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

About Hywel

Particle physicist turned fetish photographer, producer and director. I run http://www.restrainedelegance.com and http://www.elegancestudios.com together with my wife, who is variously known as Ariel Anderssen or Amelia Jane Rutherford, depending on whether she's getting tied up or spanked at the time.

7 thoughts on “How Much Does A Bondage Producer Earn?

  1. Hywel,
    Thank you so much for this. I’ve always been curious about businesses like yours and some of the spanking producers. As someone who would like to make a few videos myself I realize that the costs soon mount up, studio hire, models, travel expenses etc.In my case I’d be lucky to recover my costs through sites such as clips4sale. So I have considered getting a custom video made and then seeing if it could be marketed and sold by the producer so that I could recover some of my costs. Would you ever offer two prices for a Custom production i.e. one for a Private viewing and one where you were allowed to put it on your site or offer it for sale to a more suitable site if say it had some spanking in it?

    It’s always handy to have ‘Stock in hand’ but by your own admission your stock is too high so you should be looking to use at least a year of that as soon as possible. One aspect that I’m really curious about is how you calculate how much an individual film makes? it’s easy enough if you are just using a site like clip4sale but how do you do it on a subscription site, can you compare the number of times a film or stills set has been downloaded and work something out on that?

    Once again many thanks to you and Joceline for being brave enough to publish this information.

  2. Hi Robert,

    The costs I quote for custom production on the website are on the assumption that I can sell the resulting product myself afterwards. They cover the costs of production and enough of my time to cover shoot day (essentially making sure they cover their fair share of the year’s overheads).

    Any profit for me in terms of money I can actually choose to buy nice stuff with, as opposed to helping cover the year’s operating costs, comes from being able to sell the product afterwards.

    We’re more than happy to shoot for other producers, we’re done that for several other bondage and spanking producers.

    We have to factor in that we won’t be able to make any return on product sales. That means a significantly higher up-front cost than a regular custom video, since we have to make all the profit we’re ever going to make from the initial shoot costs, rather than by steady sales of the video for hopefully years thereafter. My rule of thumb is to double the price, but it’ll depend on the details.

    If we’re responsible for the pre- and post- production, that can quickly run into days of our time which needs to be accounted for. We have the opportunity cost of not being able to shoot for ourselves on the days we’re sourcing props and booking models and editing videos for other productions to factor in, too.

    For active producers it usually works out better for them to do the pre-production and hire us as crew for shoot day, and possibly pay one of us to edit the product afterwards (depending on a particular producer’s skills and interests). It makes a surprising amount of difference to our stress levels on these days for someone else to be the producer- if something goes wrong or some outfit doesn’t fit or whatever, it is their job to run around and sort it out, not ours. Having more focussed responsibility (camera work, rigging, lighting, modelling…) is very relaxing by comparison and we tend to price accordingly.

    I realise that may not be practical for you; we can certainly discuss the possibilities of a custom spanking shoot.

    A long time ago we did some revenue share on productions, but this rapidly becomes unwieldy and the book-keeping more trouble than it is worth. So we don’t do that any more (and reached amicable agreements with the other producers to buy each other out of existing products).

    Would it be of interest if we made a spanking film as a regular custom for you, but discussed with you what sales channels to put it on and disclosed the resulting sales? We’d keep the actual profits, but you’d get a better idea of the market that way? Drop me an email if you’d like to discuss possibilities, we’re always up for shooting more spanking and can do you a deal if Ariel/Amelia is the model.

    For individual films, it’s impossible to know how much they generate if they’ve been on RestrainedElegance.com. Even with detailed download stats it is hard to interpret, unless you really drill down you’re at the mercy of someone starting to download a set ten times because they’ve got a crappy connection, or someone using a spider/download manager to download everything (which I’ve deliberately set the site up to facilitate, as I think if you’ve paid for it, you should be able to download everything. I’ve been really annoyed when joining other sites to find they make it hard or impossible to do that). It also doesn’t tell you what weight customers are putting on each thing- how much is an individual set worth to them? How much do they favour video vs. stills, even if they download both?

    We have a much better idea of sales on EleganceStudios.com, because those films are only available via that one sales channel. Anything which has been on a membership site is really difficult to judge, because you don’t know what fraction of potential customers already got it as part of a RE membership.

    Our top-seller is Slave Auction, with total sales to date of £8500 but that’s a huge outlier and continues to sell after many years. A more typical ES film makes more like £3000. Maybe half of that comes in the first year with a long tale continuing for a long time afterwards. It is also possible to have sales flops, of course.

    At sales levels of about 250 copies, this is broadly similar to what I remember other producers saying they sold of bondage DVDs back in the day.

    Cheers, Hywel

  3. I learned something about the English language from you and Ariel. Until her video and this blog entry, I would have said the word “turnover” had three meanings: a pastry; unintentionally losing possession of the ball in various sports; and the rate at which employees leave a business or occupation (example: nursing home staff typically have high turnover). I had never heard it used to refer to the income of a person or a business. (As an aside, I find the words I DO hear used for business income confusing. Gross income is “revenue,” whereas net income is simply “income.” Huh?)

    So when both you and Ariel used turnover to mean income, I looked it up — fully expecting, confident, that I’d see “income” as a meaning in British English. (Or, as the British call it, English — I mean, really, one does not have to say German German to specify the kind of German they speak in Germany, but just because the British are outnumbered by native English speakers in their former colonies, they’ve lost naming rights over their own language. But I digress. Again.)

    However, to my great surprise, “the amount of money taken by a business in a particular period” is not only A dictionary definition of turnover, it is the FIRST definition, and there is no mention in sight of its being specifically British. (The only of the definitions given a regional notation is that the sports meaning is North American.)

    So now I wonder why it took 64 years for me to learn this. However, better late than never. Thank you. I know that increasing my vocabulary was no part of your goal, but you did it anyway.

  4. Compliments that you are so open about a subject about which especially Europeans mostly do not talk. It strengthen the good feeling I already have about your website.

  5. Once again, your bravery and honesty about a sensitive topic fills me with admiration. I do,however, shudder at the revelation that censorship might be on the horizon. Can we never shed the shackles of Cromwell’s Puritan legacy?

    Let’s hope it doesn’t happen.

    My very best to you and Jocelyn.

    Tony

  6. Having tried to make a business fly, some of this echoes with me. I have said it before – you are both very brave
    – Geoff

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