It’s no secret that many YouTubers are making full-time livings on the platform, but just how much are the top creators making? While it’s possible to get an extremely rough estimate using viewership data and traditional ad rates, most creators aren’t relying solely on advertising revenue any more.
In their second annual list, Forbes has published the 10 highest-earning YouTube creators for the 2015-2016 year. Their figures are gross totals, not accounting for income taxes and management cuts, and are compiled based on a variety of sources: “data from Nielsen, IMDB and other sources, as well as on interviews with agents, managers, lawyers, industry insiders and the stars themselves.”
Forbes’ list provides a go-to resource for those looking to understand the largely-misunderstood world of how much internet personalities make. Advertising revenue, sponsorships, book deals, merch sales, and live appearances are just some of the many diversified revenue streams that leading creators utilize. These top 10 creators earned a combined total of over $70 million from June 2015 to June 2016, a 23% increase over the 2014-2015 period.
9. Colleen Ballinger: $5 million
Her wildly successful alter-ego Miranda Sings channel, her personal channel, a book deal, and a Netflix show all contributed to Ballinger’s impressive earnings in 2016.
9. Rhett and Link: $5 million
Perhaps best known for their daily morning show, Good Mythical Morning, this pair are able to keep fans coming back for more with celebrity guests and non-stop hijinks. Rhett (Rhett McLaughlin) and Link (Charles Lincoln “Link” Neal) also have a YouTube Red original series, a main channel, and a merch shop, in addition to their over 1,000 episodes of Good Mythical Morning.
7. HolaSoyGerman (German Garmendia): $5.5 million
If you’re not living in Latin America, you may not be familiar with this Chilean creator – but with rapidly-growing global audiences across YouTube, many of today’s top influencers come from non-English markets. Garmendia’s main channel, HolaSoyGerman, has over 30 million subscribers and is the #7 most subscribed channel in the world.
7. Markiplier (Mark Fischbach): $5.5 million
Mark’s comedic gaming videos have attracted an audience of over 15 million subscribers, accumulating more than 6 billion total views over a total of 3,000 videos.
5. Tyler Oakley: $6 million
A book, a live entertainment tour, frequent visits to the White House, a summer camp, and a show with Ellen DeGeneres’ production company are just some of Tyler’s many recent projects. Tyler has amassed more than 8 million subscribers since he began uploading in 2007.
5. Rosanna Pansino: $6 million
Ro’s cutesy geek-centric baking series, Nerdy Nummies, has awarded her more than 7 million subscribers and over 1.7 billion views. Her cookbook, The Nerdy Nummies Cookbook, became a New York Times bestseller just weeks after its release.
4. Smosh: $7 million
Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox were two of the very first creators on the YouTube platform. With a diversified portfolio of seven channels under the Smosh brand and a recently-debuted YouTube Red original movie, it’s no surprise these two online video pioneers are among the top 5 earners.
3. Lilly Singh (IIsuperwomanII): $7.5 million
Skyrocketing to just over 10 million subscribers in the past four years, Lilly has completed an international tour, starred in a YouTube Red original movie, and is currently working on a book set to be released in March 2017.
2. Roman Atwood: $8 million
Roman successfully operates two channels with over 10 million subscribers each. His original channel was created in 2009, featuring street-style prank videos, while his newer vlog channel spotlights the daily life of his family. He embarked on an international tour with close friend Yousef Erakat (fouseyTUBE) earlier this year, and has a combined 4+ billion views, helping him pull in an estimated yearly $8 million.
1. PewDiePie (Felix Kjellberg): $15 million
Surprised? Felix’s channel is currently the #1 most subscribed YouTube channel in the world, becoming the first channel to reach 50 million subscribers in a landmark achievement last week. He also made headlines across the web when a joke he made about deleting his channel spiraled out of control.
According to Forbes, Pewds earned about $12 million in the 2014-2015 reporting period, compared to his now $15 million. The 23% year-over-year increase is likely due in part to his YouTube Red series, “Scare PewDiePie,” sales of his first book, “This Book Loves You,” and the launch of his mobile gaming app, “Tuber Simulator.”