LAS VEGAS – I watched the Sunday morning talk shows this morning, after returning from one of the adult industry trade shows, and realized that common themes were being expressed in the two seemingly unrelated environments. It’s not the first time; I’m experiencing déjà vu… again. The theme, in a nutshell, is that the worst may be yet to come.
The show was the XBIZ Summer Forum, which caters mostly to the online webmaster community but also attracts the video side of the biz by throwing events that feature talent and seminars that try to address the future of the business of porn. (I have produced the live educational schedule for XBIZ for the past few years, and did this year as well.)
It was actually a pretty good show, considering the state of the economy, and most of the people I have spoken with who went feel as if their time was not wasted and that the event delivered, whatever that might mean to them. But each and every person also tempered any enthusiasm they might have felt about the show with a huge asterisk that reflected a profound sense of dismay regarding the underlying health of the industry, quite aside from their feelings about the general economy.
It was, I must say, great to see people realize that one of the most practical functions of these trade shows, of which there are far too many, is as a lens through which to assess the health of the industry at any given time. Of course, not everyone is interested in doing that. As with all industries, the controlling interests always are incentivized to try to create a perception of reality that suits their own interests, even when they conflict with the general health of the industry. In the old days, this would be done with the help of the industry media, which controlled the message. Today, the media still tries to control the message, but the explosion of independent digital sources has lessened their influence. Good thing, too. We need to be steeped in reality now more than ever as the price of failure rises sharply.
There also was a number that resonated throughout the event, almost to the beat of the ever-constant music that defines the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. It was two, as in the number of years left before the business completely crumbles, implodes, morphs for good, or whatever it is that will happen. Two years. For some reason, that’s the number people this year, in this crowd, stuck with.
I heard the word denial more often than usual, too. It’s such a great word, but being utterly subjective it always needs to be defined. When spoken in a business context, it often means, “Those people are in denial about the fact that my business is in jeopardy.” Sometimes it is meant in the spirit of, “the whole house is coming down,” but few people are truly that empathetic to the state of the whole.
A couple of adult movie producer/directors, considered among the most successful at this moment in time, railed about how out of touch they thought many of the attendees were regarding the true state of porn. They mentioned the number two, too, but their current production, about to shoot, is their largest to date, so as concerned as they may be that what they do has a life-span of a gnat, they remain as engaged as ever and desperately want to have a realistic eye on the future. One can only hope the anxious, paranoid energy they couldn’t help but exude will serve them well as the next two years play out.