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December 24, 2015

Jock Talk: Insights from Six Internet Radio Explorers

This article originally ran AVN magazine. To see the digital edition, click here. In the 1920s, radio was the primary entertainment medium in the United States. In time it was superseded by other entertainment choices, but almost a century later, radio is still a powerful medium. And with the rise of internet radio stations, it’s become easier for adult companies to use radio to reach out to mainstream audiences. The recent adult radio renaissance can be traced to the Internet radio station KSEX, which started in San Diego in the late ’90s before moving to Burbank, on the east edge of the San Fernando Valley. KSEX went live online evenings, with a loosely formatted schedule with shows edging over into each other, a “Jock Lounge” with a live camera that the host could cut to for “candid shots” (viewers didn’t know that the camera sat next to a live broadcast monitor so the surprise element was nil), and an informal atmosphere where anybody on the premises could be corralled into the studio as an on-air guest. The “No Smoking” signs were routinely ignored, there was usually an open bottle or two to share, and the program director, an improv comic who went by the nom du porn Wankus, kept the energy up and the shows rolling. “We all owe a debt of gratitude to a guy named Wankus, who was the first person I know who ever did sex on the radio,” said Vivid Radio General Manager Farrell Hirsch. “He was really the pioneer of this. He’s the granddaddy. He was doing this before I was doing it.” The current state of adult radio embraces satellite transmission, Internet radio and connected devices like Roku. Here are some of the people doing adult radio in the 21st century. VIVID VOICES: FARRELL HIRSCH Farrell Hirsch is general manager of Vivid Radio, which went on SiriusXM in July 2013. “Vivid Radio is different from the other radio services because Vivid really is a porn company. And it’s the only one with a satellite radio station. We embrace the idea. It’s not one foot in the porn world, one foot out. With one exception, every host is a porn star: The exception is Samantha Phillips, who was a Penthouse Pet. We don’t hire doctors to give medical advice. It’s sex. Pure out-and-out sex. “We’re on the air 24/7. We’re live eight to ten hours a day, with occasional recorded shows. I don’t know anybody else who is offering a full day’s worth of programming. I don’t think anybody’s got as robust a schedule as we do. Most of ‘adult radio’ is what I’d call podcasting. It’s not the same as appointment listening. Christy Canyon is on the air right now, so if you want to hear Christy Canyon between 1 and 3, she’ll be here with a brand-new, live show every day. Podcasting is [recorded for] whenever you’re in the mood. If you have a guest scheduled and she turns up 90 minutes late, you just start the show 90 minutes late. If you want to listen to our shows at your own pace, you can go to our archives and listen to anything you want in the history of this station. But you can also listen to it as a regular streaming radio station. “I don’t think anybody takes the same sort of care with professionalism that we do. That’s a SiriusXM thing, but it’s also a Vivid thing. Vivid’s always been a company that has standards of professionalism. We hire like you would for any other job. You’re looking for someone who’s exceptional, someone who will be able to get along in this environment. People say ‘Look for the biggest stars, look for whoever has the most followers on Twitter.’ That’s great for the first week. Then you have to do a radio show. We have a process. First, we keep a running list of people who have been on as guests or people we think would make good hosts. If they’re interested, we put them through a ten-day class that Sam Phillips teaches. They have to take the class and pass it. If that works, we put you on co-hosting with one of our regular hosts for a couple of days, somebody really seasoned, who can support you. If that goes well, we leave one slot open on Fridays that we call ‘Vivid Virgins.’ We give them a one-hour on-the-air live audition. You have to sit down with one of our producers and map out what the show’s going to be. Once you’ve done that one-hour show, if I think it’s good, I send it to Steven Hirsch, who owns Vivid, and he makes a determination if the person represents his brand. Then we send it to SiriusXM for their approval. Vivid looks out for content, and Sirius is looking out for radio professionalism: Formatics, do you hit your spots, do you know how to throw to a break? Can you be a professional radio host? It’s not a process I invented, but it’s the right process. You don’t just open the mics and let people talk. You’d get chaos. ”The way to screw up a radio show is don’t prepare. The day before your show, you email or text to your producer what you’re going to do. They’ll look through it and the producer will do research and give the talent a packet they can read before the show. Also, you need a backup topic: There’s a guy in the news right now who has a 19-inch dick. Sounds like a great topic. But our audience is all guys. They may not want to talk about a 19-inch dick. You have to have a plan B and a plan C, and it’s got to be more than one sentence. You have to be prepared to change. ”We cross-plug all sorts of things. I was up in San Francisco with Aiden Starr, and we produced shows live from Kink at the Armory. They had a brand-new movie and we were live at their opening night party. It’s not just Vivid, but we cross-promote a lot of Vivid stuff. Vivid has a new Vivid Raw toy line with CalExotics. We do a lot with that. We promote the Vivid Clubs in several different cities. Every hour, we run an ad about what’s on Vivid TV tonight. We bring in professional comedians to voice those ads. We have fun with it. But we want people to watch that TV station and know they’re going to have the best time of their lives. “We take ads. We have people buying 30-second spots. If you want to advertise, let me know. We have strategic alliances coming down the line. We’re building one with Naked News. They’re providing our daily news reports at the top of the hour. We’d love to have a pop-up station during the AVN Awards. I think it’d be great. We have what we have ‘stationality.’ Pages of stuff you have to read: The new Vivid release, or the Free Speech Coalition has a fundraiser, or whatever it is. There’s also the Vivid Radio Question of the Day, which is a goofball question I come up with. Every host asks it and the person who responds best on Twitter gets one of the Vivid Raw toys. It’s stuff that ties the station together, that you can’t do when you’re podcasting alone. “When we started, we were trying a lot of different things nobody had done before. One of the things Sirius said they didn’t like was long-form three- and four-hour radio shows. They asked us to do an entire station full of 15-minute shows. I said “No way I can get girls to show up for 15 minutes every day.” We compromised on one hour. I was kind of against it at first, because I didn’t think it was the best way to do radio—until somebody pointed out it’s the best way to do sex. What guys want in their sex is variety. A different girl every hour. If you don’t like this girl, just hang on, we have another girl warming up in the other room. “The other thing we try to do is go to a lot of different genres and niches. April Flores has her own show. She appeals to that BBW crowd. She may never mention it, but that’s her audience. Aiden Starr does Diary of a Dominatrix. That’s her show. Because you only do an hour a week here, you can delve into genre. ”One thing we’ve found that does not work at all: Male hosts. Not even an hour a week. The audience hates it. We could get 500 pieces of hate mail for putting a guy on the air. Ron Jeremy is an exception to the rule. But the best people in the business, people we love—the audience rebels if it’s a guy. The phones dry up, the Twitter feed gets maniacal. We’ll make an exception for Steven St. Croix, T.T. Boy, Lexington Steele ... I think that’s the whole list. ”If any other station gets a chance to put a mainstream celebrity on the air, they’ll jump at it, be thrilled by it. We turn them down. That’s not what we are. People like Vivid because we’re Vivid. People on current sitcoms, people with hit songs, what would they do here? They’re going to be embarrassed. We can only cause trouble for them. They can come visit, but we can’t put them on the air. Is [a mainstream performer] really going to jerk off a caller? It’s not going to happen. It’s not good for her. We would try to protect her.” TOY STORIES: SUNNY RODGERS Sunny Rodgers is marketing director at Doc Johnson and co-hosts Ask the Doc on Playboy Radio with Chad Braverman. “On the Doc Johnson website we have a page called Ask The Doc, where people would write in with questions. Some of them quite serious: ‘I have erectile dysfunction’; ‘I’ve never dealt with sex toys’; ‘I’ve never had anal sex.’ Chad’s been in this industry for 20 years, I’ve been in for 15, and so we together have enough viewpoint that we started answering questions, and Playboy approached us about doing it for their radio channel. “On the show, the first segment is Chad and I talking about what’s going on at Doc Johnson, about life. We have Doc’s Nurses, where people around the company try new products. We also have Sex Toy Hacks, where we talk about things like putting a vibrating cock ring on a 10-inch vibe to make it into your own rabbit vibe. We have news and current events that deal with sexuality or pleasure products. The second segment is always Ask The Doc, where people call in. We have a phone line that’s open 24 hours a day and it’s live during our show. The third segment and the fourth segment are usually guests: We’ve had authors, we’ve had porn stars, you name it. We have a band coming on playing live in the studio. Showtime has a series about polyamory and we had the trio in talking about polyamory and being on a reality TV show. The final segment, we have giveaways, we have people call in and talk to our guest, and we talk about what’s coming up the following week. “We plan our shows a couple of months in advance. Today we’re speaking with Jamie McCartney, who did the Great Wall of Vagina sculpture. He’s in London, so we’re talking across the pond. In October we’re going up to the vibrator museum at Good Vibrations and we’re going to interview Dr. Carol Queen about her new book. “We’re now up to 38 shows, and they’re on iTunes, SoundCloud and Playboy Radio. We’re starting to be televised on Playboy TV. We’re live every Friday from 11 to noon West Coast time and it’s on iTunes and SoundCloud by 3 p.m. We’re going to be on IHeartRadio in the next two to three weeks, and we’re working on other venues. “First and foremost, the show is to make Doc Johnson a more visible mainstream brand. Secondly, to make sex, and pleasure products, and sexual wellness, not a bad term. We want people to feel that they can talk about it and it’s not horrible and dirty, it’s healthy. Finally, we want to help people. Want to make sure that people think that sex is fun, and that they’re enjoying their life. ... “The show is very funny. It’s more entertaining than we thought it was going to be. It’s the second-highest rated show on Playboy Radio. Laughter heals, and we’re hoping that maybe through making people laugh we can help them along the way.” AUDIO/VISUAL: GLENN KING Glenn King is a producer and director specializing in fem-dom material. “I started with Playboy Radio five years ago or so, and they had originally contacted me about doing a wrestling show. I was going to announce it and produce the show. And when I heard this idea, I thought: ‘Okay, you guys are just trying to get me to own this so that when somebody gets their neck broken they sue me instead of Playboy.‘ I said ‘Tell me what you're looking for and let's see if I can help you with it.‘ They said they were looking for free content, so they needed somebody who could put on a show that was its own sponsor. I said I would love to do a show for Mean Bitches, my website. I'll put on my kind of girls—sexually aggressive women and female domination—and it'll be what you're looking for. It'll be a niche-type show, and it'll not be what you're already doing. I was the only male host they had, so I had to get a female host. I found Aiden Starr, who was the perfect choice because they didn't want the show to be about the dark side of BDSM and Aiden is one of the hybrids of the business, who can be both sexual and dominant at the same time. “There are two things I discovered that were limiting about the traditional radio model in our industry. One, the method of having callers on shows. It will get you a core audience of 30 people and you'll feel like you're doing great, but the only people that will actually listen are the 30 people who are calling in over and over again. The other limiting factor was interviewing porn stars. They aren't necessarily people who have had tremendous life experiences, so your show can get very repetitive and uninteresting. “We created contests for them. Simple, stupid contests. Porn stars are competitive; if you tell them you're playing tiddlywinks today and the prize is a straw, they love it, especially when they're competing against each other. We started doing games like Porn Star Blackjack. We had them shoot each other with nerf machine guns. It was all audio, but we took pictures and I think we were the first to take pictures during the show and put them on Twitter. And then we would follow up with more pictures after the show. There was no archiving of the shows so if you didn't catch it live, you missed it. We did have to draw people in. “Playboy Radio had an incident where someone had sex in the studio, so they cleaned out all their hosts. Ironically, we had been posting pictures from every show and the Playboy lawyers went back through every picture and said, ‘Were there any blowjobs or sex or any of those things happening on the show?’ We might have been saying it, exaggerating what was happening, but they went back over the pictures and they said, ‘Whatever the line is, you aren't crossing it.’ So we survived at Playboy. When Playboy lost their contract, three of us moved over to Vivid: Aiden, me and Christy Canyon. “I helped them start their new station over at Vivid, and it was a great to bring something from the ground floor up. I've named the show a bunch of different things over the years, but it's the same thing: I get at least three guests per show and I have them competing in stupid games and contests, and having fun. When you listen, that's what I want everyone to feel like: They're having a party and I wish I was at this party because they're laughing and cheering. I can't necessarily figure out what's going on, but they're having a good time. “We're calling ourselves a tri-cast. We are the first production company to put a show on connected devices, or Roku television. Roku is like AppleTV but they allow nudity and private channels. We're on the Maddy G TV Late Night Roku channel. We're getting 50,000 viewers per show, aggregated. They put it up Friday and people watch it over the weekend on VOD. We've had 20 episodes, and Episode 1 still gets another 5,000 people per week. Some people are marathon watchers. We can look at their IP address and see they watched all 20 shows over a weekend. “We're also on TheKingNetwork.com, my own website. People can watch it over the Internet, and interact. We have a weekly Twitter ass contest we call Twass. Girls tweet me pictures of their asses to enter the contest, and the people who are watching can go to the website and decide for themselves who they'd like to vote for. It's free and anyone who has an Internet connection can watch there. “Then we have iTunes audio podcasts. We encourage people who are listening to go to the website and look at the pictures. A lot of people discover us through iTunes. If you're watching the TV show, you may be wondering why every time we get back from break I say, ‘Hey, we're back and it's Glenn King in studio with Nina Mason, Lola Luscious, Tory Lane ...’ I name all the people in the room. You have to get in this mode where you describe something more than you need to, or every four minutes or so you interrupt to explain: ‘Hey, if you just tuned in ...’ “There are two reasons I do this show. One, I like to entertain people. I feel like I bring a different perspective to the whole idea of interviewing porn stars. And I don’t think anybody had a show that showed off erotic female domination. People think of female domination and they think of leather, chains, spankings, torture. My videos feature incredibly sexy women, made up beautifully—glamour style—grabbing men, throwing them on the ground and using them as sex slaves. If you got a random group of people and asked, ‘Who'd like to be spanked by a stern woman in leather right now?’ maybe one would raise his hand. But if you ask ‘Who'd like to have an incredibly hot woman throw you down, rip your clothes off and sit on your face?’ nine of the ten would take you up on it. “Doing the radio show and integrating it with my video production business gives me a chance to audition these girls, or at least meet them before I book them. I won't book a girl—for the most part—unless I book her on the show and find she's on time, and coherent, sober, and she's got some abilities to do what we do. A lot of the girls are not suited for a scene where there's a lot of improvisational dialogue. “We cross-promote. We run trailers for my videos during my show and it definitely generates customers for my website and my DVDs. We also have advertisers. This is very, very, very important to our industry right now. My belief is that our industry is going toward—a very high percentage of our revenues are going to start coming through advertising, if we can prove to the advertisers that it's worth investing in. If I put out a scene tomorrow, it's going to wind up on the pirate websites or the tube websites, inevitably. 300,000 people are going to see the scene. Ten years ago, if I went to an advertiser for razor blades and said I have a magazine that 300,000 people are going to read, they would jump on it. We need to be able to show advertisers—through shows like mine, or through product placement in our DVDs that get pirated—that people will act on it. We have Adam & Eve as a sponsor of the show. We don't get paid a flat fee; we get paid by whatever it is we sell of the product. We get a promo code, and they have a very good deal where the customer gets 50 percent off the most expensive item in their order and free shipping. Adam & Eve is seeing that a lot of people are using my promo code and it works. We've had some other great sponsors. Savage Sin clothing has seen some good orders for their clothing because the girls are modeling the clothing on the show, and they just pay me a flat fee for their advertising. XXX Star PR has been sponsoring our Porn Star Fantasy Football League and I think it's working for them. “As far as radio is concerned, I think we've just scratched the surface. In the old days, radio was a controlled medium. I was terrified of losing my job at Playboy, because where else could you go at the time? When I parted ways with Vivid, that was when connected devices were just opening up. You can get your own Roku channel pretty cheap right now, about $1,000 plus bandwidth. Whether it's a Roku channel or an Internet website, anyone can set up a station these days. Radio, in its limiting way, is dead. Multimedia interaction is alive and going crazy right now. People aren't necessarily wiling to pay for porn, but they certainly are willing to pay for getting personal and interactive with porn stars. The future of the multimedia business is going to get more exciting every day, because more and more people are able to do it and try it right now. From where we were 10 years ago, where you had limited choices, we've come a tremendous amount. The audience is expanding and as advertisers start to jump on board, that's going to create more opportunities for growth. It's only going to get better. INSIDER JOB: JAMES BARTHOLET James Bartholet has hosted Inside the Industry on Internet radio for about a decade, with co-hosts including Mika Tan, Michelle Maylene, Charmaine Star, Emy Reyes, Kianna Lei, Priya Rai, Misty Stone, Daisy Marie and Allison Moore. “Inside the Industry is an entertainment news program about the adult and the mainstream industry, but mostly about the adult industry. Our listeners get a chance to call in and talk to the stars. I’ve been interviewing people for decades, so I know how to make them feel relaxed. They say stuff to me that they wouldn’t say to other interviewers or reporters. We’re getting scoops, fun facts about the industry that people didn’t know about. I did talk radio in a lot of different places. I’ve talked about entertainment news, I’ve talked about news and weather. When I talk about porn, people go fuckin’ nuts. It’s a home-run subject. Porn stars are rock stars. Get them on, you’re going to have a sure-fire hit. ”Internet radio is cool because the reach is global. The audiences you can get with Internet radio is incredible. You’re only limited by your own imagination. We get calls from all over the world. I get emails from people who listen for two, three hours of old shows. When I go to Exxxotica, when I go to AVN, when I go to NightMoves or the other fan things, the fans say they listen to the show. That never happened when I was on terrestrial radio. I’ve noticed over the last couple of years that there are more female fans. And they’re diehard fans. They want to talk about sex. They listen all the time and repost things we say. “I merchandise this show. If I know I have a fan that’s overseas, I go, ‘Would you mind telling your friends about my show?’ I’ve got people in Saudi Arabia and Sydney, I’ve got people in London and Lisbon, I’ve got people in Sao Paulo, I’ve got people in Vancouver. And I’ve got them all over the United States. At first advertisers were hesitant because they were wondering who’s going to listen to Internet radio. But people are going to our sponsors and they’re buying product. My advertisers tell me that. Advertisers are the only way to do it. I have to pay me, I have to pay the co-hosts, and there are a lot of costs. I have to advertise and promote every week. And then I have to take the time and come to the studio and do it. It’s a full-time job. You can’t do it half-assed. When the fans come and say, ‘I really enjoyed your show’ or ‘I have to talk to you about that topic you were talking about’ or ‘Do you think you could talk about this in the next week or two?’ I know we’re really having an impact. “I’ve seen Internet radio grow so much. We can reach people: Tell them about our movies. Tell them ‘Don’t download illegally. Buy and rent your porn legally.’ Here’s a new movie I’ve got coming out. Here’s a new trend. Here’s something to avoid. Here’s something you should do.” RAW DEAL: HOWARD LEVINE Howard Levine, a longtime adult industry salesman, has branched out into radio, hosting Hill & Howard Raw.“The very talented, intelligent, funny and highly awarded Melissa Hill and myself started doing a radio show on XXXPornStarRadio.com and we moved to LATalkRadio.com. We were not really interested in just being a porno radio show. It’s a stream-of-consciousness kind of show. We may be talking about politics one minute and then talking about sobriety the next minute. We could be talking about back problems. We wanted to know: After years and years of doing porno, are there certain injuries that some of the young ladies have experienced, especially with back and neck? So we brought in a chiropractor to discuss the sexual injuries, work-related injuries. It was very interesting. “Coming up, we have a really great musical group called Jason Heath and the Greedy Souls, who are releasing their third album. Jason Federici is my very dear friend; his dad was Danny Federici, who was in the Bruce Springsteen band from day one. Danny and I were really close, close friends, and he passed away from skin cancer and they opened the DannyFund.org so we wanted to combine talking about skin cancer and also introduce the band. I have Bobby Slayton slated to come in. He is the past emcee of numerous AVN Awards shows and in my opinion was the funniest one they ever had. I was always heavily involved in the standup comedy community and I was asked, “Who do you know to host the AVN Awards?” and I said Slayton was perfect. He’s irreverent and there is no filter. No boundaries. “Topics are predicated on what happened that day. A topic of conversation that’s coming up right now because it’s just so damn funny to me is Donald Trump. I can’t stop looking at that train wreck, and commenting on it is, you know, funny to me. Melissa and I are working on what to do the first 10 minutes, what to do the second 10 minutes, the third 10 minutes. We’ve always done it that way. Melissa and I are kind of opposites but we tie in together really well. I really don’t have a filter and she is my filter. She wants to talk about serious things, and that’s not even a word in my vocabulary. She’ll be talking about something really serious and I have to chime in with my sophomoric humor and sarcasm. It could piss her off at some stage. ... “Our first show at LATalk was our first show in a studio behind a real mic with a producer and an engineer. Prior to that it was Melissa coming over to my house or me going over to Melissa’s house and setting up the computer. ... LATalkRadio was the perfect fit. We need to come into a studio and do our show without being the engineer and the producer. Forbidden Fruit [Films] sponsors our show, AdultEmpire.com is also an advertiser, and when we discuss X-rated movies listeners can go right there and get it streamed or buy the movie. We still are going to review some movies and we talk about the industry, but it’s not the number-one go-to topic. “We’re doing this for self-expression. It certainly isn’t money. I’m not a self-promoter in that way. I used to do standup comedy in the early ’80s in San Francisco and I always loved improv and I love performing. This was just an opportunity that presented itself: I could get behind a microphone and just have fun. How I live my life right now is one day at a time, and during that day I like to have the best time that I can possibly have without being arrested and being a fucked-up individual. We both have a lot to say. I’m an extreme left-wing liberal Democrat, which is, apparently, an irritation to right-wing conservative people. I like that. On my Facebook I’ve got, like, 4,000 followers. Why, I have no idea. But it gets so heated on my Facebook page that it’s, like, stupid. I thought it’d be great to take this to radio, live. “We’ve been doing this around four months. We did Amber Lynn’s show on LATalk and Amber asked me to come on and I said I wanted to bring Melissa with me. And I did. And we looked at each other and said “We could do this, easy. It’d be fun.” I inquired about it and it was what I consider to be vanity radio, in the beginning, and I didn’t want to have anything to do with that. Then I found out people are selling advertising, people are getting sponsors. After two phone calls I had two people who said, ‘Yeah, we’ll do that.‘ I’m not really in it for the money. If I was I’d be starving. I’ve been blessed in this industry over the last 30 years and I’m very okay how I am. I just want to have fun. Boys just wanna have fun.” ROCK & RAUNCH: AMBER LYNN Amber Lynn, an AVN Hall of Famer, hosts Rock ‘N’ Sexxxy Uncensored on LATalkRadio.com. “Rock ‘N’ Sexxxy Uncensored started out as a blend of the mainstream feature film industry, the adult industry—including Playboy and Penthouse—and rock ’n’ roll. Then we brought in TV. I had a co-host on the show, Kristen Renton, who was on Sons of Anarchy playing a porn star. We had a running gag about how I was the real porn star and she just played a porn star. We brought in the TV element with Sons of Anarchy, which has a huge fan base. “My theory was that people who watch adult movies also listen to rock ’n’ roll, they watch other types of films, It’s an audience that we’re all trying to reach, get our stuff out there so they can enjoy it, buy it, [we can] make a living. It worked. I started bringing in things like comedy, and UFC girls and wrestlers, and now I’ve had everyone from Dennis Rodman to Ron Jeremy, Neil Turban, people from Megadeth. We’re a big industry but we’re really just a small town. “I’ve been doing this show for two years. I did a porn-based show before that for a very short time with Ginger Lynn. When I decided to do this show, I found I have many friends in the music industry and TV industry who wouldn’t do ‘a porn show’ so I decided to do something more friendly. When I first said I was going to do mainstream music and sex, they were like ‘there’s no way.’ But it worked. “Once, I had Michael Bellisario—very conservative mainstream actor—Jessa Rhodes and Danny Boy O’Connor from House of Pain. Jessa was talking about porn and Michael shushed her, because he was a little affected. His face was red. She looked at him and said, ‘What the hell do I know, Michael? I suck cock for a living.’ And Danny Boy falls out of his chair. He’s like, ‘Oh my gawd, she can’t say that.’ I’m like, ‘Dude, what is wrong with you? You write songs about dropping bombs on people’s moms.’ It’s 100 percent uncensored, so you have this kind of free run to say what you want.”

 
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