[Updated 1:09 pm.] Twice this week we’ve fielded questions from Constant Readers about the kind of money gay porn performers actually make. And it came up again last night over dinner with a few civilians. I’ve revisited this topic often over the years, so perhaps it’s time for another primer (cheers to Fleshbot for the link). In a nutshell, if you get into porn looking to get rich, you’re cruisin’ for a brusin’. Most porn actors get paid per scene, not per movie. Their scene rates typically range from $500 to $1500. Most studios do not withhold taxes; that’s up to the individual (Michael Brandon once told me he checks off “entertainer” on his tax form). Exclusive performers can earn $2000-$3000 per scene, but then again, they may not work as often as someone who isn’t bound by contract. Popular stars with some commercial cachet ask for and receive in the range of $5000 (that’s what Kurt Lockwood was paid to go bi for ClubHancock), but again, he’s not gonna get that kind of scratch consistently. CLICK HERE for more scoop…

A quick note here about VOD and other amateur or pro/am websites: The pay scale for these studios can be quite different from traditional-media companies who produce DVDs. They may not have the overhead of a bigger company — mortgage on an office, a dozen or two salaried employees with health benefits and 401ks, storage space for thousands of DVDs, shelling out for packaging and postage, etc. — and thus they can afford to pay a higher scene rate on a consistent basis.

And in any case, there are tons of variables to consider. But for the purposes of this brief discussion, most porn actors earn between $500-$1500 per scene. Contract stars can earn $2000-$3000, perhaps a bit more, but they might not work as often, so it evens out.

A-listers and the Hot Guy du jour can ask for thousands, or even tens of thousands, and receive it. But they’ll cash in that kind of payday once, maybe twice. We’re having a Wild West moment in gay adult as companies figure out how to alter their business model to include the internet. Once everything settles down, we might again see guys being groomed for celebrity and making piles of cash (as in the Ryker-Stryker-Idol era some 15-20 years ago).

But in today’s world of ever-squeezed profit margins, the big-cash payday is just not happening. Zeb Atlas, for example, got a ton of cash to top Adam Killian for Falcon (CLICK HERE) and to have Matthew Rush blow him. But that is rare these days. There just aren’t many guys with that kind of star power and dedicated core audience who can reasonably be expected to buy or download the movie in enough numbers so that the studio turns a profit, or at least makes back their investment. (You might find a company willing to take a risk on a loss-leader film, but, yeesh, that’s quite a leap to make in today’s market.)

Models are blowing into the biz and flaming out faster than ever. When you consider how much money they take home, you have to factor in taxes (if they even bother to declare), gym memberships, car payments and insurance, utilities and other bills, and so on. Clearly just working in porn is not going to make any one performer rich, or even offer enough to live on for very long. That’s why so many escort, make personal appearances and set up membership websites, in addition to their onscreen porn work.

Questions?

UPDATE
Fleshbot: “It’s hard out there for a porn star


Comments

32 Comments so far

  1. Will on September 11, 2008 4:31 pm

    Very interesting indeed. I got into a discussion elsewhere about this in regard to Kurt Wild and his being fired from Subway because of his porn work. I wondered why he was bothering with a fast-food job when he could be out there making good money in porn. Maybe I was wrong.

    From time to time you see somebody assert that most guys are in gay porn only as advertisement for their escorting (apologies to Jesse Santana). I wonder how true that really is.

  2. DeWayne on September 11, 2008 5:30 pm

    120,000+ members of SAG do you know how many made a living wage in their chosen field last year? Very few!

    Porn is lucrative for models who keep a day job then who would pass up that kind of money?

    In today’s economy if your 18-30 and someone offers 1500 a scene that is kinda hard to turn down.

    I don’t think anyone thinks you will get rich in porn,or legit entertainment. Look at the Music industry and Television they are all declining business’s with an outmoded economic model.

  3. Jarac on September 12, 2008 6:35 am

    Performing the most intimate act on camera for all eternatity…and that’s what these gays are selling there dignity and future for..$500-$1500. SMH!

  4. Kameron Scott on September 12, 2008 7:10 am

    I don’t see what concer it is to the viewers what I make. It’s not about dignity or pride…it’s about earning a living. I’m sure I could spin your words right back around about you job. It’s not about how much I want to get paid, it’s what the studio offers and if I’m willing to take it. It’s about how much revenu a prticular studio generates and if they can spend that kind of money on a model. Of course Zeb got paid a lot…because people want to see it. As a rising performer I take what I can get, but I don’t sell myself short. I think everyone has that mentality when it comes to work…right?

  5. DeWayne on September 12, 2008 7:57 am

    Sex is not an “intimate act” that is Christo-Fundy talk and should have no place on a porn Blog. Why would anyone criticize an adult model for having sex on camera? Your watching it! If PORN demeans THEM then your admitting it DEMEANS YOU! To say otherwise is Hypocrisy!

    To be more Blunt The JOHN cannot Condemn the HOOKER he just FUCKED!

    They both did the Shag!

  6. karl on September 12, 2008 8:05 am

    And for a porn few performers, this represents getting paid for making the informercial for their primary occupation – escorting.

  7. JC Adams on September 12, 2008 8:24 am

    I think the idea that great-looking men would agree to have sex on camera for the whole wide world to see is still deeply shocking to many people.

    (Jarac, I’m not going after you personally here.)

    The mentality still exists that men only get into porn because they have no other options, which is hardly true. Sure, it’s the reality for a certain percentage of guys. But it’s not true across the board, and the idea that they would agree to do this for any other reason (other than desperation) is impossible to contemplate.

    On another topic, most studios can certainly afford to pay more than they do to their performers. Yes, obviously, they have all kinds of other drains on their bottom line. But they can usually afford to pay a lot more; they just don’t want to do it. It is show *business* after all.

    Regards,
    JCA

  8. Sinu' on September 12, 2008 9:19 am

    I thought the whole concept of this was that it was about the money paid to porn actors? It does not matter whether you agree or disagree to whether its right or wrong to be doing porn. Its entirely up to the individual! He/She has to judge the ethics, health and money in that order plus, of course, whether you are discovered years later to your advantage or disadvantage. Its your life!

  9. Sinu' on September 12, 2008 9:19 am

    I thought the whole concept of this was that it was about the money paid to porn actors? It does not matter whether you agree or disagree to whether its right or wrong to be doing porn. Its entirely up to the individual! He/She has to judge the ethics, health and money in that order plus, of course, whether you are discovered years later to your advantage or disadvantage. Its your life!

  10. Anonymous on September 12, 2008 4:56 pm

    Interesting, very interesting. I had no idea pay was so paltry. You have to really be into the idea of doing porn, or really need the money (or both) to agree to that kind of pay. Or else it doesn’t matter either way, but still, it sucks these guys get paid so little.

  11. hornydiablo on September 13, 2008 7:21 am

    I’d love to see a follow up showing how much American studios pay talent while filming abroad.

    I know that one web-only company shooting in Latin America was paying less than US$100 back in 2002. This is when the US dollar was at its height, but it was still pretty cheap. I imagine the boys in Prague can’t be getting rich either.

  12. Anonymous on September 13, 2008 10:12 am

    Average scene rate for models in Prague is 500-1000 Euros on the high end, and 100-200 Euros on the low end. It all depends on the quality of the company and the quality of the model. These days it’s not that much different then what USA based models get paid.

  13. nautaas on September 13, 2008 10:24 am

    We still don’t know anything about what kind of money is being made by the internet’s stars, like Corbin Fisher’s Lucas, Dawson and Cade. They seem to be sticking with it, though, and Lucas recently said he’s been buying toys (like a boat) “too many toys” he said. I am guessing he’s making a respectable middle class income strctly from CF. What do others think (know)?

    Here’s to their success!

  14. Translover on September 13, 2008 2:04 pm

    I’d guess some of the better known internet stars like the Corbin Fisher guys get paid pretty well in the short run. Like JC says, they have to pay for all their other bills, not to mention schooling, and how long does that last? Are they going to be making that kind of money next year or the year after, when they’ve essentially been replaced by newer models? Interesting to think about.

  15. Will on September 13, 2008 2:10 pm

    My point, in talking about Kurt Wild on Fleshbot, was that a popular model like him CAN make some decent money in a very short window, while they are popular and sought-after, from these higher-end websites. That’s why I was wondering why he was holding down a very low-paying fast-food job that kept him tied down in the Midwest. But there is something to be said for a reliable, steady paycheck, I admit.

  16. Treasure Island Fan on September 13, 2008 6:39 pm

    In Kurt Wilde’s case, you can’t do porn ALL the time. And who knows what kind of bills he has or who he is supporting. At least he wasn’t depending on porn to pay his rent. If porn websites pay more, he should look into that rather than shooting DVD’s. Maybe Jesse Santana had the right idea?

  17. Will on September 13, 2008 6:59 pm

    TIF – Not to belabor this subject, but Kurt has already done a lot of website gigs — indeed, I believe that’s how he was discovered for DVD’s. And, BTW, he does have a wife and three kids.

  18. nautaas on September 13, 2008 7:42 pm

    I suspect that, in the case of internet superstars who are responsible for the success of certain websites, that the models have become permanent financial partners and are getting a share of the profits from these websites. In particular, I think Corbin Fisher’s Lucas and Dawson, together with Randy Blue’s Reese and Chris, must be getting a piece of the overall website’s action. And I would be very surprised if they have not got lawyers and/or agents who have obtained for them a share of these sites’ profits indefintely into years to come. In other words, I think, for really attractive and talented models, the days of being paid by the scene are over. I think superlatve models now have the bargining power to be financial partners in the enterprise.

  19. Anonymous on September 14, 2008 12:37 pm

    Bargaining power as argued above seems to be predicated upon a reliable fan base, and a fan base is as reliable as the next best thing and the extent of the individual’s saturation in the market. Though this isn’t exclusive to porn, it certainly seems more common given the nature of the business and a good portion of the people it attracts. Most of these “stars” don’t have the wherewithal or understanding to bargain for a share in the revenue, and can and will be replaced eventually. And why would any site owner provide a share in the revenue (extended over YEARS, even!) when there are scores of willing replacements that can be packaged and marketed for less? Are they that stupid, short-sighted or naive? This isn’t to suggest that a recognized name can’t demand higher wages per scene or movie, obviously, as it happens all of the time. So where is this alleged bargaining power coming from?

  20. Jay on September 15, 2008 2:45 pm

    This is very interesting. I didn’t think about website porn paying more to their guys, but I guess that makes sense. I just can’t believe the pay rate is so low. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting them all to be millionaires, but this is shockingly low amount of money. How many DVDs does a company have to sell to pay their models a little bit more? Why don’t the models just demand it? Too bad there’s no union for porn stars! They need one!

  21. Erik on September 15, 2008 4:56 pm

    I’ve done a few scenes for an internet company and was paid from $1500 to $2000 for roughly 3 hours of work. I was a new model and have yet to work with any other studio. I have heard of similar sites paying as low as $400. It all depends on what the studio is willing to pay.

  22. Anonymous on September 16, 2008 9:25 pm

    Both the porn studios and websites are seeking the best meat for the least buck. Apparently, the rate they are paying allows them to get the dudes their public, in turn is willing to dish out their dough for, and so, it really boils down to the free market mechanism at its work.

    It sure beats flippin’ the burgers though… .

    The models are guys just like everyone else. They are trying to make a living and are selling their best assets (pun or not) to the highest bidder.

    Do they have a choice? Sure, they do. Just like everyone else does. And they do, what almost everyone else does, too. They compromise here and there. At times, you swallow up your pride and crawl around for the few bucks and at other times, you turn them down and move on to the next opportunity.

    Not much to it. It’s a job and it pays the bills.

  23. Tony on September 17, 2008 3:09 am

    It is true the pay is not the best. But for someone who has a full time “real” job it can be exciting part time work. I have filmed multiple scenes for various studios and generally get paid about $1500 per scene. A typical scene takes about 4 to 5 hours to shoot and is of course edited into the best 20 or 25 minutes for the viewers enjoyment. I have shot 6 scenes this year and have made $9200…not bad for 30 hours worth of work. However, the reality is that I would not be able to survive on this income would it not be for my job in the financial sector.
    Viewers many times forget that the work is not fun. I have never had fun or been genuinenly aroused by any of the people who I have performed with. It is difficult at times to maintain an erection with cameras sometimes only inches away from your body and lights being held equally as close at all angles (hot lights). Actors get tired, they are hot, feel claustophobic, not connected with their partner, and really just want to make that cum shot happen that comes such difficulty sometimes under these circumstances.
    At 32 years old porn is an exciting part time job….it is not fun but the pay makes up for that. There is no such thing as an easy dollar. But can I see myself doing this much longer……probably not. After awhile it is just not worth it.

  24. T-Bird on September 17, 2008 11:14 am

    Great article with a lot of insight. It really narrowed things down. I remember once on a behind the scenes dvd Chi Chi was talking to a newbie who was making his first movie and he told him something like this…
    Use the porn money for fun or bills maybe something you want to purchase and now you will have the extra cash but whatever you do, do not quit your day job!
    And now it makes sense….
    anyone who is going to make a movie and then quits their regular job because they think that they are going to hit the jackpot is fooling themselves. There is always going to be someone with a bigger cock, better face, hotter body. Cum today, gone tomorrow!

    Now I just wonder what a ‘lifetime exclusive’ makes ?

  25. cheap n cheerful on September 17, 2008 4:27 pm

    Honey, you would have to pay me A LOT to have sex with Zeb Atlas. What a maroon. What is up with Falcon and these big overstuffed trunk-necked guys? It all boils down to quality, and porndom, just like Hollywood, knocks out a lot of crap. We are our own worst enemies, most of the time.

  26. Jay Boxxer on September 19, 2008 9:34 am

    It’s what the company can afford/budget at the time.. It’s what the model is willing to accept.. It’s about timing..

  27. curiousgeorge on September 21, 2008 5:15 pm

    finally some intell on this subject. Guess you can say I’m a lover of the gay for pay str8 bait vod and have always been curious about so call financial incentive to jerk, blow another guy or have sex if you are indeed only doing it for the money. I know it all a game but still drives my fantasy.
    Still curious about how its broken top how much for a simple jerk, do both guys get paid same to top or bottom when one or both is str8

  28. Anonymous on September 21, 2008 5:19 pm

    How the payscale is determined $500 jerking then how much for oral giving or just getting head if you str8 — does a bottom str8 guy get more cash than the gay top?

  29. Give Them All a Raise! on September 29, 2008 5:08 pm

    If we can fucking bail out Wall Street, they can come up with some ca$$$h to give porn stars a raise!!! This pay scale SUCKS.

  30. justandra on October 9, 2008 2:30 pm

    I was thinking about Kurt Wild, who says he was fired from Subway after someone supposedly found out he was a pornstar and made a stink. I can only fathom he was working at Subway because he needed the insurance because he has a wife and kid, otherwise as much porn has he seem to do, he should be able to live, if not a livish lifestyle, one where he can keep the bills paid.

  31. RG Casson on October 19, 2008 6:11 pm

    It’s funny I remember an article on Matt Powers a long time ago and it showed him poolside and at his really nice california house. I wonder if it was all just a set up to make us believe he made tons of cash making porn. I still find him hot none the less.

  32. Drew Griffith on January 20, 2009 6:12 pm

    I love guys and would love to make a career out of being a gay porn star. got dik?

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