The ROI of Porn: Can an Adult Movie Make You Rich?

Want to know how easy it is to make money from a porno flick?

The porn industry is said to make around $97 billion each year but exactly how does porn generate this kind of revenue? With so much free content out there, what kind of return on investment does making an adult movie actually deliver? We wanted to know more about the economics of making porn and whether generating a profit is restricted to the big studios or if more amateurs could make money from adult movies.

In his guide, we take a look how the major production houses make money from their porn and where this revenue comes from. We also look at indie porn producers and the amateur market to find out whether adult movies can make you rich.

The Porn Industry in Numbers

According to the cyber security experts, WebRoot, in the United States alone more than 68 million search are submitted every day for porn related queries – that’s 25% of all daily search traffic. To help get your head round these numbers, here’s some more:

  • 28,258 people are watching porn every second.
  • 5 billion emails are sent daily that contain pornographic content.
  • 40 million Americans regularly access internet pornography.
  • 37 studio porn movies are created every day.
  • $3,075 is spent accessing online porn every second.

Some other media outlets report that the porn industry generates a profit of around $10 billion a year.

profits in porn industry

Porn is a multi-billion dollar industry with all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Image via Wikimedia.

MindGeek, the company that owns porn tube sites like Pornhub, YouPorn and RedTube as well as porn production companies like Digital Playground, Brazzers and Reality Kings, reported revenues of $460 million in 2015 yet ended up posting a loss of $47.9 million.

So, if the owners of the largest adult website in the world is reporting losses, how can anyone be making money out of porn?

How Much Does a Porn Film Cost to Make?

It is estimated that the average 90 minute feature porno flick can be shot, edited and produced for around $25,000. This includes payment for the cast and crew as well as studio time and post-production costs. What is not included (nor needed so much these days) is the cost of distribution and mastering those VHS tapes or DVDs. With so much porn now being exclusively available for online digital streaming, traditional formats are in decline.

Of course, there are many exceptions to this with big name stars demanding more money, extravagant sets costing more and films shot using new technology like VR, 3D or Ultra-HD requiring more capital.

The Digital Playground porn movie Pirates cost over a million dollars to make and included its own music score, over 300 special effects and featured plenty of stunning location shoots.

roi of porn digital playground pirates

Pirates is one of the most expensive porno films ever made. Image via Digital Playground.

You can also shoot a porno for a fraction of this price if you switch location from filming in somewhere like the San Fernando Valley to a studio in Budapest. Likewise, if you forego the professional cameras, actors and production then you could feasibly make a blue movie for next to nothing.

How Much Money Does a Porn Film Make?

We wish there was an easy way to answer this but there isn’t so the length of a piece of string comes to mind.

In all honesty, a great, studio-quality porn film with no marketing and a limited distribution platform is unlikely to break even whereas an independent film shot on a limited budget, with the right marketing strategy, can become an overnight viral sensation and produce a significant return on investment.

The key thing to remember is getting your video seen by as many paying punters as possible before it loses momentum.

As for how much you charge, the rules of economics apply. If you want to sell greater quantities then sell it cheap; yes, the profits are lower per individual sale but with volume these small amounts can add up.

At the other end of the spectrum, sell for a high price and make fewer sales but earn more per transaction.

How you approach this decision will largely be governed by your brand. If you are trying to sell a premium product, it doesn’t pay to undervalue it by charging a low price.

With adult clip sites where you can set your own price for your videos you can decide on the individual price which ranges from $1 to $20 depending on the content producer. With the best performers having a huge fan base of tens of thousands of followers, it isn’t hard to see how money can be made from porn films.

the roi of porn

Everyone knows there’s money to be made in porn but how much? Image via Flickr.

Making a Porn Movie Profitably

If you are considering making a porno film then there are some things to remember when trying to calculate your budget.

First off, let’s be clear that we are not talking about an amateur home movie in which you simply set up a still cam and record the action. Yes, you can make money from amateur porn (see below) but we are talking about an independent porn movie.

What Do You Need to Make a Porn Movie?

As well as your performers you’ll need a director and someone to operate the camera. Whilst in theory these roles could be performed by the same person, you will need at least one other person to operate sound and light. Depending on how multi-talented you are feeling, you’ll also need to consider a production assistant, still photographer and post-production/editing team.

Good porn movies are not simply a case of pointing a camera and shooting at random, they require plenty of planning to achieve the best angles and usually contain some form of scripting, so a writer might also be needed.

You may also need to think about hair and make-up artists. Yes, whilst those lights are essential for quality visuals they can give a ‘washed-out’ look to your performers.

Whilst plenty of guys believe they have what it takes to be a porn star the reality is that not everyone can perform for the cameras. From issues like premature ejaculation, stage fright when it comes to the main ‘member’ and the visual aesthetics, it does pay to have a professional when it comes to shooting an adult movie. Likewise, when it comes to the female performers, the audience eats with their eyes (so to speak) and paying well for a good looking cast is worth considering.

So, you can expect to pay around $300 per day for an amateur female porn actor and around $150 for a male performer. However, if you want to film extreme acts then this could double.

making money in porn

There’s more to making a porn film than just the performers. Image via Wikipedia.

Camera, sound and lighting technicians will all cost $200-$500 per day with make-up artists, production assistants and other crew members also charging a similar rate. As for a director (if you don’t intend doing this yourself) then expect to pay anything from $500 to $1,500 per day depending on how well known their work is.

This last point is pretty crucial, how well known are your performers and director? Whilst scrimping on the costs might seem like a good idea, filming some exclusive content with someone who already has their own following could mean a better return on investment when it comes to marketing.

So, you’ve assembled a crew and got a good script and storyboard for your camera shots but where do you film? A studio is ideal as these are soundproofed against external noise pollution and may offer lighting/sound equipment and camera hire but this will come at a price. Thinking about filming on location? You’ll need to do this on private land to avoid breaking any laws plus consider light and sound.

make money adult movie

Lights, Camera, XXX Action. Image via Wikimedia.

If you are not going to hire a studio with the right equipment then you’ll need to consider what kind of camera you use along with the sound quality it can record. Film a porno without HD (or Ultra HD) and you are limiting the appeal when you try to sell this on.

With the demand for VR porn films on the rise, you should also consider whether an investment in this kind of technology is likely to deliver a good ROI.

Selling Your Porn Movie

Okay, so you’ve filmed the movie and got a good post-production edit and now you’re ready to market it.

We’ll assume you don’t have access to the kinds of budget that the big studios have when it comes to distributing new material and that you want to try to go this alone. So, where do you start making money?

Via Your Own Website

If you are producing regular content and think that your material is of a sufficiently high enough quality to warrant your own subscription fees then you could set up your own website to sell it.

Many premium porn sites do not have a great deal of content but will often set up with other independent studios to produce a network of sites. Memberships are then sold with bonus access across this network and payments are shared between studios.

make your own porn website

Services like Adult Factory help you get your adult website started. Image via Adult Factory.

Membership fees can vary quite a lot but even sites with a hundred or so videos can charge $20 to $30 per month. If you sign up to an affiliate network then you can harness the power of existing porn websites to promote your channel but remember that you will be paying them commission for doing so.

This method of selling your own content is particularly rewarding if you have a niche offering.

A basic package with a company like Adult Factory could get you set up with a custom site to upload your own content to from just $695.

Clip Sites

There are hundreds of clip sites where you can upload your digital content and sell it online to a ready made audience of porn fans. Some of these sites work best if the performers already have an online following (such as cam girls or models) but you can still use them as a platform for resale if you don’t want to get involved in eCommerce on your own website. Bear in mind that most will take a commission from the sale value but you can set our own price to compensate for this. For more details on popular porn clip sites that pay, see ‘How to Make Money from Amateur Porn Films’, below.

DVDs

Yes, there is still money to be made on the traditional format of DVD but profits are much lower as you will need to factor in both the production costs of making the DVDs as well as the distribution costs of selling them via third-parties.

This option is not viable if you don’t intend to produce a high volume so you will need to do your market research first to avoid being left with a stockpile of unsold porno flicks.

How to Make Money from Amateur Porn Films

Let’s face it, there are very few of us who have access to the kind of network, money or facilities to shoot anything even close to a professional porn movie but the beauty of the way porn is distributed these days does mean that there is money to be made from amateur porno films.

make money amateur porn

With the right marketing, there is good money to be made from amateur porn. Image via Flickr.

Whist most amateurs are happy enough to upload their antics to the free tube hosting sites there is actually a big market for paid amateur content.

To make this work, you still have to approach the filming process with a professional mindset and, most importantly, put the effort in to marketing your material.

If you are an established adult model, escort, camgirl or performer then you may already have a fanbase who you can market your content to immediately. If you aren’t, then signing up to plenty of sites is a must in order to build a following. Don’t be tempted to stick to just one website but sign up for as many as you can to sell your amateur porn. After all, you’ve put the effort into creating it, simply uploading it to a few more sites can help create a larger passive income.

So, what do you need to start producing amateur porn?

Well, unlike studio porn where audiences expect a minimum quality, you don’t need to invest in overly expensive, professional standard equipment. Having said this, a high quality webcam or HD cam is essential if you want to make serious money.

Beyond this, you simply need to have access to the internet and have a computer to be able to upload your scenes.

We have produced a full guide to making money from homemade porn which you can find here but, to re-cap, these are some of the best outlets to sign up for to sell your content:

  • Cam Sites such as BongaCams, Chaturbate and others – if you are already set up as a performer then adding extra content to your profile to download is a no-brainer. Loyal followers like to take away a souvenir from their favorite broadcasters and are prepared to pay well for the privilege.
  • Pornhub Modelhub – The global tube porn site giants launched Modelhub in January 2019 and is a dedicated porn clip sales platform that is already performing well, receiving more than 6 million unique hits in a month.
  • Many Vids – already a favorite with many cam girls, this site allows you to sell your clips online at a price of your choosing. Many of the top earners on the site are reporting incomes of up to $20,000 per month using this service but you do have to work hard to create quality content. As a popular site there is a lot of competition but once you strike it lucky with your fans you should have a regular source of income for any new material you produce.
  • Spicy Find – similar to Many Vids, you can sell a range of content on their site including photos and media accounts (Snapchat, KiK, Twitter, Skype etc).
  • Extra Lunch Money – perhaps the biggest online marketplace for adult content, this site allows amateur and pros to sell everything from porn movies and photo sets to used panties and merchandise. It is also a great website for selling access to your other media accounts like Snapchat and other sexting tools. You can find a full review of Extra Lunch Money
  • Only Fans – popular with models and escorts, Only Fans is a great way to monetize exclusive content like adult movies, amateur clips and photos. You can find our full review of Only Fans.
sell homemade porn make money adult movies

Sites like Extra Lunch Money provide instant platforms to sell adult movies. Image via website.

Other platforms for selling amateur videos (and photographs) on include:

  • AdultMemberSites
  • BentBox
  • BitVids
  • CosFans
  • IndieBill
  • iWantClips
  • Mega Fans
  • ModelCentro
  • ModelClips
  • ModelHub
  • MyGirlVids
  • OnlyFans
  • SideDaddy
  • Media

Custom Requests

In terms of niche offerings, custom requests are another way to make money from your porn content but can be limited in terms of the amount of money you can make from an individual film.

Sites like Many Vids offer customers the opportunity to pitch a custom request to their performers who will create very specific content. The prices you can charge for this are up to you and will vary depending on exactly what is being asked. Generally speaking these requests tend to be in the fetish and BDSM categories.

Making Money as a Porn Star

So, whilst producing a porn movie might not make you a millionaire overnight, there is always performing in front of the camera to help keep the wolf from the door.

Yes, porn stars can make from $150-$300 a day for some budget shoots but the best performers will be paid between $1000 and $2000 per scene. And, for the mega stars of porn, they can pretty much name their price.

profits in porn

If you fancy being in front of the camera, there is money to be made as a porn star. Image via Wikimedia.

Of course, many porn stars won’t have a full filming schedule which is why most adult industry performers invest their money well and try to have other projects in the pipeline. Whether this is escorting or launching a side business with a personal range of sex toys, the richest porn stars in the world did not make all their money from simply having sex on camera.

Richest Porn Stars

Jenna Jameson is estimated to have a net worth of $30 million and is considered one of the richest porn stars. From books and sex toys to memorabilia and her own website, Jameson is the Queen of diversification when it comes to accumulating wealth from her brand.

Other porn stars who have made a fortune from their names and been smart with how they invested their money, include:

  • Tera Patrick: Net Worth Estimated at $15 million
  • Peter North: Net Worth Estimated at $11 million
  • Traci Lords: Net Worth Estimated at $10 million
  • Jesse Jane: Net Worth Estimated at $9 million
  • Maria Takagi: Net Worth Estimated at $8 million
  • Ron Jeremy: Net Worth Estimated at $7.5 million
  • Bree Olson: Net Worth Estimated at $7 million
  • Katie Morgan: Net Worth Estimated at $6 million
  • Lexington Steele: Net Worth Estimated at $6 million
  • Jenna Haze: Net Worth Estimated at $6 million
  • Evan Seinfeld: Net Worth Estimated at $5 million
  • Gianna Michaels: Net Worth Estimated at $4 million
  • Sasha Grey: Net Worth Estimated at $3 million
  • Sunny Leone: Net Worth Estimated at $2.5 million
  • Evan Stone: Net Worth Estimated at $2 million
  • Lisa Ann: Net Worth Estimated at $2 million
  • Belladonna: Net Worth Estimated at $1.8 million
  • Jayden Jaymes: Net Worth Estimated at $1.7 million
  • Audrey Bitoni: Net Worth Estimated at $1.6 million
  • Asa Akira: Net Worth Estimated at $1.5 million
  • Nikki Benz: Net Worth Estimated at $1 million
  • Tori Black: Net Worth Estimated at $1 million

Women continue to dominate the top lists of highest porn stars, perhaps not only because they get paid at least twice as much as their male counterparts but maybe because they also diversify their incomes with other ventures.

richest porn stars jenna jameson

Jenna Jameson has made her fortune by offering a diverse range of products, all using her well established brand. Image via Flickr.

Of course, for most adult movie stars, earnings are less headline grabbing but still pretty impressive with those at the top of their game able to earn six figures. Some of this income is derived directly from the movies themselves whilst the rest can be earned from:

  • Endorsement deals
  • Merchandise
  • Custom videos
  • Producing their own content

At the end of the day, there is a lot of money in porn but you only get out what you put in so you have to be prepared to put in a lot of effort. How much effort?

As John Updike said ‘Sex is like money; only too much is enough.’.

Featured image via Flickr.

Staff Writer

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