While I was researching financial obstacles faced by indie “adult film” companies, I was mega-fortunate to talk to Shine Louise Houston, the grand puba behind the indie/feminist/queer porn company Pink and White Productions. If you’ve ever looked into queer or feminist porn at all, chances are you’ve come across a Pink and White film or site; Shine is the director and head honcho behind The Crash Pad Series and Heavenly Spire, and, hey, is that an ad for Pink and White over there on my side bar? Why yes, yes it is!
Anyway, Shine is a go-getter, self-started, multiple award-winner, and pretty much fantastic human being who is really walking the walk when it comes to running a feminist, inclusive, forward-thinking erotic company, and she had a lot of interesting things to say about what it’s been like for her. We talked about the nitty gritty of running and adult company online, but I sadly didn’t get to use much of the interview for my article in Bitch Magazine. Here’s what got cut out!
“If your business is making enough money for the bank to turn the other way, and if you use the right language, like, ‘Oh, we’re only selling memberships to this part of the site,’ sure, you can get straight-up a merchant account through your bank.
“But you have to use coded language, you have to be making it worth their while. You have to be making a decent amount of money, and a lot of companies will use CCBill [an adult-friendly payment processor] and others, and there are other companies that are using merchant accounts straight through their bank’. Some of them—one person I know, where their account got turned off for a second, and that was a little scary. I think eventually they got it back, but yeah.
“I have this weird rationale where I’m like, ‘You know what, right now it’s ok.’ Because the money that we spend on CC bill could be a whole other employee. Ok, if we go through CCBill, we don’t need to have a system where we keep track of everyone’s credit card numbers. I don’t want to be responsible for a server that’s holding everybody’s credit card numbers. And then even after all that, we would have to be responsible for writing all the checks to send out to the affiliates. Like, there’s a lot of things that [CCBill] does, that I’m like, ‘You know what? I really don’t want to do that.’ So when I think about it like, I look at the money, at how much we pay. That’s a part-time job. That’s gonna be a three-quarter-time job that somebody would have to do and take care of every month. So I essentially look at [CCbill] like another employee. It’s a wage, every year. And they take care of a lot of the customer service, they take care of all the credit card numbers. When we got audited, I was like, ‘Well this is information that CCBill gives us. Go talk to CCBill’….So there’s a way that using a [billing company] like that is kind of like a shield. So in a lot of ways I could be pissed off by how much money they’re taking, but when I think about the services, it’s like, ‘You know what? I’m not ready to take on all that responsibility. I’m ok with paying them to take care of this right now.’
“Unfortunately, the creative stuff is one of the things that comes last in business. But in a funny way—I joke with my partner about this—I started out as an artist, and I did installations and stuff, but creating this business is the best long-term, interactive, multimedia piece of artwork that I’ve ever made. The actual running of the business has been my best piece of art that I’ve ever made in my life. It’s still about the product. It’s still about the art. But the business itself is such a piece, and it’s a piece that has its own life. I find that I’m just trying to keep up with it.”