With US music industry revenues flatlining, starting a record label in 2014 may not sound like the most lucrative business move. But that hasn't stopped the massive network of adult sites Pornhub (NSFW of course) from doing just that, according to a Billboard exclusive. To commemorate the launch, Pornhub has also announced a contest to find the official Pornhub theme song.

The synergy between porn sites and musicians may sound surprising at first, but Pornhub has been exploring partnerships with artists for months now. In February, the gonzo indie rock band Xiu Xiu took to Pornhub to debut an NSFW music video for the song "Black Dick," which juxtaposed hardcore porn clips next to footage of kittens and puppies. And earlier this month, "Gangsta's Paradise" rapper Coolio released a Pornhub-commissioned track called "Take It To The Hub," an ode to masturbation featuring such winning lines as, "Do you wanna touch, touch, love? Can't get enough? Don't hesitate to grab that glove." Calm down, Coolio.

"We're looking for acts that aren't necessarily porn-focused," Pornhub VP Corey Price told Billboard. "We're an ad-based network looking for content that appeals to our demographic."

Many artists will likely balk at being associated with a site that hosts extreme pornography. But considered from a more agnostic standpoint, Pornhub is a powerful distribution platform. It hosts 40 million views a day, and while that puts it behind Dailymotion with around 90 million views a day and YouTube with a whopping 4 billion views a day, Pornhub is still within the top 100 most trafficked sites in the world. Billboard says that Coolio's porn tribute reached 500,000 views in a week.

That's what Pornhub is promising the winner of its Song Search Contest, along with a $5000 budget to produce a video which may or may not be NSFW. According to porn star agent Mark Spiegler, the average professional porn actress makes between $800 and $4000 per scene, depending on what's asked of her.

What Pornhub won't promise is that the winning contestant will ink a deal with Pornhub Records, which raises some questions about whether the record label announcement is more a publicity stunt than a strategic business move. When asked why the winning contestant won't necessarily be signed, Pornhub's head of PR and marketing Matt Blake told Billboard, "A&R is a work in progress," which is a fair response. Pornhub is not a talent agency, it's a tech company — a content distribution platform that in many ways is not different from a lot of the companies we cover at Pando.

But this wouldn't be the first time Pornhub has been accused of this kind of marketing gambit. When Pornhub tried to air a very tame television ad during the Super Bowl, no one was surprised that it was denied. But the controversy surrounding it was its own form of promotion. In Pornhub's defense, Price tells me he's confident that an ad for an adult entertainment site will eventually air on national television. But when executives at the broiest of bro networks Spike won't even run a porn ad, the chances of winning a Super Bowl spot on CBS, where the idea of edgy is "The Big Bang Theory," are pretty bleak.

But if we believe Pornhub is acting in earnest, then it could be an interesting case study in what happens when a large distribution platform takes on the role of a record label. It remains to be seen whether Pornhub will function like many traditional labels, retaining the rights to the artists' masters and taking big royalty cuts, or if it will work more like YouTube's creator partnerships where the site offers promotion and prominent placement on its distribution network. (Which raises another question — Would traditional advertising platforms balk at a "Pornhub Records" marketing campaign as readily as they would at an ad for Pornhub itself?)

In any case, I for one am excited to hear the finalists for the Pornhub theme song. Pump up the volume, indeed.

[Original image via sween]