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Recession Versus Raunch?

Sun 12 Apr 2009 In: Features View at Wayback View at NDHA

"DVD sales are down, and performer wages have dropped" In the United States, the gay male erotic entertainment industry is suffering in the current economic climate - but it may not be the recession itself that's to blame. Why? According to C. Brian Smith in the Advocate, the real culprit in this context may be online erotic entertainment, which is eating into the market share of gay erotic DVD production and distribution companies, as DVD sales are down, performer wages have dropped and credit card defaults have increased. Has the gay erotic entertainment market simply become saturated? Traditional gay erotic DVD producers and distributors now have to vie with a range of alternative online delivery formats, including web-based video-on-demand sites, amateur DIY tube sites, bit torrent, online-only distribution and pay-per-view sites, fetish sites, live webcam sites, reality webcasts, erotic media star sites and erotic media star fan sites, as well as the ubiquitous hookup sites. Even the concept of 'straight-men-turning-gay-for-pay' is starting to become a cliché within the genre, given the abundance of such online content. Within the erotic media industry, some have suggested that this heralds a consolidation and merger phase, with possible business failure and/or downsizing for those who don't survive. However, it is also possible that amateur erotic tubesites may end up (fatally?) undermining the erotic DVD production and distribution formats, which have the inducement of free content access as opposed to pay per view or online purchase, which is appealing in today's credit squeeze. Understandably, though, especially with current debates over online copyright status within New Zealand, industry corporates are angry at some 'amateur' tubesites for ripping off their hard-won market share through posting corporate erotic entertainment online, without paying for it beforehand. In some cases, this has occurred even before the aforesaid corporate product was available for proper release. While XTube and other ethical tubesites turn down this theft of copyright and intellectual property, others aren't so law-abiding. However, one gay erotic DVD production and distribution company, Pitbull Productions, won $2.85 million costs in court against WhatsTea.Com, a less ethical tubesite, for precisely the issue of copyright violation. Unfortunately for Pitbull and other aggrieved corporates, though, many such 'amateur' tubesites are based outside the United States, although corporate product is watermarked with their name, corporate logo and website details. Smith did not specify whether the corporates have been able to rely on international copyright treaties in cases where overseas websites are based in signatories to such international agreements as the Berne Convention and related international safeguards against copyright theft. However, amateur DIY erotic entertainment itself may be a more insidious risk to corporate erotic entertainment profitability, as this doesn't violate copyright law. These products have simple content, although they're often also well-choreographed, and are also legitimately free access on tubesites. This may already be undercutting the erotic star system, as performers wages are undercut in professional product, and many have been forced to seek additional alternative employment as erotic entertainment markets dry up. Unfortunately, Smith didn't mention whether HIV prevention efforts have included this new arena for erotic entertainment through provision of safe sex workshops for DIY product. I wonder what our own AIDS Foundation thinks about the idea. Perhaps there could be an opportunity for one or more DIY safe sex erotica tubesite competitions if HIV prevention groups can find a willing tubesite partner? Is this attributable to evolution within the gay erotic entertainment market? If so, what does that mean? Professional companies have also had to enter niche markets like leather and fetish gay erotic entertainment, where there may still be room for market expansion for paying customers. Part of the problem may also be generational. Most gay men over thirty five remember a time when gay erotic media provided some of the few available images and narratives of gay male intimacy, desire and positively depicted sexuality. Younger gay men may not be that brand loyal to our existing erotic media heritage. And if one is inclined to dismiss gay erotic media corporates as capitalist predators only interested in market share, then be advised that market competition isn't their only concern. Commendably, professional gay erotic DVD producer ChiChi LaRue is adamant about only producing safe sex content, but this diva works for one of the larger players in the industry. Smith interviewed one smaller production company head who claimed that unscrupulous distributors were forcing some of the smaller companies into producing bareback DVDs. Unfortunately, he didn't name the offending parties, so those of us so motivated could boycott their outlets. What will happen next? Will the rise of the Internet and online television kill off the DVD format altogether, or will there still be a market for high finish product and content that consumers are willing to pay for? Will companies merge and contract to survive in the newly competitive, possibly saturated market? And moreover, what about the relationship between gay erotic entertainment corporates, LGBT and HIV organisations in the United States? Gay US erotic media concerns do fund LGBT social and political activities. Does corporate gay erotic entertainment have a future in the United States? And what does that mean for New Zealand, reliant as our communities are on erotic entertainment product sourced from that market? And more ominously too, will we see a rise in bareback product and content from more unscrupulous distribution companies? Craig Young - 12th April 2009

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Sunday, 12th April 2009 - 11:40am

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