Are Cam Girls the New Porn Stars?

This article originally ran in the January 2016 issue of AVN magazine. for the digital edition.

The notion that cam girls command more notoriety than most porn stars in today’s adult entertainment economy is a polarizing topic.

Some say that assessment is spot-on, while others suggest that conclusion is premature. One thing appears certain when it comes to debating who are the most famous and successful adult models in the world: cam girls have not only become part of the conversation, in some places they dominate it.

The combination of star power, fresh faces and interactivity keeps consumers coming back to an array of webcam sites, turning that booming sector of the industry into a billion-dollar business. But are cam girls really the new porn stars?

“I’ve believed it for awhile, as Jillian Janson and Aaliyah Love were cam girls,” said the noted photographer Jeff Koga, who has been covering adult film shoots on a daily basis since 2007.

“I was on-set [recently] with a veteran girl/girl performer who coincidentally made the same observation. And Matrix Models excels at recruiting cam girls, like their newly signed Madi Meadows and Lily Ivy.

“Meanwhile performers like Vanessa Veracruz and Bree Daniels do regular cam shows during their downtime. So there’s a symbiotic relationship happening between the two industries. However, other cam girls like Ashe Maree, Sabrina Nellie, and Ari Dee seem perfectly content at not crossing over.”

Producer/director Miles Long, who has captured years of content for high-profile clients such as Zero Tolerance Entertainment, Third Degree Films and CECash, said the law of supply and demand applies.

“‘Adult stars’ as it were no longer exist,” Long suggested.

“Just as tube sites have devalued content to the point that simply making an outstanding DVD has no value since it cannot be monetized like in years past, the emergence of the cam model — where your next-door neighbor’s daughter can cam every day to supplement her income — has devalued the market of girls with a flood of available content from an exponentially large pool.

“The true and only star of the next generation will be the girl who can successfully bridge the gap between mainstream and adult.”

In an era of decreasing opportunities for girls to do adult films due to shrinking budgets and lighter production schedules, it’s arguably more challenging now for talent to make an impact in a short amount of time than it was for previous generations.

Many porn girls find they’ve been “shot out” quickly and seek other means to supplement their income. And amateur girls who may not want to take the porn plunge learn that camming from the privacy of their home provides a convenient and lucrative alternative.

The result is numerous cam sites have emerged as industry players, driving steady traffic from all over the world and generating millions in profits. Sites such as MyFreeCams.com, Chaturbate.com, Flirt4Free.com, ImLive.com, rf-tur.ru and Streamate.com are just some of the top sites in the world, where cam stars are born every month.

“We’ve seen very successful porn stars become successful cam girls on MFC, and we’ve also seen cam girls who go on to become successful porn stars,” a media spokesperson for MyFreeCams, which has been online since 2004, told AVN. “We see the two as complementary. Camming is a great way for porn stars to interact with their fans in real time.”

Mitsuko Doll, a full-time cam girl since 2011 who’s been camming exclusively for MFC for more than three years as xWildThingx, said she loves the freedom that her job affords her. Doll noted that some platforms focus more on private, one-on-one shows and have strict policies about models promoting other ventures.

“MFC on the other hand is a bit like the Wild West of cam sites,” Doll told AVN from her home in Chicago. “You’re performing, whether it be singing, dancing, doing raffles or cum shows, for a large audience and get tips. Aside for a few rules for legality, you’re pretty much allowed to do whatever you please.”

Doll said she understands the cam girl-porn girl comparison but “a lot of cam girls and I wouldn’t call ourselves porn stars.”

“The porn industry has changed so much even just these past years, though, and camming has become so big that cam girls are definitely legit entertainers in the adult industry that can reach the same level of fame and success as porn stars,” Doll continued. “A lot of porn stars are camming as well too so I don’t look at it as a rivalry but just another platform for adult entertainers to expand their business.”

Brad Estes, the vice president of Flirt4Free, which is entering its 20th year in business, suggested the term “porn star” has been “overused and misconstrued over the years to the point where it lost its meaning.”

“If we go back to a time when ‘porn star’ was synonymous with the larger-than-life personalities who had legions of fans and created compelling content then yes, I think webcam performers (guys and girls) can fit the definition,” Estes told AVN. “Our latest initiative with Fleshlight attempts to add a new term of the industry lexicon, ‘Cam Stars,’ reserved for the best of the best webcam performers. These top artists have the same larger-than-life personalities, legions of fans and produce innovative entertainment each and every day.”

Shirley Lara, chief of operations for Chaturbate, said cam girls and porn stars are far from one and the same.

“To the outsider, broadcasters (which is how we refer to cam girls and guys) may look like the new porn stars, but in reality they’re very different from a porn star,” Lara told AVN. “Where porn stars are generally hired, often through an agent or by a content producer, in the camming world broadcasters are the producer, director and performer all in one. Broadcasters are not only in charge of when and where they determine to broadcast, but, more importantly, the message they broadcast is their own.”

Carole Wood, spokesperson for ImLive.com, said models ultimately get in where they fit in—adding diversity to the business.

“Live webcam chatting has a greater importance in the adult world than it did a number of years ago,” Wood told AVN. “The industry has definitely changed with the times as web and technology has developed.

“Back in the day when ImLive.com started its celebrity porn star channel, there were many porn stars that pooh-pooed it and said they don’t have time to go online. The more successful, business-orientated porn stars understood the need to adapt and change and slowly they started to leave others behind. Cam girls are most definitely seen in much higher respect today. …

“We cannot say all webcam models are the ‘new porn stars.’ Actually it depends on the girl. There are webcam models that indeed are doing porn, clips, scenes and movies classifying themselves as porn stars and there are amazing cam girls that will never classify themselves as porn stars because they identify themselves more closely to the webcam industry.”

Wood continued, “Like everything in life, there’s a place for everyone and each personally will find their own path.”

Industry veteran Yuval Kijel, the head of CamBuilder for Streamate, told AVN, “Hell yes, no doubt about it” that cam girls are the new porn stars.

“The top cam models are becoming well known to a large public,” Kijel said. “Most likely they get more eyeballs than many porn stars, and they make as much if not more than top porn stars. I think over the next years they will become the top-tier porn stars.”

Kijel’s colleague Liz Rekevics, the marketing director for Streamate, said, “The level of popularity depends on the performer.”

“With the evolution of the cam business and major gain in popularity over the last 10 years I think that cam models have much more opportunity to gain the type of notoriety that people typically associate with porn stars,” Rekevics said. “Cam models have the freedom to be their own boss, make their own hours and be fully in control of their image and what the consumer sees. …

“Some cam models enjoy meeting fans and attending industry events while others like to keep their interactions strictly on cam. I think in the end the cam business has room for everyone. You are seeing a lot more ‘porn stars’ regularly on cams and I think that is a trend that will continue.”

Dan Leal, one of the busiest shooters in adult, who produces weekly live shows for his studio Immoral Productions, remarked, “Cam girls are truly the next generation of porn stars. A woman who is a webcam model can make a very lucrative and have a long-term career, much longer than if she was to try and make the same amount of money by shooting porn scenes alone.”

Leal pulled no punches in theorizing why fewer stars stand out in today’s porn biz.

“There are very, very few that are going to make it these days,” Leal said. “The real reason why you’re not getting quality girls coming into the industry is production is down. Production is at an all-time low in the American market. Realistically, porn is never going to be a full-time job for anybody. They better be webcam models. They better be dancing or going to school. There’s not enough work to go around.”

Without question the power of social media can help a cam girl build her own brand in quick fashion. Most cam girls alert their followers on Twitter or Instagram they are jumping on cam. It’s as easy to follow them online as it is to interact once you’re in a virtual chat room.

While each cam site works its own way, the idea is largely the same. Once online, viewers enjoy an amazing assortment of models from which to choose. When they decide on a model they enter a public forum with other users, where they can chat with and tip the model.

The more tips the models get, the more naughty the interaction becomes. Users also have the option to go into private, one-on-one sessions with the model for additional fees. In order to do that, users must pay a per-minute fee and often tip additional money on top of that.

Natalie Star, a native of California who cams exclusively for Flirt4Free and has been active on the platform for the past six years, says the best part about camming is “the ability to let my hair down and just not give a fuck.”

“On cam there’s no script and no expectations,” Star told AVN from her home in Las Vegas. “I can just have fun and be myself.”

She believes cam girls are indeed the new porn stars.

“In my honest opinion based off of what I’ve seen to date within the cam industry I would have to say that to an extent we are,” Star reasoned. “However, a more accurate term for those of us who have been able to do this for a living should be ‘adult star.’”

Nowadays the leading cam models earn tens of thousands per month. And it’s not just the women — all kinds of people make their living doing cam shows, including straight and gay men and trans models. Today’s elite porn stars do not earn anything close to that level of income from their sex scenes alone.

“I don’t think there is a ‘next-generation’ adult star,” said Lewis Adams, a sales executive and producer for the past 14 years who currently works for Metro Content and formerly sold DVDs for Pulse Distribution.

“There will never be another Jenna Jameson because she was a product of the production companies building her and selling her. I agree that cam sites are the future of the performer. It gives them ‘personal’ contact directly with their customer and that’s something that could only be done in a club on the occasion that the performer was in the same city as her fan. Today, access is 24-7 and the connection is like never before. However, there are so many cam performers today that the competition is too vast for one person to be ‘it.’”

Some performers even sell merchandise such as photos, videos, underwear and toys, while they’re on cam. It can also be a way to cross-promote their official websites. The latest trend is for cam sites to sign girls exclusively for a set period of time.

“The best part of camming is the scheduling. There really is none!” said Mitsuko Doll, aka xWildThingx on MyFreeCams. “Although of course having a consistent schedule helps greatly, you really can wake up one day and say, ‘I’d rather play video games all day,’ and no one can stop you.

“There’s so many great things about camming, though. Before camming I was a broke student coming from a bad situation and camming gave me financial security, helped me pay off my college loans and taught me so many things that can be applicable to business in ‘the real world.’ Oh and having orgasms everyday doesn’t hurt either.”

Director and studio mogul Jules Jordan agreed, admitting, “You can make a lot of money if you’re famous on cam.”

“But if you look at Twitter and all the girls with the most notoriety it’s still about the porn stars,” Jordan told AVN. “Camming gives porn stars a chance to make the same or more money not leaving their house. It’s all about the mentality, do you want to be a star or do you just want to make money? Cam girls really aren’t famous abroad yet.

“There are really few cam girls that are famous. … I don’t know any cam girls that go feature dancing or do appearances.”

Greg Lansky, chief creative officer for Strike3 Holdings, parent company of Blacked.com and Tushy.com, suggested calling cam girls the new porn stars is “completely inaccurate.”

“I don’t think in today’s economy you could label anyone strictly an adult star or a ‘cam girl,’” Lansky reasoned. “They are artists who chose to express themselves through their talent and sexuality. Some choose movies, some camming. But it’s just a platform.”

Jack Avalanche, CEO of the Cherry Pimps Network, also suggested that placing labels on models is harder as the lines blur.

“There is no longer a clear division between cam girls and porn stars,” Avalanche told AVN.

“Porn stars have been able to add camming to their routine, filling gaps in their schedule to help connect with their fans, and add a rather significant income stream. Furthermore, cam girls have found that given their web popularity they’re now often on the radar of traditional producers allowing many to cross over into more traditional shoots.

“While porn stars are not necessarily cam girls and vice versa, the two are no longer completely indifferent and the most successful stars in adult today have learned how to maximize their exposure in both markets and transcend any one label on their way to success.”

Vanessa, who heads recruiting and model support for Streamate, told AVN, “There seems to be this underlying double-standard when it comes to cam girls vs. adult film stars—they’re akin to the red-headed stepchildren of porn.”

“But cam girls are their own unique animal,” Vanessa reasoned. “Most don’t have agents promoting them or giving them direction: they are swimming in very large pools with tens of thousands of other cam models, and must constantly find innovative ways to promote themselves and come up with their own material and content for shows.

“As the ways in which people consume porn continues to evolve, and more of our focus is drawn to social media, I think the rise of the cam girl as the new porn star is inevitable.”

Most agree the future of camming starts and ends with technological advances.

“We are going to see a big push of teledildonics on cam sites,” said Chaturbate Chief of Operations Shirley Lara. “If you’re unfamiliar with teledildonics, they’re high-tech sex toys that can be controlled over the Internet and set to respond to the sound of tips. The more tips a broadcaster receives the higher the vibration.”

ImLive’s Carole Wood concurred.

“The industry is growing alongside technology and therefore the only direction we feel that the live-cam market can go is hand-in-hand with the technological advances,” Wood concluded. “We are already at the stages where models can broadcast from their mobile and members already have had access to webcam sites from any mobile device for years now.

“This is helping to reach to more diverse audience on both sides.”

Pictured above, left to right: HarlieQuinnX, Natalie Star, BlondMelanye2, Ashe Maree