The idea that someone can become rich by mugging for a Webcam or recording themselves doing things millions of other people do might seem ludicrous to some people, but the number of YouTube millionaires is on the rise.
Many of the site's biggest stars, in fact, are millionaires several times over. Some put together elaborate comedy routines. Some have found a unique way to make money by playing video games. And others simply play with toys.
YouTube analytics site SocialBlade keeps a running tab on how many subscribers and viewers YouTube contributors have and estimates their income, based on a wide range of cost-per-thousand advertising rates, (subtracting the 45 percent of that income that Google keeps).
That creates an even wider range of estimated annual earnings. And the formula assumes every video is monetized, which they're not. Still, it's one of the best looks around at the money YouTube stars can command.
Here, based on those rankings in early May, are 10 of the biggest individuals and duos on the site. (We bypassed YouTube channels run by celebrities and corporations.)
By Chris Morris
Posted 10 May 2014
With over 26 million subscribers, Sweden's Felix Arvid Ulf Kjelberg, 24, could be the most influential person in the video game industry— and is certainly one of the biggest on YouTube. His videos, which feature gameplay with a small inset of him playing those games, have been watched more than 4.3 billion times by a ravenous fan base, who tune in for his comments and reactions.
His estimated annual income from the videos is estimated at between $2.2 million and $18 million. (Not bad for a former Chalmers University of Technology student.) While he's still gaining subscribers at an incredible rate (last year his channel jumped from 3.5 million to 19 million), Kjellberg announced in March that he plans to make fewer videos to recharge his batteries.
This person behind this toy-themed channel is something of a mystery, as she has remained anonymous, opting not to cash in on her online fame. Her face never appears on screen, but her detailed look at new Disney-themed toys shows her unboxing the items, putting them together and playing with them. The only thing she has revealed about herself is that she is from Brazil.
Her soothing delivery is like catnip for kids (and parents) and she has gathered some 1.3 million subscribers and amassed 1.9 million video views. Her estimated annual earnings range from $1.5 million to $12.2 million.
Since 2004, Benny and Rafi Fine (30- and 32-years-old, respectively) have been writing, directing and starring in their 'React' series on YouTube (such as "Kids React to Harlem Shake"). Though they initially hoped to break into traditional film festivals, they became pioneers in the burgeoning online video field.
They now have 8.2 million subscribers, with over 1.6 billion video views. This nets them somewhere between $849,000 and $7.1 million per year.
Their success has helped others, too. The brothers, who were raised in an Orthodox Jewish household, have raised the awareness of some of the kids on their 'React' video series to the point where Hollywood talent agencies have called them in for auditions.
Watch: The Fine Bros.
"Minecraft" has been an especially lucrative game for many YouTubers. Adam Dahlberg has amassed 9.8 million followers and just under 1.9 billion video views with his gameplay videos and commentary.
He started as a member of "Team Crafted," another popular "Minecraft"-themed YouTube channel, but eventually struck out on his own. Today, he's making between $702,500 and $5.9 million per year, and his fan base is so loyal that some have written fan fiction about him. (He's also the only known YouTube celebrity to appear in a Lady Gaga video: "for G.U.Y.")
This comedy duo of Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla, both 26, was one of the first real YouTube breakout stars, attracting a notable audience in 2005. The duo, who first met in their sixth grade science class, broke through by lip syncing the English theme song for "Pokemon," which went on to become YouTube's most-viewed video at the time in 2006.
They've used that fame to release four albums of original songs, release a game for iOS devices and raised $258,517 on IndieGoGo for an upcoming app game based on their Food Battle video series. SocialBlade estimates their annual YouTube earnings to range between $627,800 and $5.2 million.
Perhaps one of the two most unlikely YouTube celebrities, BluCollection (whose real name, like that of DisneyCollectorBR is unknown) films himself playing with and offering minimal commentary on toys (usually, but not exclusively, those featuring Disney themes).
His Twitter feed says he's in New York, and on his Facebook fan page, he confesses to being a collector of Blu-ray films, though says he has no plans to review them. His toy channel is family safe and kids love watching the toys in action. While he only has 712,000 subscribers, his videos have been viewed a whopping 1.5 billion times, putting his estimated yearly earnings between $576,900 and $4.8 million.
Ruben Doblas Gurdensen, 24, plays videogames, torments his roommate (fellow YouTube celeb Mangel Rogel) and produces over-the-top comedy Spanish videos.
The son of Norwegian and Spanish parents, he's one of the most popular Spanish contributors to the site, with 8.7 million subscribers and nearly 721 million views to his videos. Those fans bring in between $471,500 and $3.9 million for him per year.
Mitch Hughes, 20, speaks his own language, using phrases like "slap dat like button withchya forehead," but his fans have become quite fluent. Born in Canada, he grew up on Barbados, eventually moving back to the Great White North, giving birth to his online nickname.
With 3.6 million subscribers and more than 680 million video views, Hughes has had two lives on YouTube. He first rose to fame playing "Call of Duty," but eventually tired of the series and put his channel on hiatus in December 2012. Later, he picked up Minecraft and saw his online fame increase further. He now makes an estimated $454,600 to $3.8 million per year.
Some of the most successful YouTube contributors manage to find good pop culture hooks. Jordan Maron, 22, who goes by CaptainSparklez on the site, began building his fan base with a parody video of Gangnam Style set in the videogame Minecraft. It all started on his 18th birthday, when (captivated by seeing other YouTubersupload gameplay videos) he asked his mother for a PC capture card for his birthday present. He got further into posting videos in college at University of California Santa Barbara (despite promises otherwise to his parents).
Today, he has 7.4 million subscribers and his videos have been watched more than 1.4 billion times. That puts his estimated annual earnings between $427,500 and $3.6 million.
These adorable Japanese sisters are building up one heck of a college fund. Kanna and Akira (Kan & Aki to their fans) play with toys, goof around with food making kits and occasionally interact with their off screen parents.
It captures the innocence and pure joy of childhood for fans. Over 308,000 people subscribe to their channel, with their videos receiving more than 514 million views. SocialBlade estimates their annual income ranges between $344,300 to $2.9 million.