Not all that long ago, there was a time when everyone just assumed that the adult entertainment industry was a gold mine. Or at least, they never wondered how much pornstars make, because they took it for granted that it was a lot. These girls were out there writing their own checks, as the conventional wisdom went.
Sure, because of the stigma that was (and, sadly, to a large extent still is) attached to the industry, no “respectable” girl would make an X-rated film, no matter how much she was offered. But for those willing to sign on the dotted line and sell their soul to the porn devil, the monetary rewards were great.
RED ALERT: I’m going to give you the straight facts about exactly how much money pornstars are making in today’s adult entertainment industry. Get ready to be surprised, my bros.
It was seen an awful lot like being a drug dealer, really, except that people in it worried more about their dad unwittingly renting their videos from the adult store than they did about the DEA beating down their front door at 3 AM.
And the thing is, puritanical moral judgments aside, they were right. If you were a hot 18 year old girl (but I repeat myself) in the 1980s, you had a truly ridiculous income available to you if only you were willing to take it. That’s because of the peculiar state of the industry at the time. You see, bros, we’re spoiled in the 21st century.
The History of Pornstar Money
It used to be that if you wanted to do something as quintessentially male as watch some porn, you had to don your trench coat, tilt your hat down to cover your face, and skulk guiltily into an adult theater to get your rocks off. It was inconvenient, embarrassing, and even professionally dangerous: I remember a story from as recent as the 90s when Peewee Herman, a once-beloved children’s TV show host, lost his career because he got “caught” jerkin’ the gerkin while visiting one of these theaters.
When consuming a product is such a pain in the glutes, demand is going to suffer and the market will be limited. As you might imagine, the advent and widespread availability of VHS video in the 80’s and 90’s changed all of that.
Suddenly, you could buy or rent your porn to view at home for a relatively simple trip to the store, and if even that was too much for you, mail-order was a ready option. The market exploded like the Big Bang, and the demand for banging on camera went through the roof. That meant money for performers, and a seismic shift in how much pornstars get paid.
Young, fresh new faces in the adult industry were valued in their own right, and could easily pull down $1,000 to $2,000 per scene they shot. Meanwhile, the big names in the biz could just set up a money IV into their veins to save time: They were looking at $50,000 per scene, or more. And of course, with the hunger for new content so strong, there were always more scenes waiting to be shot.
The pay for pornstars was fairly excellent in the 1980’s and 90’s, due to high product demand and limited competition from other adult performers.
Time marched on, as it is wont to do, and the industry changed again – this time when the internet got big. Admittedly, it was a good thing at first: The ease and convenience of subscribing to online smut sites seemed poised to send the market soaring once more.
But then the porn tubes hit the scene, offering full-length videos for free. Suddenly the music stopped, and the fat lady started singing in the silence (you did have to feel sorry for her prior to that, though; she normally had so little to do in the porn business).
Related: Smart Pornstars…how clever are they?
Demand for porn, measured now in the willingness to actually pay money for it, crashed, and there was a huge change in how much money pornstars made. Remember those thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars per scene? Yeah, uh…not anymore. In the new age of gratis-assisted whacking, new girls’ pay was soon in the hundreds per scene, with even the big names not doing all that much better.
Oh, and those limitless shooting opportunities? They relied on insatiable demand, which again, went the way of the dodo. Simply put, filming porn went from instant riches for any young person with double X chromosomes, to no longer a viable career path at all. Bad times.
The emergence of porn tubes decimated the ranks of professional porn production studios. Performers got hit just as bad as producers did, as they saw their incomes plummet.
Worse yet, those naive young girls still showed up at porn studios with (now unrealistic) dreams of fame and fortune, and with no idea how the business worked, they needed agents. The ethical ones among those they sought told them the truth and sent them home, disappointed but having been kept from wasting their times. Others, however, were downright predatory, and exploited the girls’ ignorance.
They’d insist on exorbitant rates for each shoot they booked, or tell aspiring performers to offer to work for less when the agent was friends with (and possibly being paid to deliver cheap talent to) the producer. Shysters like this had always been a factor, of course, but the impact of their shenanigans depended on how much pornstars were making. It’s always easier to suffer thieves when you’ve got more money to afford to lose.
How Much Modern Pornstars Get Paid
Performers soon adapted, however, and the first thing they learned was that there was power in a large following. Making money from the scenes themselves was a thing of the past, and they no longer pursued it.
Instead, they focused on producing content, getting themselves out there, and usually, deliberately posting their own material to the free tube sites. This could bring some money by itself, as the sites at least shared ad revenue with their contributors, but what the girls really wanted was to earn fans.
As any guy knows, a good pornstar can quickly amass legions of loyal, adoring fans, especially in the internet age. These are men who prioritize their girl’s content, and will follow her wherever she goes. When free porn is the rule, these devotees don’t immediately translate to revenues, but there are a number of ways to monetize them.
These days, pornstars make money by building fame and notoriety, then monetizing their resulting fan followings using alternative methods.
Feature dancing at strip clubs has been a popular option for well-followed pornstars. A man’s money flows freely when his favorite adult performer is baring it all at the local skin bar. Some girls have taken to making national or even international circuits, traveling liberally to appear at major clubs in various districts. If a pornstar is known and loved online, she’ll attract huge crowds at each venue.
But it’s turned out that an easier, better way is to simply strip online. Adult performers today like to employ cam sites as a way to monetize their fandoms. Three of the largest are MyFreeCams (MFC), Chaturbate, and CamSoda, so they have a lot of these girls as compared with everywhere else. These cam sites operate based on a token model (members buy tokens, then tip models with them).
CamSoda, in particular, hosts a LOT of big pornstars in the evening hours, and they’re giving out free tokens at the moment, so check that out here. Don’t wait because that may not last long, it’s probably a temporary promotional offer.
The sites are a good idea for the performers, because if they’re well-known for their porn career, guys will squirm over broken glass to see and interact with them in a chat room. They’ll also tip them, generously and often. Some of these girls get tipped small fortunes during a normal camming session.
In this way, how much pornstars get paid depends on amassing enough followers, which is easier now than it’s ever been. When you total it all up, a girl who knows what she’s doing is making out even better today than she would have back in the heyday of video porn, in the 1980s. It’s not unheard of for a major pornstar to make well over $50,000 PER MONTH in today’s adult industry.
So don’t feel too sorry for the starlets of smut, my bros. They took their knocks, but they’re coming out on top.