Revealed: The top-earning stars on YouTube
James R | On 17, Oct 2015
What are you doing right now? If the answer isn’t starting your own YouTube channel, you may be missing a trick, judging by Forbes’ list of top-earning web celebs.
The list, which uses sources including interviews with managersm Nielsen and IMDb, ranks the top 10 well-paid YouTube channels for the first time. The number one earner will come as no surprise to YouTube fans: PewDiePie, aka. Felix Kjellberg, who has only recently found himself knocked off the monthly TubeFilter chart of most-watched YouTube channels. The Swede may be only 25, but he earned $12 million for his vlogging in the year to June 2015, according to Forbes, the highest of any YouTuber on the planet. Indeed, video games just might be the secret to success: in case the launch of dedicated platform YouTube Gaming wasn’t a clue, the fifth highest earner was another gamer, KSI (aka. Olajide Olatunji), who took home $4.5 million in the same period.
The list is impressively diverse, featuring comedians (Smosh and the Fine Brothers both netted $8.5 million) and Lindsey Stirling, the world’s favourite dancing violinist, who waltzed away with $6 million. But what is most surprising is just how much money there is for these stars to make: no one on the list earned less than $2.5 million.
The figures are pre-tax, as well as other fees, such as management cost, but the final figure is still nothing to complain about: PewDiePie, reports earlier this year suggested, earned around $7 million in 2014, once all costs and taxes were taken into account.
While old-fashioned adults may scoff at the world of streaming showbiz, this is a serious career for many. Michelle Phan, for example, runs a make-up channel, earning just $3 million in the past year, but reinvesting her income into growing her empire. Indeed, it is hard work and can take time to reap the rewards – her first video was published way back in 2007.
“I thought, if [YouTube] is going to be the global television of the future, I need to build my brand here,” she told Forbes. “Within the first week [of my first video], 40,000 people watched it and hundreds of comments came in and that’s when I realized I’d found my calling.”
From in-video product placement to pre-roll adverts, there are many ways to generate revenue, but there are opportunities off-screen too: KSI released a single, which made it into the UK chart, while lots of vloggers have published books, ranging from recipes to fiction. Comedians, on the other hand, are enjoying successful tours – Lilly Singh, aka. Superwoman, just visited 25 cities worldwide – and lucrative sponsorship deals – Roman Atwood has teamed up with Nissan to help drive his income up to $2.5 million.