“If you build it, he will come,” whispers a voice to Kevin Costner’s character Ray Kinsella, while he’s walking through the cornfield of his newly-purchased Iowa farm in the classic 1989 fantasy-drama sports film “Field of Dreams.” Raised in the city by a baseball-loving father with whom he had become estranged, Kinsella — now a family man with a loving wife and kid — regrets not making things right with his dad.

Driven by the ghostly appearance of legendary player Shoeless Joe Jackson and visions of a baseball diamond, Kinsella embarks on a mad quest to build one right in the midst of his farm. Risking his very livelihood in the process as he follows mysterious signs and dreams, Kinsella succeeds in building his very own field of dreams.

I would say one thing I’ve learned is that companies are fully at the mercy of talent, and when I say talent, I don’t mean all performers — I mean people who have real talent.

He is rewarded not only by miraculous all-star player visitations and a tearful reunion with the spirit of his father, but also by the blinking lights of a hundred cars driving to his farm to watch some good old-fashioned baseball. Kinsella’s heart is healed and his financial future looks brighter than ever.

Likewise, what seemed like a crazy gamble 10 years ago in the adult industry — investing serious time, energy and resources to create a level playing field for major league talent and their fans to really let loose — is paying off for those who followed the signs and courageously took action.

Because while the old school content farm of agencies, directors and big wigs calling all the shots might have yielded enough crops to make a buck, it sometimes turned performers into sharecroppers dependent on landlord powerbrokers … with nary a share beyond their scene rates.

Now, like the blinking lights of promising traffic heading to Kinsella’s field of dreams, fans are speeding down the digital highway to the movies, cam shows and clips made possible by studio heads and platform execs wise enough to treat talent like royalty.

Not only is there a beautiful minor league ecosystem of amateurs and newly-minted starlets, some of the biggest all-stars of yesteryear are enjoying this new content game made possible by technology and a deep-seated hunger among consumers for intimacy and authenticity.

When fans are literally buying actual merchandise from their favorite XXX players, with no less enthusiasm than when they purchase a jersey from their hometown team, not to mention the millions of dollars being spent on premium social media feeds, online interaction and personalized content, it’s a home run for everyone.

To really get a sense for how the past and present are filling up the bases for a grand slammin’ future, XBIZ reached out to a few of the major league talent and their biggest backers from the studio and indie sides of the biz, in this special report. It turns out that if you build it right, they will indeed come!

Major League Star Directors

If there is one veteran performer who has reached the very peak of directorial success, that would be Kayden Kross, the reigning XBIZ Director of the Year who now helms Deeper.com for Vixen Media Group.

Daring, devious and damn intelligent, she is the brains behind such acclaimed titles as “Abigail” from Tushy — which swept the 2019 XBIZ Awards and propelled its titular star Abigail Mac to become Female Performer of the Year then — and “Drive,” which rocked the 2020 XBIZ Awards with a Best Actress and Best Sex Scene win for Maitland Ward.

Kayden Kross: Performer, XBIZ Director of the Year, Founder of Deeper.com

The very same Ward, whose mainstream “Boy Meets World” fame snowballed into indie adult content prosperity before she even set foot on a traditional porn set, now stands tall in all her fire-maned glory as the first and only contract star for Deeper.

Reflecting on the evolving power dynamics of performers, Kross mused, “I would say one thing I’ve learned is that companies are fully at the mercy of talent, and when I say talent, I don’t mean all performers — I mean people who have real talent. They’re at the mercy of people who can sell. What I mean by sell is really good performances, coupled with the way it’s captured.”

No stranger to the ups and downs of classic contract stardom herself, Kross recalled, “I never thought this way, back when I was a contract star over 10 years ago, I just thought I had a good deal. Now, I see there are people that when you find them, you will do anything to keep them. As I’ve expanded to find other directors who will work with me, I see you’re only as good as your people. And now, performers not only know that, they also know how to use that.”

In her estimation, with all the platforms and options available for performers, it is forcing companies “to really give talent what they’re worth,” whereas previously, the industry was structured in a way that “even if you were irreplaceable, you didn’t know it and corporations had the power.” Not only is talent more valuable than ever, she explains, but given the ubiquity of content “you really have to float above the pack to stand out and have consumers get their credit card out.”

She views Ward as the perfect example of what she means as someone who is indispensable. “No one could replace Maitland,” she stated, “on top of the fact I just personally like her a lot. There’s no one like her and for that reason, I have made it very clear to her that she can have whatever she wants, whatever she needs.” With genuine emotion in her voice, she expressed to her contract star, “I want to make you happy and you are so valuable to me, please stick around.”

This heartfelt commitment to talent is a trend she does not believe was ever really happening before. “If one contract star acted up, she was replaced with another,” Kross remembered. “Vivid Girls as an example, were interchangeable, one came in and then one came out.” That industry standard was not so much a matter of callous corporate regard, as it was a supply and demand equation, in which companies truly held all the cards and tools of making fame come to life.

“That’s not the case with a Maitland Ward, or a Lana Rhoades or an Abella Danger,” Kross underscored. “If there’s no more Abella, you hope to find someone else entirely, because you won’t actually find a replacement.”

That earnest recognition of how true talent is a flame that cannot be replicated, its living energies flickering and dancing and feeding on inner fuel beyond the reach of algorithmic certainty, is akin to how Kross ended up working for Vixen Media Group, when company visionary Greg Lansky (only recently cashed-out and enjoying greener pastures as a globetrotter) was chosen for his X factor … and how he in turn elevated Kross with a keen eye.

“This is similar to how the people with money and traffic behind Vixen Media Group recognized Greg Lansky’s talent,” she said. “He had been in the industry for a while up until that point, but they recognized that he took amazing photos and there was an amazing idea that came together, because he was great at bringing out the best in people, like he did with me when he saw what I was making with TrenchcoatX. Once I began producing movies for other Vixen Media Group brands, it led me to where I am and now I’m up and running with Deeper.com for them. It’s still unbelievable.”

And while Kross straddles the line between talent and directing, others like XBIZ Feature Director of the Year and Chief Creative Officer of Adult Time, Bree Mills, are the masterminding stakeholders adept at empowering the right people … and greenlighting the right productions with ambitious verve.

“At Adult Time, our motto is to do porn differently,” Mills shared. “That starts with how we work with performers. We’ve always embraced opportunities to collaborate. Being one of the first companies to produce stories written by models, our unique approach to improvised acting and character development led us to begin showcasing three of the most exciting performer/directors in the industry today: Casey Calvert, Whitney Wright and Joanna Angel. I’m happy to announce that we have even more performer/directors coming to our platform in 2020 and I can’t wait to see how our growing audience reacts to the Adult Time content they produce for us!”

Bree Mills: XBIZ Feature Director of the Year, Chief Creative officer of Adult Time

Her initiative to foster creativity and collaborate with talent for many facets of her award-winning movies, from the writers’ room to the camera, has proven quite popular and successful — not only from a public relations standpoint, but from a revenue-boosting one too for parent company Gamma Entertainment.

“There is an important shift happening in our industry, as traditional studios hand the reins over to performers as our next generation of content creators,” Mills noted.

She then teased a potentially huge development in her company’s long-term gameplan. “We want to empower the incredible performers we work with and create beautiful content together, which is the motivation behind Adult Time’s creator program,” Mills revealed. “In development since 2019 and ready to formally launch this April, Adult Time’s creator program will provide multiple ways for the content creator community to earn revenue and build assets with us. Look for more details of this to come soon!”

Such a foray into the independently-produced sector, given Adult Time’s almost weekly announcements of the latest studio brands joining their television programming-esque channel lineup of affiliated brands, is an organic next step for them. Given their partnership with smaller “studios” such as XBIZ Award-winning clip artist extraordinaire Korina Kova, Gamma is committed to staying way ahead of the curve in the quantum leaps the industry has taken lately.

One of the biggest brands signed to the Adult Time umbrella was Burning Angel, the punk rock porn site created by Joanna Angel. The talent-turned-director, who became a Spiegler Girl not too long ago and whose main beau Small Hands won XBIZ Male Performer of the Year in 2018, jested, “I’ve been in the industry for about 700 years.” Given her goth inclinations and timeless beauty, such a vampire-like lifetime would not entirely surprise her biggest fans.

Relatively speaking though, she certainly has a point in adult biz terms. As a result of that longevity, she has “very closely watched different trends come and go,” with roles on both sides of the camera throughout her career. “I can definitely say that this is a great time to be talent,” she confirmed. “Hence, why at the ripe age of 38, after running and selling a business with almost 20-plus years of directing and producing under my belt, I decided to become a Spiegler Girl and more or less start my career all over rather than retire.”

Sure enough, she has been in continual high demand, behind and in front of the camera. “There’s amazing opportunities out there these days, and so many incredible films being made from all the different studios … and I was having my own FOMO not being a part of it,” she stated.

Best of all, is the freedom, as Angel summed, “Talent can create their own brands and ‘cash in’ on their own following in so many different ways, and they can literally run a mini empire from their cellphone, while sitting in the back of an Uber.”

Reminiscing about the early days of the digital porn market, Angel said, “I was one of the only girls with their own website back in the Stone Age of porn, in the early 2000s … and it took a team of webmasters to manage your content, along with a hosting company, a billing company, processing fees and a number of other things performers these days will never have to worry about while running their own brands.”

Despite the convenience of technology and all-inclusive platforms, as well as the affordability of gear for producing content, Angel sees great value in studio-shot porn as a way to build a following. “However, no one can have a brand or an empire without fans … and I still do think that the fans come from the major studio scenes,” she observed. “Granted, an independent performer can easily get the resources to produce their own high-end production too … but as someone who did that myself for many, many years, I think the luxury of having another studio produce and market a high-level production is a wonderful thing.”

Beyond the money and fame, Angel finds intrinsic joy in still clambering about the more traditional means of adult entertainment. “And on a personal level … I like being part of a real studio production, more than I enjoy filming myself in the bathtub,” she offered. “As both a director and a performer … I truly enjoy making movies.” Getting real, though, Angel requested, “But with that said, please … go watch me in my bathtub on OnlyFans.com/JoannaAngel.”

As for her main man, Small Hands (who is pretty open about his real name, Aaron), Angel shared, “And I can definitely speak for Aaron … because I’m good at that — he absolutely came into the market as a performer at the right time, and as someone who came from the music industry, and the bartending industry … he likes being part of a team. He likes being part of a production. He likes the social aspects of porn and the performance aspects of porn and these aspects don’t exist on the content platforms. I mean, we all know, he’s a total ham for the camera!”

Like her, Hands is delighted to dabble in the more studio-centric multiverse, which, like the independent creator scene, is decidedly more tilted towards talent these days.

“Shooting POV content in our living room isn’t something he has a desire or passion for … and after many years of seeing me stress and agonize over the mountain of responsibilities that come along with owning a studio, it’s the last thing he wants to do,” Angel said. “So, he’s enjoying his time doing studio-produced scenes and he’ll do it for as long as he possibly can.”

However, Hands is not above a bit of commerce from non-traditional sources. “Instead of shooting content for an OnlyFans or Snapchat platform, as a side hustle, he’s doing adorable charismatic SFW greetings on his Cameo page at Cameo.com/TheSmallHands,” she explained. Cameo, like Patreon, Twitch and YouTube, is one of many SFW opportunities for adult entertainers who take care to follow the terms of service and carefully hawk their wares.

Between industry heavyweights like Gamma and amateur clips studios, there is a middle ground occupied by mom-and-pop operations with solid funding, cinematic flair, compelling storylines and stellar filmmaking. Perhaps the greatest of these are MissaX.com and AllHerLuv.com, both part of a Wisconsin-based company owned by the multi XBIZ Award-winning Missa herself.

She too has grown fond of uplifting talent, not just with the quality content she produces, but with directing opportunities. Missa explained that she and her partner “wanted to reach out to directors in L.A. when we needed help in producing content,” and that at first, they tried to get in touch with “some well-known directors.” Unfortunately, many of them were either too busy “or they didn’t want to bend their style to accommodate our brand.” So it was, that she ended up looking “to some of my favorite actors, very creative and trustworthy people, to write and produce for us.”

The talent-turned director business model is not without its flaws, though, as not every star is cut out for the behind-the-camera work, and others may simply end up becoming too busy with their various other revenue streams.

“While we’ve had our ups and downs with hiring out for work, I would say overall it is a success,” Missa said. “Whitney Wright has clicked especially well with our customers. I love how she takes the time to log into our website and talk with the customers; she tries to satisfy them. Whitney Wright is creative and driven and I suspect she’ll have a long career in directing, if that’s what she wants.”

Indeed, Wright, an acclaimed Spiegler Girl who films for both Missa and Mills, has received numerous accolades for her works. And she is given true creative control, which is not always the case with other studios who end up micromanaging their talent-turned-directors rather than letting them fly.

“Most other companies are using the actors as figureheads; they’ll have a co-director behind the scenes,” Missa pointed out. “I think we’re unique in the sense that the actors we’ve worked with as directors have chosen their own crews, shot with their own equipment, organized the bookings of the actors and locations and finally ship the product to us — it’s a huge responsibility. It’s also a huge leap in faith for us that we will win with brand-new directors.”

Another Spiegler who, like Wright and Angel has become an in-demand director in her own right, is Casey Calvert. Like so many of her agency sisters, Calvert is wise, experienced and adept at navigating this complex industry.

“First, a history lesson: The porn industry goes in cycles,” she elucidated. “In the early 2000s, companies like Red Light District and Platinum X made their brand based on talent-turned-directors shooting what they wanted to shoot. But when that got stale, when the companies tried to exert too much creative control over those directors, the fans got bored, and the business model changed.”

Bringing her analysis back to the present, Calvert pinpointed the particular fulcrum shift that has ignited such a power switch towards performers as social media.

Casey Calvert: Performer, Director for Adult Time and Lust Cinema

The capacity for Instagram and Twitter to drive traffic, their widespread adoption rates in the modern era and the personality-based marketplace where consumers are most likely to spend hard-won money on talent they feel a connection with, has given birth to this latest spike.

“With the rise of social media, brands are again realizing that there’s special value in the talent they shoot — whether that’s tapping them for branded content on Instagram or hiring them to direct,” she determined. “Social media proved that fans were as anxious to connect with performers in adult as they are in any other industry, and websites like OnlyFans proved that talent didn’t need the support of big companies to connect with those fans.”

Company owners, at least those sharp enough to loosen their minds from legacy and tradition-based modalities to more prescient vanguard visionaries, realized that “there were opportunities for mutually beneficial relationships to be had.”

Calvert, who has remained grounded and sincere no matter the highs and lows, is grateful for her current partnerships. “I’ve been lucky enough to develop two amazing relationships with two amazing companies — Adult Time and Lust Cinema,” she admitted. “It’s been so rewarding aligning myself with companies whose values I share. As a director for Adult Time, I got to cut my teeth behind the camera, focusing on a specific genre (Girlsway), and they got to explore a talent-turned-director relationship for the first time. I think that relationship is working out great, if I do say so myself. I think Whitney Wright and Joanna Angel, my peers working with Adult Time, would agree.”

Then, turning her attention to well-known European director Erika Lust, a mainstream media darling and a bit of a maverick herself — who was certainly years ahead of her time in recognizing the value of authentic sex and the appeal of humanizing works — Calvert noted, “My relationship with Lust Cinema is both as a director and brand ambassador. I get complete creative control as a storyteller, and they get a genuinely enthusiastic, well-known cheerleader who’s proud to shout the praises of Erika Lust in the United States.”

Stepping back to take a more bird’s-eye view of the market, Calvert believes, “One of the great things about the internet-driven world we live in is that these brand relationships can be tailored to each individual performer’s strengths and each company’s needs. Performers have more power than ever before, and we are capitalizing on it in really new, fun, interesting ways.”

From the richly erotic realms Lust Cinema, Adult Time, Deeper and MissaX, to the hardcore domain of gonzo, performer Misha Cross has done it all, and in recent years become an imaginative auteur for Evil Angel.

The European starlet-turned-director said, “First of all, I’d like to thank XBIZ for giving me a chance to share my thoughts on such a vivid topic like content creating and how, with the development of member platforms, it has changed the game for performers, producers and fans. This really is the era of content creators. I’m not shy to admit it, as I’m one of them, and it’s pretty great!”

She harkened back to when she joined the adult industry in 2014, when member platforms were far less prevalent as far as their influence and range. “We had Twitter and Instagram, but this was not something that we could make a profit from directly. We were solely dependent on our agents and our booked shoots. I remember the first big hype for premium Snapchat in 2015 and I believe it all just greatly took off from that.”

One of her friends from the industry showed her someone else’s premium Snapchat at the time and told her it was significantly hotter to them than mainstream porn, given the visceral realness of it.

That opinion struck a chord and “stuck in my head until today, because it’s so true.” In fact, Cross attributes the rising hunger for grittier and relatable adult content to what “pretty much changed everything and now, in 2020, performers have been given so much freedom and so much power like never before.” After all, who best to cater to such a demand than the ones in-the-trenches with direct fan communication?

“I have been blessed to work with the biggest studios out there and sustain a successful career for the past seven years, but I also know how it feels to be dependent on a certain amount of shoots a month to be able to pay rent etc. — I’ve been there; I guess we all have been there,” she said, summarizing what many studio-reliant talent have gone through, especially during slow periods or back when there were not as many indie opportunities.

“I know how it feels when you want to impress the entire production crew so you get booked by them again,” she confessed. “I know how it feels to travel, and I mean really travel, sometimes from one continent to another, and then shoot on the very next day (yes, jetlagged, but you still have to look super pretty). I know how it feels to be scared that someone is not going to book you again, even though they promised they would, but oh, hey, you see they hired someone else for the movie you spoke about.”

That fear, envy and uncertainty was very common years ago — and always will be to some extent — when shoots were rare, the attention of companies was fickle and many times, the superstars getting the lion’s share of all the shoots were as much the product of monkey-see, monkey-do repetitive familiarity as they were the result of bona fide X factor charisma.

“With all those feelings, I’ve always known I needed to become self-sufficient, make my own money, not be dependent on how many mainstream shoots I’m going to get booked for, become my own boss and do my own content,” Cross stated. Her survival instincts and cunning proved pivotal in the long run, because now the market shift is “a complete game-changer.”

“With the growth of fan platforms like FanCentro, OnlyFans, the Pornhub Model Program and others, the industry has shifted towards talent,” Cross said. “And let’s make one thing clear — talent, especially female talent, has always been the major reason for a fan to buy a movie. But the era of DVDs is far gone, nobody really buys actual DVDs anymore, so talent is no longer relying only on paid shoots; fans want something more than just another movie among thousands of movies — they seek interaction.”

That sobering view, which is plain as day in the fact that digital downloads and mobile streaming have overtaken brick and mortar distribution massively, has indirectly strengthened the bargaining power of talent.

“What’s most important, is that performers have been given a powerful tool that enables them to put their own creativity into motion, decide what their schedule looks like, work from home and communicate with their fans on a daily basis, even offering a really intimate one-on-one experience,” Cross said. “That’s something you can’t compete with.”

In essence, she sees this liberating trend of talent building their own brands as evidence that they no longer need anyone to choose them. Instead, they choose themselves, which is why producers “now more than ever before, need performers with all their exposure and fan base to stay alive.”

The tables have turned indeed, with the development of member sites “putting performers in the spotlight like never before and making them independent financially by giving them freedom to create.” This monetary value proposition is distinct from the studio model of offering scene rates and nothing further.

“Paying out royalties is not a practice in the mainstream porn industry; performers simply go on set, perform, grab a check and go back home, end of story,” she noted, before drawing a comparison to the non-adult entertainment movie and television industry where artists can partake in the royalties.’

“The thing is, by putting our own content online on any of the member platforms or our own websites, we are finally in charge,” she declared. “We are making money every single time someone buys the video or signs up to our pages. And what’s most important, is we are in control here. That’s a big advantage.”

Given that she is both a female performer and a content creator, who nonetheless keeps her toes in the studio waters as a director for Evil Angel, Cross is “happy to see those changes happening” and to see “productions being more and more aware of the strength and impact that performers have.”

As she has witnessed this surge in prominence talent are now reaping, she feels, “It’s great to see more and more female performers turning into directors for mainstream porn companies, something that was not so common five to 10 years ago, because we have evolved from being ‘just a pretty face’ to real businesswomen with impressive fan bases. I’m happy to see porn companies paying attention to their social media and the quality of their promo content. The competition that has been created by a growing number of adult websites has made people more resourceful and creative, but also more open towards the fans who pay for the product.”

Beyond the business benefits, Cross thinks the lower barrier of entry to the adult content game is exciting, because it has the side effect of helping “the whole sex workers’ community effort to become more mainstream” in a way that is paving the path to “normalize the area of work we are in.”

Another beloved and veteran Euro performer is Tina Kay, who has recently been directing for Harmony Films, while maintaining her onscreen reputation as a hardcore star. “A pretty face and a hot body will get you a modeling gig, no question, but in order to have a career in the industry, that’s a totally different matter,” she cautioned. “The keyword is ‘longevity.’ Do you have what it takes to stay the distance or are you the “flavor of the month?

“I feel I have accomplished so much and learned so much in almost two decades in the adult entertainment business, from modeling (fashion, glamour, fitting show room, catwalk) to performing, directing, screenwriting and even, yes, PAing!” she continued. “I have been always working my way up, slowly but steadily. Nothing happens by luck alone: I made it work for myself the way I wanted to make it work.”

And her secret to an enduring career, besides “working harder than everyone else, and then some,” is to be the “complete package.” Given how fast the industry is changing, she said that aspiring superstars have to score high in all aspects, spanning “looks, acting, performing, personality, versatility, creativity, strong body/mind, work ethic and charisma.” Also critical is remaining “extremely flexible and adaptable.”

With nearly a decade in the biz and over 400 scene credits to her name, Kay has come a long way. “I love how much I grew through the years and various experiences since I got in the industry,” she reflected. “It gives me personal satisfaction and professional satisfaction at the same time. It’s all about knowing how to use what you’re working with.”

And now, having rocked scenes in front of the camera and behind it for Harmony Films, she has seen firsthand “how the synergy between a model and a major brand can — and does — work wonders for both sides of the partnership!”

As a result, she expressed, “I’m extremely grateful to Harmony Films — the longest established British adult movie brand — for recognizing my abilities and for encouraging me to bring a more personal, female input behind the camera, which seems to be working just great!” Now in her second year following a directorial career track, she is “enjoying my role to the maximum.”

“When my creativity is being fulfilled by other humans, embodying characters and situations that only moments before were just ideas in my head, I get as much satisfaction as if I was in front of the camera. People are living your visions — what’s more amazing than that?”

With this newfound perspective, Kay has gleaned a deeper understanding of the evolving business model from both sides of the equation that companies and talent contend with. “I see it as working as a team; we create a product with the talent and crew together,” she said. “We share aspects of the project that I am in charge of, and we make it together. There are no ‘orders.’ Nobody is being bossed around.”

This effort to cultivate a collaborative spirit on set has proven fruitful, in many ways due to the fact that talent have a very intimate understanding of their fans that no amount of data harvesting and formulas can address.

“I think when someone is in touch with the fan base daily, knows the consumers’ needs and the company’s business-selling model — as well as bringing the extra value of providing a female vision to a historically male industry (at least behind the scenes), we can create a product enjoyable for a large variety of viewers,” she summed.

“The synergy works both ways: talent give their input in performing and get exposure from publicity by more high-profile platforms, where they themselves increase in popularity,” Kay added. “Then, they can use that increased stardom in the smaller platforms for indie content, so they can generate more income from that exposure.”

This symbiotic traffic loop is an astute observation on the part of Kay, given how many stars attribute boosts to their indie streaming and clips to the success of higher-profile studio shoots, and vice versa, bringing their ROI-rich fame to bear on paysite sub numbers.

“Companies appreciate booking active, in-demand talent, so they can keep this circle of prosperity going,” she elaborated. “I’m familiar with platforms, where models can upload their content and with studios — and I have noticed companies on both sides of this business seem eager to work with those of us who bring along a sizable fan base. So yes, performers have gained a lot of independent power by being in charge of their brand themselves and not being too reliant on companies in recent years. This is undoubtedly a very positive change.

“All in all, the confidence this builds is fantastically motivating,” Kay continued. “That’s why I always try to bring raw freedom to each of my scenes! I’m in a fantastic position at the moment, which allows me to adjust my lifestyle even quicker. I think and I hope we will see more successful collaborations between talent and companies in the future coming, or even groups of the same creative-minded talents collaborating on a bigger scale. When that happens, the line between indie and studio will be further blurred, and the winners will be those who have already learned to play nice with the others, on both sides of the equation.”

Tim Valenti: President of Falcon Studios/Nakedsword

That blurring of lines between old guard studio titans and scrappy independent production, has also impacted the gay market, where Falcon/Nakedsword President Tim Valenti shared, “The age of the internet, especially social media, has changed the adult entertainment industry. Performers are no longer inaccessible deities only seen on membership sites, on DVD or at the occasional industry event. Today, fans can visit any given number of platforms and interact in real-time with their favorite stars.

For that reason, Valenti has spearheaded an effort to foster bonds with the brand’s best and brightest performers. “Falcon/NakedSword has been actively taking the necessary steps to build stronger relationships with our exclusives and popular performers to help them achieve goals, build revenue through their platforms, gather bookings for appearances and help them think outside the box with future plans to help them succeed,” he explained.

This approach is not necessarily an entirely new initiative, given the many contract stars who have repped the brand over the years.

“Falcon/NakedSword has a history of partnering with former and exclusive performers to build their business,” Valenti said. “Steve Cruz, a former Raging Stallion exclusive, went from performer to director nearly 10 years ago and has been delivering top-quality, award-winning content for the company ever since. Adult superstar Trenton Ducati, who has appeared in scores of Falcon and NakedSword features, is now the lead director for the company’s Hot House Video line, while simultaneously developing his own studios with multiple brands.”

As for Ducati, who has been in the industry for around 10 years and starred in more than 300 scenes, with several dozen directing credits to boot, he is thriving more than ever.

“I’m so appreciative of Falcon/NakedSword for the opportunities they have provided me as a former performer,” he said. “From my career as a director and fostering that, to even distributing my independently produced products and brands through wholesale, there aren’t many studios out there that develop these kinds of relationships with models and build a family with their former performers and current exclusives. I couldn’t be more grateful that they welcomed me in to be a part of that.”

Major League Contract Stars

Contract stars in the industry are not a recent phenomenon, as several of the talent-turned-directors have noted. In fact, they are as much a staple of the traditional system as many of the agencies are.

Yet, the ones who have continued thriving to this day, like Wicked Pictures’ very own Jessica Drake, and the ones who are skyrocketing fast like Deeper’s Maitland Ward, are very rare.

Because, to make exclusivity function in this more-options-than-ever market, there needs to be unwavering support from the brand, a very mutually beneficial arrangement that does not overly restrict the star, yet enough of a sharply defined brand affiliation to stand out, as well as a carefully curated blend of unvarnished personality with coordinated publicity campaigns.

Maitland Ward: XBIZ Best Actress, Contract Star for Vixen Media Group

One of the most talked about contract stars today, who recently extended her two-year relationship with the Vixen Media Group, is Ward. Curiously, she came into the industry as a mainstream outsider of sorts, given her “Boy Meets World” fame and already established indie adult content success. Nonetheless, she quickly made a splash and cemented her presence as a powerful force to be reckoned with, not only because of her class, smarts and acting chops, but also because of her undeniably ravenous following.

“I started making my own content over a year before I did a professional scene,” Ward said. “It started out with me just doing sexy cosplay and solo stuff, but then it eventually led to more. This was my personal journey I was taking, on my path to discover who I was as a performer and what I wanted to do with that. I came into porn already financially successful from my content and personal branding, so it wasn’t about money at all.”

That financial leverage afforded her a high degree of selectivity when it came to what brands she was interested in associating with and what appetite she had for the kinds of shoots she was open to exploring. In fact, her main motivation for entering the studio-shot side of the business was to tap into the well-oiled machinery of a larger production operation.

“I started to have a bigger vision for the kind of stuff I wanted to make — story-driven content, with lots of acting, mixed with hot sex,” she said. “But I knew that it would be hard all on my own to produce the kinds of scripts and products I wanted to. When Vixen approached me about doing a scene for Blacked, I was immediately excited for the possibility. I was always a fan because their product is always top of the line and visually stunning. I had scene clips and highlights online, and knew this where it was going to happen if I decided to make that leap. But I had no clue that it would lead me to the dream scenario I am living today. Looking back now, it’s hard to imagine I could accomplish so much in a span of six months.”

That fateful scene for Blacked lit a spark that bloomed into a veritable conflagration, given how much the fans flocked to her.

“When it premiered, all I wanted was for the fans to enjoy it,” she remembered. “But after it dropped, all that was coming back was how well it was doing and how many people logged on to see it right away. I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to work more with Vixen. But I didn’t expect that I would so quickly meet Kayden Kross and be working for Deeper on their first big feature, ‘Drive.’”

The sheer speed with which one thing led to another, was such that “literally two days after it dropped, Kayden and I were face to face going over her script.” As soon as she read the script and met Kross, Ward “was blown away” because it was “the kind of filmmaking I had been dreaming about.” At long last, this was “the kind of script I had been waiting for and wanting to sink my teeth into.”

After the success of “Drive,” Ward was so delighted and eager to explore the many possibilities “there could be as the sole contracted face of Deeper.” Even though she had many offers coming in daily, it made “perfect sense for Kayden I to stay together and keep pushing all the boundaries in front of us.”

“For me, having a loyal and devoted fan base, and award-winning quality productions, are something that feed off each other,” she stated. “My audience grows with each amazing project Kayden and I make, and in turn, my brand as a whole is elevated.” This pattern of traditional adult content forming a vibrant feedback loop with new media is echoed throughout many of the major league talent thought leaders dominating today’s market.

Taking a more introspective direction, Ward analyzed the different elements of her brand and personality. “In the end, there are two sides to the adult performer ‘Maitland Ward’” she began. “The obvious one is being under a long-term contract with Deeper and Vixen, with the guarantee of story-driven scenes and films that are captured cinematically. And then there is Maitland, the person that was unpredictable and willing to show her fans several sides of her creativity through social media and then a paid platform where her fans could get to know her on daily basis. These two concepts and platforms today are stronger than ever and by no means take away from one another. That’s the power of finding yourself and finding the right dance partner in Kayden and Vixen to make that come true.”

Beyond studio contracts, camming companies like CAM4 are finding success in anointing big stars like Romi Rain, Charlotte Stokely and Jasmine Jae as brand flagbearers in their Ambassador Program that has made major waves this year.

Romi Rain: Performer, Ambassador for CAM4

Rain, who won Female Performer of the Year in 2018 and has starred in hundreds upon hundreds of titles for just about every major director, with a diverse array of roles spanning comedic fantasy ones to hardcore gonzo sex, is loving the new power shift.

“The partnership dynamic in the company/performer world has gotten a little bit more even, as performers have their own built-in loyal followings that can be directed to certain websites or brands,” she said. “Mostly, because of individual social media reach, we are bigger assets now more than ever. If a big company or brand truly supports you and your personal career goals, teaming up can be a great thing for your promotion and growth under terms you have more control over, especially if they allow you the rightful freedoms to still keep creating content of your own.”

Given the reach of talent, the vocal passion of their fans and the tightknit community bond they share amongst themselves on social media and behind-the-scenes, companies have to treat them with greater respect.

This is not just a consequence of the fact that performers are not afraid to express themselves publicly if there is mistreatment afoot, but also because winning over stars requires dedication, consistent good treatment and a vision they can get behind.

“Companies are undeniably scrutinized for their treatment of performers a lot more in recent years,” Rain pointed out “We are more valuable than ever as individuals, so the deals in general have gotten a little better, and you can negotiate more! If there’s not mutual respect, nowadays, it’s easier than ever for a popular performer to stay solo, without an agent and still get work and brand offers. Now, there’s choices and more options all around!”

Nonetheless, once she has identified the brands that are kind to her, Rain is happy to sing their praises to mutual benefit.

“Becoming a brand ambassador for cam company CAM4 also very quickly led to other projects like fun trips to conventions and the opportunity to host a podcast, where I could really share more of myself and my experiences (‘A Mouthful With Laura and Romi’),” she reflected. “I have a legitimate say in all aspects of what I do and because they are appreciative of my time and effort, I can really put my heart and full energy into these projects and never feel personally or financially taken advantage of.

“I’ve honestly never felt so respected or valued as a performer and entertainer for both my work and opinions than in very recent years, or more capable of being a boss!” Rain celebrated.

That boss energy, influencer potency and faithfulness has served Rain well, and as for CAM4, they are quite pleased with the success thus far of their Ambassador Program.

“On our platform, performers have the power,” CAM4 Program Manager of Content Gwen Coleman stated. “Being the stars and directors of their own content has proven to be a major benefit as we shift into an industry where creative freedom is increasingly desired. Adult stars no longer have to rely on porn studios to produce highly engaging content for their fans.”

Because of these tuned-in fans, streaming services such as CAM4 are distinct from both studio-shot porn and indie clips, as consumers can literally experience their favorite stars live online. Through public and private shows, they can communicate and enjoy the presence of once untouchable major league talent, frequenting their chat rooms to talk about their daily lives, banter with other regulars in the room and, of course, derive sexual fulfillment.

“We’re proud that our Ambassador Program is growing and attracting top talent within the industry,” Coleman pointed out. “We now have four ambassadors who regularly perform exciting and exclusive shows on our platform. We’re giving them the opportunity to connect with their fans on a deeper level through live and unscripted broadcasts.”

The star-studded CAM4 roster, in addition to Rain, also includes twice-crowned XBIZ Girl/Girl Performer of the Year Charlotte Stokely, award-winning British star Jasmine Jae and ultra-hunky Max Konnor.

“Beyond that, our ambassadors will be attending events with us throughout the year so they can meet their fans in person,” Coleman said. “Fans want to feel connected, and that’s what our platform is about — connection.”

Jessica Drake: Contract Star and Director for Wicked Pictures

Realness, heartfelt passion and major charisma are not merely relegated to the streaming and indie sectors, especially with long-running brands like Wicked Pictures and their leading lady, Jessica Drake.

“I come from a very unique perspective,” Drake said. “I’ve been exclusive with Wicked since 2004. Initially, I was a performer, but I quickly discovered that the more I was creatively involved with a project, the happier I was. I began writing — first for Brad Armstrong, then myself. I started directing in 2008 and then I continued my career as a certified sex educator and began my series ‘Jessica Drake’s Guide to Wicked Sex’ in 2011.”

An XBIZ Award-winning tour-de-force with an abundance of beloved projects that include sexpert-leaning fare like her “Guide to Wicked Sex” series and feature movie masterpieces such as “Fallen,” Drake has also developed a reputation as a progressive spirit with a positive impact on her peers. And at her side, Wicked Pictures has been steadfast.

“When I wanted to begin performing with trans performers four to five years ago, before it was widely ‘acceptable,’ Wicked was supportive,” she said. “And please allow me to be clear, when I say it should always be acceptable. I am currently producing and directing ‘Jessica’s FANtasies,’ an exclusive online monthly docu-sodic that I created, and I am continuously imagining new ideas for Wicked.com.”

As for why she has remained with her chosen brand for nearly two decades, Drake attributes the longevity to their unwavering commitment to her in return.

“One of the biggest benefits throughout the years is the feeling of safety and protection,” she said. “In 1999, Steve Orenstein, the owner of Wicked, made the decision to go condom-only to ensure that every performer on set is safe — not just our contract performers. Fast forward to today, where we require every individual who is on set to take a mandatory sexual harassment prevention training program. Everyone must also sign a code of conduct when they come to set. We treat people ethically, so I feel valued as a person, not just as a commodity.”

It is that sense of principled decision-making that sometimes defied the industry standard, which has allowed both Drake and Wicked to go the distance.

“Aligning myself with a company whose core values and beliefs mirror my own has afforded me a level of fame and success that may have been unreachable on my own or with another company,” she commented. “Although I acknowledge the hard work and sacrifices I’ve made along the way, especially in the beginning of my career, it’s such a team effort. My appearance, my ability to be a brand ambassador, my skill, our directors, our other contract talent, Daniel [Metcalf] and our PR team — everyone in the office, from sales to our warehouse employees, to Gamma, our online partners … we are all the ingredients. Wicked is the kitchen where everything comes together.

“And because of my contract, I have done massive movies and mainstream projects, won awards, achieved recognition in ways I never imagined, hosted T.V. shows, had my own Sirius XM show, became a Fleshlight Girl, got a toy line, a Wicked Realdoll and hosted fan conventions all across the globe,” Drake continued. “I am forever grateful to Steve and everyone at Wicked for all the continued support and encouragement, and I recognize I am truly lucky.”

Of particular amusement to her, given her decades-long perspective, is how the idea of a contract star has gone from popular, to “outdated,” to now popular all over again.

“It has been very interesting to see in the past five years, people said that due to changes in the industry, the ‘contract performer’ model was obsolete,” Drake remarked. “And now, these same people/companies are beginning to copy that. Some companies are even trying to capitalize on the fan base, brand and recognition that independent performers have made on their own.”

This return to partnerships is as much a matter of immediate traffic-rich profit, as it is a testament to consumers’ desire for relatable brands. Half of the tube site social media accounts, for example, are visibly tied to a female brand, to make them more appealing. Contract stardom, to Drake, offers much the same advantage for companies tapping into stars.

“It also speaks very clearly to needing to humanize your corporation,” she said. “Put faces on it. Be relatable. It feels as if, perhaps, the focus is once again on elevating and valuing performers, and that’s how it should be. Because, let’s face it — we are the heart of this industry, and fans want connection.”

And besides her husband, Wicked Pictures director Brad Armstrong — himself a performer-turned-director who still stars in scenes for brands — Drake has been supported by loyal publicist Daniel Metcalf, who Orenstein trusts to get the message out about the latest and greatest cinematic creations.

“While any studio can create consumer impressions with logos, symbols and distinct color palettes, the most valuable lesson I have learned in my 20-year association with Wicked is that a brand’s success is determined more by the relationships, memories and chords you strike with audiences — your ability to stir their feelings and emotions,” Metcalf shared. “Steve Orenstein has taught us by example that if people see their values reflected in a company, they will lift that brand up and support it. Ideally, a brand ambassador is a portal to your true work. This is a calling enacted by Jessica Drake every day.

“She’s here to create things and bring them to market in a manner that helps others,” he elaborated. “In ongoing projects like ‘Jessica Drake’s Guide to Wicked Sex’ and, now, her web-only series ‘Jessica’s FANtasies,’ you can she has set up her life and work in a way that attracts people to the values which define the Wicked brand. Our culture is our brand, and for that, I give all credit to Steve, Jessica, Brad Armstrong, Axel Braun and all our independent filmmakers, performers and crews, and just as importantly, our staff, partners, customers and audiences around the world. All of these people have valuable roles to play in Wicked’s ability to promote its distinctive values and mission.”

Culture, indeed, is very much the soul of a brand, as Metcalf so aptly put it. And in the gay market, few can claim so positive a culture as Tim Valenti of Falcon Studios and NakedSword. Like Wicked Pictures, they too have lasted decades and continue to lead the charge into the future.

“It is a very exciting time for the company, as NakedSword celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and Falcon turns 50 in 2021,” Valenti declared. “Our stable of exclusive models is one of the strongest in our decades-long history. We are thrilled to roll out new ways for our performers to create content, help them promote it to build their brands and develop individual plans based on their goals and desires for the future.

Wesley Woods: Brand and Model Development for Falcon Studios Group

“To help us evolve with current trends and build those relationships, we’ve recently hired former adult star Wesley Woods to head the company’s brand and model development,” he revealed. “Calling on his experience building his own brand to create a business out of being an award-winning, popular performer, Wesley is helping Falcon/NakedSword take its brands and models to the next level. He’s flourishing in his new position, bringing new ideas to the table and working with performers to expand their audiences.”

The affable and dashing Woods, at ease in both the studio realm with more than 200 scene credits and in the independent content market — having won several awards over the years, including 2019 XBIZ Male Clip Artist of the Year — is primed to bring Valenti’s vision to fruition.

“As a former performer, I worked very hard at building a brand with my persona that would allow myself freedom to say, do and live as I please,” Woods said. “Since working with Falcon/NakedSword, I have found that’s exactly what the company was looking for — ways to think differently about how we approach content, our models and our engagement, altogether. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and I take great pride in it as a former performer.

“I know what it’s like to be a performer; I’ve done it … the hard work, dedication and time that goes into all of it,” he explained. “Because of this, it helps me have a good understanding of what the models may be experiencing, what is needed from us to help them and ways they can help us. I truly believe that having that experience will help me connect with performers in a different way and get what’s needed to propel each performer and the company forward in our own ways and together that feels on brand for both parties.”

This deep understanding only talent possess, be they active or retired from studio shoots, gives them a window into the hopes and experiences their peers are going through, rendering the very best recruiters for a brand. They can engender tremendous trust and have substantial reach, both within the community and among the fans.

That is why Toby J. Morris, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Falcon/NakedSword, expressed, “We are always looking to innovate and for ways to partner with others in the industry, such as former performers and our exclusive models. Now, more than ever, we have to be flexible, open to new ideas and have the ability to adjust to circumstances beyond our control. We feel this is the only way to grow our business and remain at the forefront for many years to come.”

Major League Independent Stars

As should be clear by now, independent streaming and content platforms have changed the business on every level, from studios turning to more authenticity-themed or performer-centric productions, to brands capitalizing on those fans willing to pay for their porn due to intimate worship of their favorite stars.

And one of the biggest premium social media platforms who helped trigger the explicit Snapchat content revolution while continuing to attract many of the most famous superstars, is FanCentro.

Kat Revenga, Vice President of Marketing for the company, said, “FanCentro has had great success partnering with big-name influencers for mutual benefit — so much so, that we’ve expanded our efforts into a brand ambassador program. This program has allowed us to diversify the face of the platform and branch out to reach more influencers and more fans. Our program now includes a brand representative for several sub-genres represented on FanCentro, such as BBW models and couples who create content together. We’re extremely proud of the level of diversity on FanCentro, and we try to give each area of interest its own face.”

Her recognition of the value in not only having ambassadors, but also selecting genre-specific ones to better attract stars that find them relatable, is shrewd.

And, who better to educate, empower and uplift other similar stars than those who have navigated the unique challenges of, say, filming couples content or mastering the particulars of what BBW fans adore?

“We are a very influencer-led business, with influencers at the very heart of everything we do,” Revenga underscored. “At the moment, one of our brand ambassadors, MelRose, is spearheading a coronavirus campaign to help performers in the adult industry continue to earn, despite restrictions. Because she is in the industry, she’s able to successfully relate and speak to other adult performers in the most helpful way possible. This approach has been tremendously effective and we’re working to evolve it further.”

In addition to its digital media strength, FanCentro knows the value of live events in fostering community. “House of FanCentro (HoFC) is another, newer program we’ve put into action,” she explained. “These events occur several times a year, each at a different location. HoFC is an opportunity for influencers to partner with brands that are interested in influencer marketing. At the same time, having many influencers together in one location allows them the opportunity to meet others and shoot together, as well as attend the educational seminars we provide on-site. By taking HoFC all over the world, we are able to give as many models as possible the opportunity to participate.”

Ultimately, Revenga foresees the synergy between major brands and top stars as an evolving one that can really turbocharge each entity’s profitable trajectory.

“Platforms need powerful influencers and those influencers need a platform that is strong enough to support them,” she concluded. “While the concepts of brand ambassadors and influencer marketing are not new, they are still extremely powerful opportunities for mutual benefit.”

Dani Daniels: Fancentro Influencer, Entrepreneur and former Performer

Among the most popular FanCentro personalities is 2016 XBIZ Female Performer of the Year Dani Daniels, who may no longer perform in traditional studio-shot scenes but has been extremely successful in leveraging her fame not only for premium social media platforms, but also for mainstream endeavors.

“Porn stars can maximize their fan base like never before,” she said. “As an independent content creator, I am using my premium Snapchat, my OnlyFans and my website to provide content directly to my fans and drive them to the content with my social media. This is influencer marketing. Porn stars have a lot of influence on social media; many have millions of followers all over the world. Across all platforms, I currently have about 4.5 million followers and many other stars have more than that. Companies that team up with us will see a benefit from their following.”

Despite her built-in fandom and vibrant revenue streams, Daniels continues to try her very best to satisfy her followers and the companies she works with, lest she take anything for granted.

“I am so thankful for my fan base; they have stuck with me as I went off on my own,” she expressed. “I try to create content that I enjoy and my fans like to see me genuinely having fun! I also create free content like podcasts and funny TikTok videos, to keep them engaged. I love interacting with my fans. After all, they are the whole reason my brand exists.

“Companies like Brazzers are working with their stars to maximize their following,” she noted. “Just check out their TikTok to see how effective it can be. It isn’t just for porn; mainstream brands are now starting to realize the power of a porn star’s following. Working with Evil Genius Influencers, I have promoted a cigar brand, soap company, liquor companies and my own mainstream products on my social media with great success. I was able to launch ‘Dinner with Dani,’ an Amazon Prime TV show, my own line of clothing at ShopDDbox.com and DaniDanielsCoffee.com, only using my fan base. They say sex sells; who’s better to sell, than the world’s most prominent sex workers?”

Vanessa Eve: Streamate Director of Talent Recruiting

On the camming side of the fence, Vanessa Eve, Streamate Director of Talent Recruiting, has watched closely as the competition pivots to official brand ambassadors. And while Streamate takes a subtler approach, making exclusive deals in a more lowkey manner with heavyweights like Ella Silver, or supporting top earners like 12-year porn veteran and XBIZ Award-winning Natasha Nice, Eve recognizes that top talent should always be courted and treated well.

“I’ve definitely noticed the trend in such partnerships and it’s pretty awesome to see!” Eve enthused. “The companies benefit from talent collaborations through added visibility, exposure to talent who otherwise may not have considered their platform, but most importantly, sending a message about their brand and its unique culture. In the cam world especially, culture and community are everything.”

She notes that the influencers who endorse these companies “are elevated by the opportunity to showcase their personality to a wide and diverse audience,” while the partnership itself can act “as a show of goodwill between different segments of our industry and is an affirmation of the value that one sees in the other.”

Given her background as a talent recruiter for a major cam network, she considers it important to “not only consider our message with these collaborations, but also what matters most to performers, and how I could effectively find a connection between the network and talent community.”

To that end, she illumined, “Where I’ve found the most value is storytelling — interviews that share the unique journeys and perspectives of individuals in our industry. Whether the conversation was with an amateur or adult icon, these opportunities have enlightened me beyond the mechanics of our platform; they’ve allowed me to hold a clearer understanding of the vulnerability that is entailed when one chooses the route of sex work, the effort required to make camming a sustainable form of income and how this deeply personal decision has the ability to affect people’s lives in both positive and adverse ways.”

This thoughtful strategy, to not just call attention to the talent and their associated brand, but to dig deep for a more holistic understanding of their innermost feelings and thoughts, shows a very human approach to long-term relationship-building.

“Through these collaborations, I have the ability to support Streamate in its efforts to celebrate diversity, support our talent community by sharing stories that others can connect and identify with, and for those outside of our industry, humanize sex workers and hopefully, remove social stigmas through empathy and understanding,” she reinforced.

Natasha Nice: Performer, Cam Model and Doc Johnson Exclusive

And one of the biggest cam models on their platform is Natasha Nice, whose super engaged Twitter following, multi-faceted stardom encompassing major studio shoots and OnlyFans, as well as her vibrant Cuban and French personality, helped her land XBIZ Web Star of the Year in 2019. Recently, she was interviewed in-depth by Eve at her home in the Bay Area, as part of Streamate’s effort to spotlight its big stars in an intimate way.

“As a cam model and clip artist, I have many options when choosing how to cater to my fans, thanks to the multiple platforms available and the features they provide,” Nice said. “With sites like Streamate and OnlyFans, I get to interact directly with my fans and find out exactly what attracts them to me. This intimacy lets me tailor my content and performances to their desires and grow my fan base, while promoting the companies responsible for it all.

“Alongside these great sites, I’ve also been able to build a loyal fan base with my recently released Doc Johnson Main Squeeze mold,” she continued. “Throughout the year, I get to partner up with Doc Johnson to promote the company with toy giveaways, during which a number of lucky fans can enter to win a free Natasha Nice Main Squeeze. All they have to do is reply to the social media post and follow both Doc Johnson and me on Instagram and Twitter for a chance to win. In this way, Doc Johnson and I mutually benefit by selling molds together and by sharing social media power.”

This symbiotic relationship between porn stars and sex toys is one that reflects the very same dynamic in the digital media sphere, with branded marketing, a cut of the sales and fan engagement all in play, when such deals are struck.

“When it comes to performing and content creation, if it wasn’t for sites like Streamate and OnlyFans, it would be entirely up to me to get my products into the hands of my fans,” Nice observed. “But by teaming up with these major brands, we help each other by sharing fans, traffic and sales. I use my social media following to promote these amazing companies daily; this team effort is a mutually beneficial relationship that simultaneously inspires market trends while allowing each individual content creator and performer to find his/her own unique style/niche.”

Then, she unveiled a new Streamate feature that she is currently testing out, the Fan Club, which “will let me offer discounts to my regular viewers for a flat membership fee” and help her “build stronger connections with my regulars as well as allow me to spend more time in private.”

Nice also pointed out that, “Recently, OnlyFans has also come out with a new ‘Fundraiser’ feature that lets models raise tips for any particular reason or occasion. I choose to use this feature in exchange for special content and I thank each one of my members every time they contribute, further improving our intimacy and ensuring continued membership on the site.

Another camming brand that is no stranger to leveraging XBIZ Award-winning major league talent, is Cams.com. With veteran influencers like Alana Evans a performer and President of the Adult Performers Actors Guild (APAG) and Ella Hughes, an XBIZ Award-winning European superstar, they are attracting talent from the highest of highs to the newest of newcomers to their platform.

Gunner Taylor, Director of Strategic Development for Cams.com, said, “Being able to create mutually beneficial relationships is one of our core business values on Cams.com. We are very fortunate to have so many amazing models and studios working with us, and our level of support to them that is what separates us from the competition. Developing innovative ways we can team up with talent has become a top priority.

“Whether it’s our special ‘Cams Exclusive’ shows, appearances at conventions or content creation, we understand how important and powerful it can be to collaborate and combine resources with talent,” he explained. “We have a dedicated and experienced team that works on exploring and developing every possible opportunity for synergy to help models/studios grow what matters most: revenue.”

Ella Hughes: XBIZ Award-Winning Star, Fleshlight Girl and Cams.com Exclusive

Chiming in about her experiences not only with Cams.com, but also her storied career, Ella Hughes noted how the advent of the indie content platforms offer “a barrage of new ways for 21st century sex workers to earn cash from their own homes.”

“Being a successful adult performer is now all down to how a performer interacts with their fan base — captivating those who adore them, earning their support and most importantly, their money!” she enthused. “If you haven’t got a loyal fan base who want to actively buy what you are offering, you probably aren’t going to be as successful as those who do! In my opinion, personality goes a very long way. Show your fans who you are inside, your quirks, how amazing you are and how different you are from the crowd.”

A distinct vibe, coupled with attentiveness to fans, be they loyal ones or passersby scrolling their timeline, has served Hughes well in amassing a huge social media presence with loads of traffic lavishing praise on her radiant content.

“Your fan base is what will keep you going; they will request you for more scenes with the big companies,” she enlightened. “The more that ask for you, the more times you will be booked and become one of the top sellers. They will follow you to whichever platform you decide to use and sell content on; ultimately, it’s the performers themselves who now pull the strings. Companies need the models to bring the consumers to them, as your fans will stick around and purchase the most, compared to those who are just browsing and don’t really favor one girl or guy in particular.”

Having reached such heights in just five years, the British porn star has solidified her stardom and starred in so many top-of-the-line scenes, that she won the 2019 XBIZ Award for Foreign Female Performer of the Year, as well as the XBIZ Europa Awards for Best Actress and International Crossover Star last year. When the call for votes rang out, both in the industry and among the fans, the response was staggering.

“I am incredibly lucky to have such amazing, kind and supportive fans,” she said. “I am always told how active they are when it comes to requesting me, asking for new content and release days and asking companies such as Fleshlight to collaborate with me — thanks to them, the dream of having one has come true.”

Like Doc Johnson, Fleshlight has found a winning formula in having major league talent molded for those truly ardent fans wanting to get up close and personal.

“I am now also officially contracted to Cams.com as an exclusive cam girl (thank you Cams for being amazing!) which I am so excited about, because then I can interact with my fans on an even more personal level,” she expressed. “It’s hard to know what content platform to use as a host; it’s easy to get wrapped up in one that either doesn’t have performers’ best interests at heart or that doesn’t have the right backing to stick around long-term. It’s important to research each company and decide for yourself based on best reviews and client satisfaction.

“Making money and awesome content can be incredibly easy given the correct information — don’t forget to ask around!” Hughes advised. “Your peers are the best judges and would be more than happy to help you.”

And for industry activist Alana Evans, a porn star, gamer and cam model who has been in the biz for nearly a quarter century, she has a very far-ranging point of view that has seen all kinds of trends, players and companies come and go.

“When you see platforms constantly trying to court performers at events like XBIZ, asking us to partner up with them, it’s a clear sign that things have changed from my earliest days in the industry,” she observed. “Back in the day, the industry was controlled by everyone but the performer. We often took jobs because it was what others thought was best for our career. Our input was rarely asked for, and, if it was, it was not often central to their decision-making process.

“All of that is totally different now,” she celebrated. “Companies have to respect their performers in a way they didn’t feel they had to. People coming into the business now start from a much more solid bargaining position, especially if they are smart and know how to flex their main asset: their loyal fan base. This is all very empowering for the performers.”

From those darker days in the last 90s and early 00s, when the production side was a much pricklier landscape to thrive in, to the bright future ahead for indie creators and much better-respected studio-shot talent, Evans sees the dawning of a new Golden Age centered on talent.

“We now come with our own self-built ‘clout,’” she said. “Content, as everyone has been saying for years now, is King (or, in the case of female performers like myself, queen)! The biggest thing about performers being able to make their own content is the ability to set their own consent limits. No one can make them do anything they don’t want to when they’re in complete control of what they’re doing on set, or in their cam rooms.”

Taking in the big picture, Evans is happier than ever. “I think that is really the beauty of it: You get the most passion from a performer when they’re comfortable in their own element,” she illumined. “The creative freedom of having the reins of production in our hands also gives us the power to set our own limitations, and achieve goals that make sense for our own abilities and personal strengths. Control, enthusiasm and confidence are three things I firmly believe that creating our own content gives us the ability to showcase.”