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RaverPorn | EroticBPM |intereview | Scott Owens | Killshot | altporn | Lollipop
An interview with Scott 'Killshot" Owens
by Scott Hefflon
(Time Travel: RaverPorn is now EroticBPM.com)
You're pretty much the first altporn site, followed in short order by fellow porn pioneers Suicide Girls and Supercult. When did you actually start RaverPorn?
July of '99. When I started, there was really nothing else on the Internet like what I was doing. I really searched to see who else was doing something similar, and no one really was. It was all the usual ol' porn.
Did you use ideas and modify them to your taste, or did you design the site from scratch?
I didn't really get any inspiration or ideas from any other sites. I had some general ideas, and as I started putting it together, I got input from people who liked what I was doing, and that helped it along. A lot of people at the beginning thought I was crazy for trying to build an adult website that was based around a community. The main criticism was "Why would I want to talk to other people when I'm looking at naked girls?"
There were chat rooms and generic porn sites, but no one had thought to link them yet?
Right. Some of the porn sites were starting to get a little more interactive, where you could chat with the models, but I didn't like the way it worked. It was a girl sitting in front of a cam and a bunch of guys saying nasty things to her. I wanted to show my models as the people they are, and have the members treat them like normal people, like the way you'd talk to a girl at a party or a nightclub.
Booting or banning a rude asshole is the online equivalent of throwing a drink in their face.
Exactly. The Internet really brings out the worst qualities in some people. They feel they're safely anonymous, so they can say whatever they want and there'll be no repercussions. I don't put up with that on my website. If someone insults a model, I kick them off. If the models don't feel comfortable and safe, they aren't going to want to be a part of the site anymore.
Did you know the Blue Blood folks when you started?
I met them after I started. They emailed me and we talk every now and then. We've exchanged some photo sets and stuff.
How much do you charge for subscriptions?
It's $6.50 a month. Spooky (from Suicide Girls) and I've talked about combining so people can pay once and get access to both sites, but we haven't gone forward with it yet.
What was your impulse to start the site?
I'd been into the rave scene for a long time, and I thought this'd be a good way to learn Web design and photography and I could have this project, my own little thing that was different and cool. I really didn't expect it to take off. Within a few months, I was getting calls from magazines for interviews and getting all this traffic, and I realized a lot of people thought it was a really cool idea.
Are you just being humble or coy, or did you really not know it was going to take off?
I really had no idea. I had nothing to compare it to, so I didn't really have any expectations, and I had no business plan, which I later came to regret. It started out as just a project, me doing it by myself, and it started growing faster than I could keep up with. By the time I got organized, got a couple of employees, got a plan together, suddenly a lot of other people started doing the same thing, the economy got crappy, and then the whole game was different.
When I started, a lot of people thought that what I was trying to do was really cool, but there were a whole bunch of people who thought I was single-handedly destroying the rave scene. Most of them probably thought I was just some random guy trying to exploit the scene and get rich.
Where did you start RaverPorn?
In Wisconsin, where I'm originally from. I moved here to Hawaii in February of 2001. So I'd been doing it for a year and half or so in Wisconsin.
What's the Wisconsin rave scene like?
It was really cool. DJs came from Detroit and Minneapolis and Chicago, and it was a time when a lot of good music was coming out of those cities, and it all converged in Madison, and they used to have these big events and people would come from all over the Midwest.
How's the rave scene in Hawaii?
Sometimes some people set up a sound system in the middle of a sugar cane field or on a beach or something, and a lot of hippies show up, and most of the DJs have the same records they moved here with five years ago, and then the locals show up looking to beat up white people. Oahu has an alright scene... Maui only has 100,000 people living on it, and Oahu has a million, so there's a lot more diversity in music and nightclub life. The primary industry of Hawaii is tourism, and most of the people who live here are from the Pacific Islands. So being a white person here, I'm quite the minority. There's a lot of resentment toward white people, because the U.S. government did kind of illegally annex these islands, and they feel their island has been taken away from them and turned into a luxury vacation spot for rich white people.
What inspired you to move?
Some of my friends had moved here, and they told me it was great. I came out on vacation and figured I could still run my site from here. A few months after I moved here is when I reached my peak in subscribers and overall traffic. I organized a huge RaverPorn event: I rented out a mansion on the beach, I was bringing in DJs from all over, the models were going to do shows, TV stations were coming out to cover the event, and I had package deals going so members could book a plane ticket and hotel room and ticket to the event all in one, and the event was scheduled for September 14th, 2001.
No one wanted to get on a plane, I lost a ton of money, and things never got back to normal after that. Partly, it was the economy, but also, the rave scene isn't the same as it was a few years ago. People don't identify with it in the same way they used to. Now, when you say "raver," people usually snicker. They think of a 13-year-old with a pacifier... So I'm thinking about doing an image change, and getting another name that'll encompass more electronic music and the culture surrounding it. There's still lots of good music out there, people're just listening to it in a different setting. They're going to nightclubs more, and there aren't as many warehouse parties as there used to be.
The name RaverPorn brings to mind a very specific image.
And I didn't really think about that when I started. I also run into the trouble that people can't always help promote my site the way they'd like to because of the name, because it's too straightforward.
I was going to do a punk porn site, because my admin who does all design and server stuff -- because I discovered I'm a much better photographer than I am a Web designer -- is a total punk rocker. So we had all these ideas, but then Suicide Girls came out, and I met up with Spooky and Missy, and they were really cool. I saw that they had much the same values as I did, so I didn't want to step on their toes by doing the same thing as them.
Have you always been digital, or did you start out with film?
I started out with film, but going into the local photo store with pornographic pictures was always interesting... Sometimes people were really happy to see me, other times I got a mean manager who told me never to come back again... So then I went digital, and it made things a lot easier. When you're going straight to the Web, it seems kind of pointless to do a print and then scan it, or get the negatives burned to CD. Digital is more environmentally-friendly anyway, because you aren't using any of the nasty chemicals they use to process film.
One thing that really irritates me is all the new rave adult sites that've popped up in the last six months. Most of them have no identity of their own, and some simply directly copied me. They use the same menu options and boards, just a different design. And they're failing. They're offering fewer and fewer updates, and they're charging the same price I am.
How often do you update?
I add new content about five or six days a week. It used to be four times a week, but in the last couple months, I've increased to almost every day. I want to give people as much as I can so they'll keep coming back again and again.
You do most of the photography yourself, right?
Most of it. I try to avoid using the stuff people send in, because they usually think it's great, but it's usually kinda crappy. Quality photography is very important to me. If it's a good-looking model but crappy photography, it really ruins it for me. I have some other photographers around the country who help me out. Like Cloei from NakedNerds in Boston, and I have one in San Francisco, and one in L.A., and I'm going to have one in Chicago... Usually what I do is I wait until I have a bunch of girls in one city interested, and then I go there and spend a weekend shooting. Then I have enough content to last me for a month or so.
Do you break up the sets?
Yeah, I usually break the sets in half and launch half at a time, and let people wait a few days for the second set. Usually, if I shoot a model for four hours, that'll give me four or five sets as long as I change outfits and props and settings. I pay models $150 an hour, unless they're two girls, and then I pay them each $200 an hour. That's more than most sites, but I want my models to feel good about being a part of my website. I want them to feel they're being compensated fairly for showing their ass on the Internet. Most of my shoots are two to three hours. And as long as the girl stays an active part of the site, I'll keep doing sets with her. If she never comes in and posts messages or goes to the chatroom, I'm not very motivated to take more photos of her. Most of the girls are out there promoting the site, and people really like chatting with the models, and that's one of the real draws to the site. Most of the girls have bios and link to their email and websites and their journals. Some of the models, I don't know if they don't have jobs or something, because they're in there all the time... Some websites pay their models to go into the chatrooms, but these girls are in there on their own, enjoying the interaction and attention.
I look at it this way: Not everyone can be in a band, not everyone can get on stage and express themselves and show off. Not everyone can tour the country and meet people from all over and make friends. This is a perfectly valid way to show that you take care of your body, a way to dress up, strip down, and act out pin-up fantasies in a safe environment. It's a way to feel larger than your crappy day job and feel sexy and special. And with the chatrooms and message boards, it's a way to connect with other people who are into the same things you are.
I always ask the models why they want to be a part of RaverPorn, and so many of them have always wanted to model, but professional modeling is this whole, big, competitive thing, and they see RaverPorn as a place where they can do it for the fun of doing it. They can model, they get paid, and they're involved with a site that's for people just like them.
Underground culture, whether it be raver or Goth or punk -- or even if it's not music-based -- it all has a very do-it-yourself ethic and attitude, and doing an erotic website is just an extension of that. A punk rocker wouldn't go out and buy an 'N Sync CD because that's all there is, so we shouldn't have to look at fake, plastic models on generic porn sites because that's all that's available.