The Numbers Crunched: How Much Do Porn Stars Earn?

Ever wondered how much porn stars earn?

There is a whole lot of truth in the age-old adage that ‘Sex Sells’ and the adult industry is thought to be worth an estimated $100 billion globally. By the time that producers and distributors take their cut, how much do porn stars themselves actually earn?

In this feature, we take a look at the facts and figures of the porn industry to determine just how much money adult film stars can make in this lucrative market.

Do Male and Female Porn Stars Earn Different Amounts?

In a word, yes and this is one area where women take the largest slice of the pie; after all, whilst men are critical, it is the women who are the biggest draw when it comes to watching porn.

women on top female porn stars earn

When it comes to cash in porn, women are always on top. Image via Wikimedia.

In general, men get paid a fixed fee per scene or are paid on a daily rate. Unsurprisingly, there are many more men than women who are prepared to ‘prostitute themselves for their art’ so there is no shortage of performers willing to do so.

For women, the primary reason for many joining the industry is the money and, with proportionally less prepared to do so, they can demand much higher pay. It is arguable that the female porn stars have higher overheads with the demand for ‘body perfection’ and the pressure for things like breast augmentation and other treatments.

What Factors Affect What Porn Stars Get Paid?

There are a lot of variables about what kind of fees a performer can make when working on an adult film which make providing an accurate figure difficult. Just as in any kind of work, level of remuneration is dependent on skill, demand and the difficult of the job. It also depends on where you work and whether you have representation in order to achieve a better salary.

These factors also come in to play in the porn industry and you will find that actors who are in demand, have natural skills or who are willing to perform extreme acts will be paid more. Likewise, those that work for large studios in the USA and in parts of Western Europe and have an agent will earn more than those that have no-one negotiating for them and/or work in Asia or Eastern Europe.

What Kind of Money Do Porn Stars Get Paid?

Taking into consideration the factors explained above, porn stars working for reputable studios that produce regular content can expect to be paid as follows:

Male Porn Performers

Typically. a male performer will be paid around $500-$600 per day though better-known stars can earn $700-$900. The superstars of porn such as James Deen, Manuel Ferrara, Tommy Gunn and Bill Bailey can all earn up to $1500 for a day’s shooting.

tommy gunn porn star earn

Though they still receive fixed day rates, superstars of porn (like Tommy Gunn) can earn big money. Image via Twitter.

Female Porn Performers

Determining the fees paid for female porn stars is a little trickier and is usually paid by scene as opposed to on a daily rate.

On average, a female porn star will earn around $800-$100 for a male/female scene and slightly less for girl on girl action. Better known actresses who are in demand can command over $1500 for a single scene. Performers who are prepared to film more extreme acts can be paid up to $5000 a time though typical ‘non-standard’ scenes are paid at around $2500.

Of course, there are women who are new to the industry who are paid substantially less but the minimum rates are usually no less than $300 per scene.

What About the Rest of the Crew?

Those are the daily and scene rates for the performers but what kind of money can the cast and crew make per film?

Of course, no porn movie is made simply by pointing a camera at two people having sex and the best films are those that have a good budget for the rest of the porn production crew.

how much money do porn crews earn

Stills photgraphers are essential for marketing and can earn $500 a day. Image via Wikimedia.

There are variables with pay on the technical side as well as with the performers and this can be down to skill, availability and even industry union rates.

On average, the crew that works on putting together a porn movie can expect to be paid as follows:

  • Directors: $1000-$1500 per day
  • Writers: $300 per day
  • Cameramen: $600 per day
  • Sound technicians: $350 per day
  • Production assistants: $175 per day
  • Still photographers: $500 per day
  • Makeup Artists (not fluffers!): $500 per day

What Do Porn Stars Actually Earn per Movie?

Typically, a porn movie takes around 3-4 days to film so, you do the math!

Okay, we’ll be kind.

For the average film with ‘vanilla’ scenes and no huge stars, the average male porn star earns $1800-$2500 per movie with their female counterparts getting $3000-$4000.

How Many Films Do Porn Stars Make Each Year?

The lucky performers who are in constant demand can pretty much work all year round making movies if they wish.

With around 11,000 feature length films being released by the industry each year, there is a huge market for those stars whose work is popular.

Some porn stars work with multiple studios across America and Europe to be able to maximise their output and can make anywhere from 10-50 films per year.

Do Porn Stars Make Additional Money?

Of course, most adult movie performers aren’t filming 365 days a year. Sadly, the rise of free amateur porn on the internet has reduced the demand for studio production films and whilst the top stars can make regular money during shoots, most porn stars work in various different ways to increase their earning potential.

Many big name male porn stars go on to supplement their incomes by adding further strings to their bows by directing, modelling and in other ‘adult’ roles. When he isn’t making porn, Australian star, Ryan James, works as a male escort in and around Sydney.

ryan james rich porn star

Australian porn star Ryan James has no shortage of work as a male escort. Image via Red Light Sydney.

The women of porn can also earn additional revenue with the most popular avenue being feature dancing. Going on tour to perform erotic dancing at strip venues can provide a regular source of income and offer opportunities to sell merchandise as well as earning tips. Performers usually do these kinds of tours as their feature releases are hitting the market so that fans can strike whilst the iron is hot to see their favorite performers on tour.

Earnings can be big on the feature dancing circuit with popular porn stars earning around $2000-$4000 per day.

Both male and female porn stars can also make money from merchandising and some big names in the adult industry have made it big with their affiliations to lines of adult sex toys. Of course, these kind of deals tend to be reserved only for the mega stars of porn but they can be an extremely lucrative way of earning more money.

How Much Money Can Porn Stars Make During Their Career?

Like pro-athletes, most porn stars have a limited shelf life for a career at the top. Many women start performing in their early twenties and leave before they are 30 with only a handful of stars making regular movies over the age of 40.

This short-lived spell of fame means that, for most porn stars, making good money whilst they can is important before they diversify into other areas. Investing the money they make wisely can help stave off hard times later in life as the reality of being an ex-porn star bites.

Actors like Tom Byron, Peter North and Ron Jeremy have all appeared in more than 1500 porno films. Netting $2k for each film will have made them all $3 million. With extra income from directing, special appearances and lucrative merchandising this figure will be a lot higher (see below).

Jenna Jameson is estimated to be worth around $30 million though her wealth can also be attributed to additional income from her business acumen with Club Jenna as well as other entrepreneurial ventures.

jenna jameson rich porn star

Porn star and entrepreneur, Jenna Jameson has made her fortune. Image via Facebook.

Who Are the Richest Porn Stars?

And finally, just who has made the most money out of a porn career?

Other than the aforementioned Jenna Jameson, the following stars of the adult industry have certainly made hay whilst the sun was shining and have amassed considerable sums of money.

Though not all of their cash has been derived from porn, it was certainly the inciting factor in their multi-million-dollar empires.

The top ten richest porn stars (other than Porn Queen, Jamieson) are:

  • Tera Patrick, star of 117 films – Estimated worth: $15 million
  • Peter North, star of 2583 films and director of 61 – Estimated worth: $10 million
  • Jesse Jane, star of 82 films – Estimated worth: $8 million
  • Traci Lords, star of 107 films and director of 2 – Estimated worth: $7 million
  • Maria Tagaki, (unknown No of credits) – Estimated worth: $6 million
  • Ron Jeremy, star of 2098 films and director of 281 – Estimated worth: $5.5 million
  • Bree Olson, star of 242 films – Estimated worth: $5 million
  • Katie Morgan, star of 253 films – Estimated worth: $4.5 million
  • Lexington Steele, (unknown No of credits) – Estimated worth: $4 million
  • Jenna Haze, star of 538 films and director of 14 – Estimated worth: $3.5 million

Featured image via Wikimedia.

Staff Writer

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