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April 12, 2019

Is Crowdfunding the Answer to Porn’s Money Problems? Probably Not.

It is not a secret that it’s hard financially for porn producers nowadays. Even large production companies are having troubles staying afloat in today’s marketplace. For small producers, the problem is even more dire.

For some, crowdfunding seems to be a viable financing strategy.

Pink & White Productions, for instance, has moved to take their case to the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.

“While most indie films have access to grants and government funding, queer pornography relies on its small audience for support. As a resourceful artist and a jack-of-all-trades, I know how to work with very little, and how having even a slightly bigger budget can take a film to the next level,” Shine Louise Houston, director and founder of Pink & White Productions, wrote on the Indiegogo page for the film Chemistry Eases the Pain.

As of April 11, the campaign has collected $24,901 on a $23,000 goal, securing funding for the film and allowing the campaign to continue to ride in “Indemand” mode — meaning, additional donations are still being accepted.

This was not Houston’s first successful foray into crowd funding a Pink & White project. Regarding the successful campaign for 2015’s SNAPSHOT, Houston wrote “[Crowdfunding] allowed me the artistic control to take a big directorial leap as a filmmaker and tell the story how I wanted to tell it — from who I cast to how it was distributed.”

While crowdfunding offers a solution for some, it may not be the answer to porn’s financing problems. To understand, one must look at the short, convoluted life of Offbeatr.

Offbeatr Beats Off

Heralded as a “Kickstarter for Porn,” Offbeatr was meant to not only provide a platform for adult content producers to find funding, but to also allow for the selling of content directly to current and potential sponsors. Created by “social adult marketplace” ExtraLunchMoney.com, the site not only would allow independent creators independence to produce the work they want but would also create a system that would give the creators direct feedback, helping them to improve their products.

Offbeatr was not off-base in thinking that a patronage service may be a more attractive way to support a porn producer than a direct subscription. Many viewers are conscious of offering their credit card numbers to porn sites. Reports of malicious billing and credit card fraud have served as a hurdle for access for some, with others feeling that extraordinary steps – such as using prepaid debit cards – are necessary for their protection.

Mainstream sites can get more credit card commitments than porn sites due to the perceived trustworthiness. Sites like Indiegogo and Patreon can provide porn producers with more sponsor access than the porn website alone. Crowdfunding sites also allow sponsors to donate at comfortable levels, instead of at an arbitrary price point that may be too much for some. Finally, crowdfunding sites usually allow for more interaction between sponsors and producers, with sponsors able to support the producers themselves and not the production company. This is akin to supporting an indie artist.

“Flocking” to Indiegogo?

The recent surge in longstanding limitations placed on porn and porn-related content has made it harder to seek funding from mainstream sources — if it was even even possible in the first place. The banning of porn on Tumblr and Instagram, for example, has pointed to social media’s backtracking from support of the adult community. While Facebook and Patreon technically allow adult content if it is marked “adult,” these positions are tenuous and subject to change without warning. Pressure from payment service providers – such as Paypal, which is notoriously anti-porn, and Visa – has led many to be wary of anything associated with sex work.

Despite first year commitments totaling over $70,000, Offbeatr closed in 2016. However, in the absence of a better option, crowdfunding offers a way for small producers to fund their art.

“Supporting our work in this way allows us to prioritize ethical pay for all our performers and to keep taking creative risks and trying new things in our work!” wrote the folks behind Aorta Films, creators of “queer/feminist media.” The organization seems to currently run a support page on Patreon, however, though the producers themselves seem to be active on their website, the Patreon does not appear to have been updated since 2018.

Crowdfunding may seem like a great idea and for some producers like Pink & White it may be very effective, but when mainstream outlets suggest “pornographers are flocking to Indiegogo,” they may be painting an overly ambitious picture of what’s actually going on in the space.

Image via Pexels.

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