CNBC Takes Look at Compensation in Porn

Jan 20, 2016 8:47 AM PST

LOS ANGELES — So how much does a porn star make?

CNBC today offered its best attempt to answer the question and break down the compensation for not just the talent, but the men and women behind the scenes who make porn productions all possible.

Chris Morris of CNBC, who authored the piece, said that numbers spelling out adult filmmaking compensation were compiled from “a number of individuals” and that “there's no way to say with absolute certainty that the figures are correct.”

But Morris said they were “supported by enough people to at least seem roughly right.”

Below are the CNBC’s estimated salaries by scene or position:

Female performer, man/woman scene: $300-$1,500

Female performer, all-woman scene: $700-$1,200

Male performer: $500-$1,500

Director: $1,000-$3,000

Cameraperson: $500-$700

Sound technician: $300-$400

Production assistant: $100-$250

Writer: $250-$400

Still photographer: $500

Makeup artist: $500

Morris noted that many times female performers get bigger bumps in compensation for extreme acts — some as high as $2,500.

“For a traditional sex scene between a man and a woman, the average actress' compensation is typically between $800 and $1,000, depending on the studio's budget,” Morris wrote. “Top-tier performers can earn as much as $1,500, occasionally $2,000, while newcomers with bad representation might earn as little as $300.

Smart performers, he wrote, don't limit their revenue streams to the filmmaking side of the business.

“Feature dancing and product endorsements, among other things, can be ancillary income streams, which can equal or even exceed the amount made doing shoots,” he wrote.

“Feature dancing can be especially lucrative if you've got a large fan base. Performers earn an appearance fee, which varies widely, as well as any tips from patrons. And many performers bring along merchandise to sell to fans. One actress/dancer said she regularly earns $7,000 to $10,000 per feature-dancing appearance, which can last two days.”

Affiliating with a line of adult sex toys and novelties can also be lucrative, Morris wrote.

“Generally, there's a base payout for that, but some companies offer a percentage of each product sale. The more items that bear an actresses' name, body and face on the packaging or the product, the bigger the check.”

At the end of the day, six-figure incomes are likely common for popular stars, though that's far from an industry average, he noted.

“Ultimately, assuming they have a decent agent, a performer's salary comes down to three things — two of which are in their control: Their work ethic and frequency, their entrepreneurial spirit and their popularity.”

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