How Much Does A Bondage Producer Earn?

My lovely wife Joceline (whose screen alter-egos Ariel Anderssen and Amelia-Jane Rutherford you will likely know) just posted a video on her YouTube channel about how much an Internet model earns. Oh my god, this is SO un-British. That probably seems strange to Americans and maybe people from other cultures, but in the UK it is a really taboo thing to talk about. Doing so was really brave.

You can see her film here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aY74D89eIs0

Between us, Joceline and I have evolved a policy of being more and more open and transparent. It’s really important to us. So I thought it would be cowardly of me not to match her in transgressing this British taboo. I’m still too cowardly to vlog about it, of course, so here’s a long essay!

I’ve spoken about website economics in the past in general order-of-magnitude terms. But what can you actually make as a bondage producer?

Well, unlike modelling, income is limited by sales rather than the number of billable hours you can charge to clients for standing in front of the camera. As a result, I suspect that there’s a much wider range of incomes possible for being a bondage producer. Clearly, Kink.com have a much higher turnover than RestrainedElegance.com does. But here’s how the numbers stack up for me.

This is based on my last tax year for which I have accounts; the next year is due to be sent off to the accountant this week but I don’t have proper figures yet.

If you follow producers on twitter it is probably no secret that sales have declined across the industry since then; we’re all hoping it turns around.

My total sales were around £120,000 AFTER deductions from billing partners (who typically take between 15% and 50% of the sales figure customers actually pay to download the content). So I’m only counting the money that actually got paid to me, not what was paid out by you kind folks.

Wow! I must be super-rich, right? Sadly as a producer most of that goes straight out again. There are a lot more overheads than in being a model. So my profit margin was almost exactly 20%. My actual profit, the money I have to live on, was £25k.

Of those sales, the lion’s share was Restrained Elegance membership, maybe 70%. 20% comes from cart sales including Elegance Studios, Clips4Sale and the rest, and the remaining 10% comes from custom video commissions and external jobs. SilkSoles sales are modest, we do that mostly for love. These numbers have been broadly consistent over the last few years.

Of the expenses, by far the biggest was models (and a few other employee costs for friends who help with some admin jobs like web programming and doing data entry on shopping carts for me). That came to £30,000 or a cool 25% of turnover. (This money has to be spent up front, months or even years before the sales from a given shoot might pay off, by the way. So I’ve got money invested in material I’ve shot but haven’t sold yet.)

Website hosting and fees, location hire, repairs and renewals of broken or worn-out kit, insurance, licence fees (for music for the videos), professional fees like accountancy, purchase of props, costumes, bondage gear, and general expenses like electricity and heating etc. make up the bulk of the rest.

This is a little disingenuous, because I also invested £20k that year in the Sony A7RII and lenses, plus a replacement for the ten-year-old video tripod which was no longer really safely holding up the RED on shoot days. I did have some choice about investing that money or not, so I could have had a bigger profit if I’d not done that. This is always the way with investment for the future though- jam today, or choose to sink the cash back into the business for the longer term?

How much worse have sales got since then? Quite a lot worse. I’m going to be lucky to hit £100k turnover this year, even with some big customs and more external jobs. As you can see, when your profit margin is only £25k, losing £20k turnover is a big deal. Annoyingly, few of the expenses scale down with lower sales, at least the way the business is currently structured.

For now, I’ve compensated by buying less kit (anticipating this might happen is partially why I did the two big-ticket purchases in that previous tax year). I’ve brought a few more jobs in-house. We’ve reduced the shooting schedule a bit because we’d got to the silly point of having more than two years of content on disk- which makes no sense when sales may decline further if the economy tanks some more, the pressure from piracy and the looming threat of increasing government censorship.

So we’re striking a balance between shooting fantastic new stuff with hot new models, getting through the content we’ve already shot a bit more, and finding more shoots via customs. I know a lot of producers have switched over to customs funding 100% of production- I don’t want to do that even though it would probably be better business. I hope it isn’t pretentious to claim to be an artist and the commissions are fun, but if I didn’t get to shoot any of my own ideas I don’t know that I’d be able to carry on long-term.

I’ve been in the business for nearly 17 years now, we have good brand recognition I think, and a fantastic audience of regular customers. I’m lucky enough to be able to do this full-time, and I know not all producers can do that. I don’t know how this compares to other producers right now. I get the feeling I’m probably losing out by not pursuing customs more assiduously – but in return I get to shoot more stuff from my heart, which is REALLY REALLY important to me. It’s why I took this up as a full-time job in the first place 🙂

I get the impression that producers concentrating on mass video production are doing best right now- the guys and girls posting daily new videos to Clips4Sale funded via customs. I could do more of that if I pulled back on how many stills sets I shoot. I love stills best, though.

So unlike Joceline, I don’t have any real notion of where we sit in terms of how much it is possible to make as a bondage producer so I can’t give you a broader perspective. I hope it’s been interesting, and I hope you don’t hate me (seriously. I had shivers writing this post. It is SO Un-British to be open about this stuff. But. Transparency. Bravery.)

Urgggh. Please don’t hate me.

Hywel

What To Do If Your Account Is Blocked

Hi All,

I’m back from my sort-of vacation and catching up. I noticed a couple of accounts blocked by the automated security scripts while I was away. These scripts look for unusual patterns of activity in accounts, like logins from many different countries in a short space of time, or lots of failed login attempts. To be on the safe side, if they spot something, they block the account so you can’t log in to the members’ area. Rather than remove the block, if it proves to be a false alarm (which it almost always does) I can issue you new login details with a new username and password- better security practice than just resetting.

A couple of my emails to people notifying them of this have bounced, so if you’re getting the blocked message when you try to log in, please email me.

Cheers, Hywel

New Shopping Cart

Hi Everyone

Today we’re introducing a new shopping cart system (the same system as EleganceStudios.com uses) for people who prefer to purchase sets individually rather than get them all with a Restrained Elegance membership. We’re keeping the old cart system for old sets in parallel. (With 5000 sets on there it’s too big a task to port it all across in the absence of an automatic data transfer system).

It’ll now be possible to purchase a set individually on release day, rather than waiting anything up to a couple of years for it to appear on the old system.

The new cart is a more modern system which is a lot easier for us to maintain. It also allows us to include the full-sized JPEGs for each set as well as standard size for the first time. Both are included when you purchase and download a set. (The full sized versions are in the “full” subdirectory, naturally enough).

Videos are in full HD MP4.

I know many people prefer to buy individual photosets and videos than get a subscription.

We’ve been trying for ages to catch up with posting sets on the old cart system (Classic Restrained Elegance).

That system is old, but flexible… the downside is that the data entry takes a long time. I’ve been paying a friend, Stefan, to add stuff to the cart for me for at least the past decade. Bless him, he’s religiously managed to find half an hour or so almost every week for TEN YEARS to do just that, but catching up just doesn’t seem feasible. At least not without me spending literally weeks of Hywel time to do it, which given I have to shoot and edit new stuff isn’t feasible either.

Although the new cart isn’t as flexible, it *is* a lot faster to do the data entry. We can only have one pic to illustrate each set on the cart product page but that’s OK, I’ll live with that.

I’d have done this a couple of years ago except that I was hoping for a possible automated way to transmit data from our content management system direct to the shopping cart – meaning only one lot of boring data entry for both cart and membership site. I’ve just bitten the bullet and done the data entry by hand for a couple of months of updates. It wasn’t too bad- much quicker than the old cart.

So from now on you’ll be able to purchase photosets and clips from the shopping cart on release day.

Follow the updates here: http://www.restrainedelegance.com/whatsnew.php and you can see a “Buy This Set” button for each update.

I’ve gone back as far as April for new sets. I’ll be adding new sets to the cart as I update the main website, and I’ll work my way backwards until I catch up with Stefan posting older sets to the archives and the old cart system working forwards.

The latest content will go to the new cart. Old stuff stays on the old cart. There’s a few gaps especially in the archives; I’ll fill those in as soon as I can.

I’ve put links on the preview tour What’s New page to the cart entries for archive stuff as well. All 5000 old sets will eventually get linked that way- I’ll add the link to each set as sets come up in the members’ archive. There will be gaps sometimes in the archive links where sets were uploaded in multiple parts originally or where formats don’t play well with the cart systems.

I hope this will be much more convenient for those of you who want to purchase sets individually. The new cart should all be up and running and working- it is the same cart Elegance Studios uses- but if you do find any oddities or spot incorrect links etc. please let me know. Having two carts is not ideal but it seemed like the most sensible solution.

Cheers!

Hywel

Shackled Maidens

Hi All,

Three blog posts in a day is a record.

Unfortunately this one has some sad news. As some of you may know, Matt, the photographer who ran ShackledMaidens.com passed away recently.

I didn’t know Matt well- we did a couple of shoots together in the early days, and he worked with Ariel a few times. We kept in touch second-hand because many of the models who work for us also shot for Shackled Maidens. We were very sad to hear of his passing, his work was lovely and so dramatic.

I’ve just been contacted by his family who are looking to sell the extensive collection of metal bondage gear that formed the core of Matt’s bondage equipment. They said they’d rather deal with it by private sale than have to put everything on eBay and they asked me:

a) Whether I wanted any of it and

b) If I would pass on the word to the UK bondage and photographic community in case anyone else was interested.

Proceeds will go to supporting Matt’s family.

They don’t have an extensive list of the equipment but you can see a lot of it on the site and on the tumblr blog here: http://shackledmaidens-com.tumblr.com.

If anyone is interested, please email me at webmaster@restrainedelegance.com and I will pass your email on to them. I’ve already nabbed the “cage of contemplation” (standing cage) but the rest is available.

Hywel

A few thoughts on Brexit

Hi All,

Sorry for polluting the site with politics, but after a few tweets attracted some “You understand nothing, Jon Snow!” comments I wanted to set out a few thoughts in longer form.

I do not believe that leaving the EU is inherently bad. There are plenty of faults with the EU both in theoretical constitution and in practice. But there’s plenty of good in there too- not least of which is the power it puts in the hands of individual citizens to live, work, love and settle down where they please. If we are going to make a success of Brexit, we should start by acknowledging that. The stuff about a “British bill of rights” and repealing great swathes of health and safety law, turning Britain into a tax haven trouble me greatly. Nonethelss, I think some forms of Brexit could be perfectly workable- Norway and Switzerland are doing OK, despite what looks to me like an overly onerous way of doing things.

So given that I don’t believe Brexit to be inherently bad, why am I so upset about it? It’s because of the way it is being done and, consequently, my fear that the people leading the process do not understand what they are doing. Worse, they are refusing to listen when people who do understand try to explain it to them.

The referendum was appallingly constituted and alarmingly vague. But that should have been OK- it was an advisory vote to a representative Parliament in a democracy. We could have had a debate in Parliament over which bits of the EU we thought, on balance, would be sensible to stick with and which bits were not. White papers could and should have been written examining in detail the consequences of falling out of the EU in a hard Brexit on a two year timescale. What about the customs union? What about the single market? How about considering the ETFA?

Had there been some sort of functioning opposition, I believe they could have required the government to go through that process, in detail and in the open. Theresa May has no personal electoral mandate, not even from her own party. The Conservative manifesto of 2015 has a commitment to remaining within the single market. Even strongly pro-Brexit politicians had said that no-one was talking about threatening our position in the single market. May has a razor-thin majority in a party which has been riven by devastating divisions over Europe for the last 30 years or more. It would not have taken genius to get a few Europhile Tory back benchers on side to ensure that the options for staying in the Single Market, customs union, EFTA and so on were at least debated and studied.

Maybe we’d still have concluded that hard Brexit is the way to go. But at least we’d have considered the options, gathered some data, and made up our minds in an informed manner.

And yet here we are, the day that Article 50 is triggered, about to have our EU citizenship removed from us. And there has been no functional debate over any of this. Two weeks ago, the minister in charge calmly admitted to a select committee that they hadn’t studied in detail what will happen should we fall out of the EU with no deal in two years’ time! Now however unlikely you think that might be, it is the grossest dereliction of duty not to have studied it! If you are entering a negotiation, the first thing you need to do is to know where you stand, and the second thing to know where your counterpart stands. All Europe has to do for the next two years is nothing, and the UK is so comprehensively screwed that international trade will, at least temporarily, grind to a halt. We ought to be hiring tens or hundreds of thousands of people to guard against the possibility that this might happen. The scale of the potential mess is very alarming, and at very least we should understand what it would entail!

Last week, the pro-Brexit MPs “politely” walked out of a select committee detailing the possible consequences because it was too gloomy. These people will soon get a stuff dose of reality when they realise all the EU has to do is nothing for two years and our situation becomes nightmarish. As Michael Hestletine put it last night, we are now entirely at the mercy of the EU dictating to us the terms on which we will be allowed- ALLOWED! to trade with our largest market.

This is down to the failure of Parliamentary scrutiny in general, and Labour’s decision to vote with the government on invoking article 50 in particular. David Cameron is responsible for the incredible lack of detailed preparation and cavalier attitude to the referendum. But Parliament failed to demand a detailed plan and proposals then, and has continued to fail to do so.

I fear that this is going to be a watershed moment for our country, and not in a good way. When we look back on this I think we will ask why Parliament and the Opposition didn’t demand more scrutiny and more discussion of the various options that could have been pursued, but weren’t even considered. Parliament has rolled over and allowed the executive to perform a massive power-grab on the pretext of a slim majority in a badly-constituted vote in which both campaigns demonstrably lied like lizards!

I don’t buy the argument that the Labour party had no choice but to run a three-line-whip in favour of Brexit. That relies on short term polling and people will change their minds when it becomes apparent that we’re making a huge mistake as a country. I think we will remember that Parliament failed to even consider the alternatives to hard Brexit and history will not be kind.

For the record, I am also aware that the SNP are not supporting EU membership out of the purest of europhile motives, and I’m very annoyed that the Lib Dems keep harping on about being the ONLY party to oppose Brexit when they demonstrably are not- even leaving aside the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Sinn Fein, there’s still the Green party who now have more MPs than UKIP. Common courtesy would demand acknowledging them, and common sense would say that a progressive, pro-European alliance opposing Brexit and appealing to the 48% would be a good idea. And one might have hoped that a few more Tory rebels would vote against Article 50 rather than just poor old Ken Clarke. But no, party politics at its usual depressing best prevails on all sides.

I’m not saying it is “all Labour’s fault”. It’s not all anybody’s fault. But even leaving aside that I think the whole hard Brexit route is verging on insanity, I am saying that this has been a complete failure of the proper functioning of the legislature in exercising due diligence over the work of the executive. And you wonder why I’d like to retain my rights and protections against the stumbling incompetence of my own government as an EU citizen?

Here endeth the rant.

Hywel