Ricky Johnson On Slaying the Indie Paysite Game

Ricky Johnson On Slaying the Indie Paysite Game

A few months ago, astute porn observers noticed a new paysite player in town. Well, not exactly “new,” but most definitely a player. Adult star Ricky Johnson, popular both with fans and other performers, had launched a new venture called Ricky’s Room.

The concept for the paysite was not new either. Collections of cozily shot scenes built around male performers showing bonafide stars and newcomer starlets what appears to be a particularly good time have been a staple of porn, pioneered in the post-gonzo era by the likes of Manuel Ferrara and reinvented by the post-alt era on sites like Owen Gray’s Deep Lush.

I’m a hustler. I’ve only got one life to live, and I fully believe in sacrificing your 20s for success in your 30s and 40s. So I have no problem hunkering down in my purpose, being very purposeful — full work mode.

Johnson says he took that basic concept and added his own twist.

“I just wanted to do nighttime porn!” the proud new webmaster tells XBIZ over drinks at a North Hollywood bar built inside a former bank building. “I felt like there wasn’t enough nighttime porn. Because me, in my personal life, I have sex at night. And I noticed there was only Blacked Raw doing nighttime porn, and everything else in the industry you could call ‘daytime porn.’ So I saw an opportunity, it’s a whole market that’s open.”

The other parameter Johnson set for himself and his new site was something he learned from the notoriously efficient Mike Quasar and other mentors early on in his seven-year strong career.

“I also wanted the shoot to be fairly simple, straight to the point,” he explained. “As a performer, I know what it’s like to be on set for 13 hours. And that’s cool, if that’s the way you shoot. But you know, I don’t want to be on set for 13 hours, and then shoot the sex on the 13th hour, right? And neither do the girls. I can’t tell you how to shoot, but I personally think that if they’re keeping you on set more than five, six hours, then you gotta shoot the sex first, and then do everything after it because if you don’t you’re gonna get tired talent. And people who don’t want to be there.”

And so, Ricky’s Room shoots range between two and four hours. “And that’s with makeup!” Johnson enthuses. “The girls love it. We do a lot of preproduction so we can get what we want really, really quick. It’s efficient.”

In order to achieve that efficiency and a feeling of real intimacy, Johnson spends considerable time assessing the potential chemistry between pairings.

“I ask the talent, girls and guys, ‘Who do you want to work with?’” he says. “I tell the women, ‘Here’s the guys that I can book — which of these do you wanna fuck?’ And the same thing with the guys, ‘Which one of these girls do you want to have sex with?’”

To establish the brand, Johnson is currently performing in 85% of the Ricky’s Room content, but he says he is aiming for a 50/50 balance with other male talent by the end of 2023.

“I wanted to start putting the foundation down, and demonstrating how it’s going to be shot, so people can kind of see what Ricky’s Room is,” he explains. “Like Owen Gray did, he set the foundations properly and now everyone knows what type of scene it’s going to be, what they’re getting into. And that paves the way to bring in other performers. And also paves the way for some new fresh talent as well, to grow the community. I know from my own experience how important it is to give the new guys an opportunity.”

Once upon a time, Johnson himself was one of those new guys, hungry for mentoring and breaks. It was around late 2015 — not that long ago in civilian years but an eternity in porn, particularly after the time warp mindfuck of the COVID era.

Johnson was at the time a star athlete at Long Beach State, having worked his way through higher education as a competitive runner.

“I was running track,” he reminisces. “I was running the 800 and 400. And I had three units left to graduate, one class. And I was eight weeks in and I dropped out. I went full-time porn.”

Back when he transferred to Long Beach State from community college as a track prospect, Johnson wanted to be a doctor, but his coach discouraged him from focusing on the demanding biology pre-med requirements.

“Coach kept telling me, ‘Just train, don’t take any classes, just train,’ so I had a year where I literally just trained, and I got really, really good but my biology major was impacted because I didn’t take any classes that year,” he says. “So they had to change me to a major I didn’t care about and one of the requirements was to do an internship.”

Johnson announced to the class that he was going to intern with MimeFreak, director for the ArchAngel studio, and learn be a porn director. Improbably, the instructor initially agreed.

“I always wanted to be on the producing/directing side, even before I joined porn, but I ended up taking the route of being a performer first,” Johnson recalls.

His life was about to take a crucial turn as, inevitably, the college authorities had second thoughts about the internship.

“The human development department came and talked to me and they’re like, ‘Hey, we decided that we’re not going to allow this. We want you to do a different internship.’ I told them, ‘Hey, I don’t really feel comfortable writing these five-page essays about something that I don’t care about.’ I was already shooting porn at that point, so I dropped out and started doing more scenes.”

Like most male talent hopefuls, Johnson had to pay the proverbial dues, including numerous gangbangs.

“I did probably like 100. And then I slowly got to do B/G scenes. I did a lot of DogFart, during the Jim Camp days. Jim did a lot for me — shot me a lot. And then Dark X, Mile High stuff. I also worked with Quasar a ton. That was my guy — one-hour days, oh yeah!”

Johnson was dazzled by Quasar’s efficiency and mentally took notes, which would come in handy during the development of Ricky’s Room.

“Quasar’s pace was crazy,” he marvels. “He was sometimes doing four scenes a day at the time. I don’t know if he still does that, but that was impressive. Knowing how it works now, I know how hard it is to get four separate pairings to be on time with no one canceling.”

And then, after years of highly disciplined grind and a full on-the-job education, Johnson hit paydirt with a coveted MindGeek contract, courtesy of his drive, charisma and another huge asset: his reputation among other performers. He credits Abella Danger with bringing him to the attention of the Montreal-based adult conglomerate.

“Abella and I are close friends,” Johnson says. “She said, ‘You should come to this dinner with me. You know, so you can meet people from MindGeek.’ So I met them. And I think we had a good conversation, and shortly after that they asked me if I was down to be a contractor. And I was like, ‘Fuck, yeah!’”

The contract meant Johnson’s rate went up, and, more importantly, he now knew exactly what he was making per month. Gone was the uncertainty of “Hey, you hiring me this month? How about next month?” It was time to start planning how to grow in the business.

Like almost everyone else in adult, Johnson took the COVID period as a time for reflection and recalibration. He had already been using OnlyFans since 2017, back when others had mocked him for this curious new revenue stream from self-made “content,” but from the start, he had wanted to try a paysite. Now, the combination of the OnlyFans boom of 2020 and his friendly relationship with MindGeek — which did not object to his moonlighting as a webmaster — made the moment auspicious.

The main obstacle, he says, was that “there was not much knowledge in the industry on how to put it together. Like everything I’ve done, I decided to just do trial and error.”

Johnson eventually found a teacher: Lucy Hart, the groundbreaking multi-hyphenate performer-producer behind the PervOut network.

“She was a big help,” Johnson acknowledges. “During the pandemic, she was doing all these little Zoom calls about ‘How to start a website.’ She was also saying things like, ‘I wouldn’t be a proper gatekeeper if I didn’t share what I know with the community,’ which I liked. I was one of the people that wrote to Lucy right away and said, ‘I want to know this information.’ So she put me on a couple of Zoom calls and told me, ‘You know, you may not do it right now, but it’s good to get you started and get your mind thinking.’”

Through 2021, as he was learning the ropes of getting a paysite up and running and the intimidating arcana of affiliate marketing, Johnson started quietly stockpiling nighttime content for a future launch.

In early 2022, Johnson decided to partner up with YourPaysitePartner, which offered turnkey solutions for paysites, clip stores, models and producers looking to expand their business. He knew their reputation, as they had helped set up male-talent-centric projects like Mike Adriano’s network of paysites.

With YPP’s know-how, Ricky’s Room launched in May 2022. The site’s regular updates now had to fit into Johnson’s crowded work calendar, which also included fulfilling his performing contract, plus production duties for MindGeek projects such as Project DTF and other work for Reality Kings, and maintaining his OnlyFans.

“My MindGeek contract started in 2019 and it’s still going on,” he says, “but they allowed me to have my own website. I told them beforehand, ‘Hey, I want to do a website.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, we don’t care.’ I don’t know if they knew I was gonna put so much into it!”

Johnson laughs when asked how he keeps his time management straight. “A lot of just working!” he says, undaunted. “Because I’m a hustler. I’ve only got one life to live, and I fully believe in sacrificing your 20s for success in your 30s and 40s. So I have no problem hunkering down in my purpose, being very purposeful — full work mode. And then, you know, it all culminates.”

Even though he likes to do everything himself, he has hired a close friend as his assistant and is starting to build a team.

“I feel like I know everything there is to know as a performer,” he notes, with earned confidence. “And I know a lot as a producer. But now I want to learn about being a company owner. And that’s something I’m a little ignorant of right now. So it’s like a learning process, like I sponge up everything and learn from it. So right now, my company owner endeavors and affiliate marketing, learning about that’s a huge thing. And once I finish learning about that, make some more companies then go on to the next thing.”

What’s the next thing? Johnson has many ideas about more sites, podcasts, Twitch streaming and even starting a talent agency, but a new kind that would teach models “wealth management, how to generate revenue, rehabilitation, health, etc.”

These projects, however, are in different stages of maturation, since many in the industry have started noticing the very effective content he has been releasing through his paysite — particularly the long backlog of models who constantly hit him up to come up to the titular Room.

“I think for 2023 I’m gonna take some stuff off my plate, delegate and fully just focus on Ricky’s Room,” Johnson concludes. “You know? Fully buy in on myself and go from there and build the brand. And then just focus on being like a proper gatekeeper for other people in the industry, and teaching everything that I know so they have good experiences. I don’t really do things for the money. I do it more for a legacy, because it lasts longer.”

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