s infuriating everybody. Can he really talk about pornography when all these (women) have been coming forward from the adult business? If ever we didn’t need to be afraid of a Republican president, in our industry, it’s this one.”
LaRue said conservatives tend to overlook the gay side of the industry in favor of attacking the straight side. “But it’s all under one roof. It’s us, too.”
Miller observed, “Trump is busy. The attorney general is busy. They’re going after marijuana. They’re not going after porn. We’ve been through Ed Meese. I don’t think this is anywhere near Ed Meese. There’s no (special commission) being put together. But I don’t think we should congratulate ourselves. We should take this moment to set standards and controls in the industry so that when they do look at us, we never need to say, ‘We have to fix something.’”
Jackson said it’s the “Trumpians” — followers of the president — who pose the real threat to adult entertainment.
“In the age of anti-empowerment, the darker side of the country, a lot of these people are empowered to stand against our industry. We have to be cognizant of that. I don’t think it’s a financial issue. We have to watch out for net neutrality. Look at the regulatory aspect. They’re chipping away at the back-end.”
Buck Angel advised the industry to stand together. “Fear is the worst thing that can happen to you. Look at this industry. We are amazing people. Together we are powerful. Our power can create so much change in the world and we should never be ashamed of what we do. Never.”
Additional topics of lively discussion involved the efficacy of VR in the gay adult market and social media platforms and such apps as OnlyFans, which allow models to create and market their own content. The rise of Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat allow models to more fully monetize themselves as brands without the aid or assistance of studio backing.
Miller’s Helix Studios fully embraces the emergence of his performers as fully rounded social media stars that direct traffic, via affiliate linkage, back to Helix. LaRue, and other panelists, warned of the day when an underage model on OnlyFans, for example, is identified. Certain performers, such as audience member Trenton Ducati, take the added step of obtaining paperwork and identification from his OnlyFans models.
“Ten years ago we were having the same conversations at the trade shows about whether we should be making our content mobile-ready,” observed Sommer. “It was a big debate.” Bottom line? “You have to keep an eye on technology.”
Supermen.com Presents: The Webcam Guide to the Galaxy
The late-afternoon panel, led by Douglas Richter of Supermen.com, included reps from NickYoungXXX and ImLive and webcam performer Dave Slick, who is partnered with Chaturbate.
The discussion included tips and tricks to successful camming. Slick began a full-time focus on camming one year ago with a schedule that includes four-to-six daily hours in addition to another few hours on off-cam prep, social media and marketing. He said most customers look for a sexual experience.
But Slick might also cook dinner or simply interact one-on-one. He focuses on delivering a personalized experience. He advised that offering free minutes as an enticement that generates traffic and exposure.
“It allows me to build the brand that I’ve built. A free user will hopefully, eventually, convert to a paying user. And your affiliates want that to happen, as well.”
Although a subset of customers prefer a rougher, traditionally amateur look for their cam experience, citing it as a more authentic feel, the panelists agreed that a more sophisticated camera and quality lighting leads to higher traffic and greater conversion rates.
“If you have an HD stream, you’re going to do better, hands down, all the time. There is no exception,” Slick said. “I started out not being able to do that. There’s still money in not doing that. But with every little upgrade I make, I see it as a negligible investment.”
Slick and the panelists also cited regular updates to social media platforms as a crucial component of webcam success. Slick primarily relies on Twitter in addition to Instagram and Snapchat.
“Social media is immensely important. It’s the way we connect with each other. Over the course of a day, over the course of weeks and months, people have a record of all that instead of that isolated moment on the cam at the moment you happen to be on.”
Richter asked whether cam models should develop an onscreen character or persona to generate interest and traffic. “I think there’s a lot of monetary value in being genuine and authentic because people can smell bullshit.”
He also cited “crossover performing” — or special guests, usually media-savvy adult stars with an existing fan base, with whom he interacts — as a newly added feature to his cam schedule that has skyrocketed in popularity.
“I could never go to work for somebody else again,” Slick said.