What The Bucks? $200K a Year Making Videos?

California YouTube star Cory Williams, who is also known as Mr. Safety, reported to the New York Times that he is earning more than $200,000 annually by creating videos on YouTube (he said $17-$20K per month, so I took an average times 12). 

“Half of the profits come from YouTube’s advertisements, and the other half come from sponsorships and product placements within his videos, a model that he has borrowed from traditional media,” Williams said.

Williams, who is known as Mr. Safety at his YouTube channel SMPFilms, said the income was a combination of YouTube Partner income and money he makes for sponsored videos. See “YouTube Videos Pull in Real Money” at the The New York Times (thanks Marilyn).

Michael Buckley, WhattheBuck, declines massive amounts of money that now go to Cory Williams (SMPFilms)Michael Buckley, who posts on YouTube as WhatTheBuck, won’t confide his earnings. But he said his hobby has changed his financial life…

The article quotes: “Mr. Buckley quit his day job in September after his online profits had greatly surpassed his salary as an administrative assistant for a music promotion company. His thrice-a-week online show “is silly,” he said, but it has helped him escape his credit-card debt.”

I feel so weird writing this post, because both of these guys are, like, BFFs. Well- they’d probably say acquaintances. But now instead of calling Cory “crazy,” I have to call him “eccentric” (which means crazy and rich). Buckley,  however, hasn’t let the money go to his head. Occasionally he berates his minimim-wage assistant, Mason, but that’s fair. He’s under a lot of pressure.

Most of my 3-plus years watching this industry has been dedicated to helping video creators live off their work. And that can’t happen until marketers realize that, uh, these cats know how to “draw a crowd.” And crowds buy stuff. But this particular piece isn’t focused on the marketing whores.

Rather, this post is to warn aspiring video creators of a few things that may be missleading about this news. I don’t want people to have an unrealistic sense that they can quit their day jobs quite yet.

  1. First, these are video creators that are in the top single-digit percent of popularity. Almost any industry has a sharp pyramid, and online video is shaping up similarly. That means for every Buckley there are thousands maybe millions of people that are earning enough to cover maybe a few Starbucks coffees.
  2. These people have been at it for a while. Buckley’s success was “overnight” (less than a year), but Mr Safety has been doing this since his Jackass days and before he invented Post-It Notes.
  3. Remember ZeFrank? He’s working the late shift at Wendy’s now. Creators can DaxFlame out as fast as they can Fred. The audience can be cruel and shifty.
  4. $17-$20K a month is a lot of damned money. I’m trying to decide whether to rob Cory’s house or assume it’s a “white lie.”  I still think the whole “I turned down SNL” is a white lie (like when you tell Grandma her creamed spinach is delicious), but then again… I’d think Cory was lying if he told me that Mean Kitty was about to have more subscribers than I. But check for yourself (I totally just vomited a little in my throat). Naturally, I gave Cory total crap when his “$20K a month “slipped out” on the Tyra Banks interview (see his “who told you?” quote). But his explanation was fair… A friend helped broker the interview, Cory told the friend stuff about recent earnings “off the record,” and that information turned up on the interview. Now it’s “out there” and I shant have a conversation with him without reminding him he should have voted for McCain for tax reasons alone.
  5. I do sponsored videos and I’m a YouTube Partner, and I’m not making anywhere near $17K a month. That day may come, but I feel like I’m worth more (and better differentiated) helping marketers tap this medium.
  6. There is no six. Piss off with your desperate need for a 6th on a list.
  7. Finally, remember “The Secret.” Money will come, but only if you affirm that you’re worth it and don’t get jealous of other people’s success. Even if they are making more than you are as a marketing director because they have a stupid cat that’s popular. 😉


33 Replies to “What The Bucks? $200K a Year Making Videos?”

  1. Heck, I’d settle for 1k/month deposited directly into my Roth IRA. I can deal really! My only problem with YT now is that my videos don’t show up in the search even if I do have all the right keywords. What’s with that?

  2. How many times are you going to mention the secret this week nalts?

    @1 Holy crap man. How’d you get here so fast?

    On topic:

    You’re very right, these numbers would only be realistic for maybe the very top handful of YouTube partners, and only if they market as cory is, combining product placement, sponsorship, and YT advertising. My paltry viewer base (in comparison to, oh, say Nalts) brings in very little. I can’t say how little (lest Google strip me of my earnings and name me Clarice), but I will say that I’ve been a partner since September and I have yet to hit that “Your first check is cut at $100” mark. (Though I’m nearing it).

    Unless you can pull in a huge audience and add your own custom advertising, breaking out of the “neat hobby that pays a little” category ain’t gonna happen.

    That being said, I posted a video response to Nalts’ parakeet video. He’d better approve it, or I’m leaving WVFF and hanging out with Cory from now on. After all, you might not be able to buy true friends, but you CAN lease them for a while.

  3. oh Kevin still pining over your unrequited love for zefrank, tsk, tsk.
    Ya know he got a movie contract and some kind of TV series; are you turning green with envy yet? Shame, he didn’t get a piece of the big$ some you tubers who blatantly copy his style have received. Though, it’s never too late…

    Who is Mr. Safety?

    If you want the big bucks, why don’t you dress up and act like a cat?
    Call it, Kevin the Kat! Do cat things, eat cat food, crawl around and act like a cat. If you do and it’s big I want at least 10% of the booty! 😉

  4. @1

    holy shit, is that you Michael?

    side note: Because my name is Michael, it feels incredibly awkward to call someone else that name.

    Seriously, I would never have expected you to be the first one to comment here.


    Oh, hey, getting $100 for a hobby you enjoy, even if it does take three+ months, is good.

    I’d take that over… actually, I wouldn’t, now that I think of it.

  5. I understand that SxePhat is making a good living blatantly copying Zefrank. Everybody who’s been around understands that. Zefrank doesn’t care.

    Hey, I’d be interested in a post of just how many people are currently doing zefrank impersonations on YouTube. Yeah, that’s a list I’d like to see. Compare that long,long list to the number of people who are emulating my style (I’m waiting on my third Google check as we speak so I must be doing something right down here in the Unpopulars Pool).

  6. A case could be made that What The Buck is a pop cult TV celebrity fandom version of Zefrank. Mr. Buckley looks like a nice guy, but I don’t get his appeal. Sorry. I just don’t get it. But then, I’ve always thought Entertainment Tonight was trash for TV-trashed minds.

    So IS this online stuff a zero sum game, Kevin? Does every penny Buck and Safety and Zipster make come out of somecallmejim’s potential earnings? Enquiring (sic) minds want to know.

    Sh-t, I’m not even anywhere near as popular as even Nutcheese who only makes one video a month and that video pushes gay issues that have nothing to do with anyone I know. I guess I should follow her lead and talk more about ass-wiping, snot-douching and goofing on Christian values.

    Zero sum game, Kevin. Can you repost that report?

  7. Gah. I must be doing something wrong… like Buck, I also read The Secret and I’ve made well an embarrassingly low amount.

    I secretly suspect the real secret is that all the really successful people on YouTube are merely puppets of Alan “fallofautumndistro” Lastufka. Fortunately his book will be in my hot little hand shortly… and then, like Pinky and the Brain, we shall TAKE OVER THE WORLD. Or something.

    I think sometimes I only leave comments here to perpetutate conspiracy theories… Food for thought.

  8. Actually Ze got signed by UTA, has a movie deal with Universal, and had the lead role in the pilot for John August’s web series with 60 Frames. Ya never know what the future will being, but just didn’t want anyone to think he’s really working at Wendy’s. 😉

    Love ya, Nalts! Hope we meet one of these days!

  9. This just has to come up every so often, it’s one of the foundation stones of WVFF; Kevin’s unrequited love for zefrank and Marquis jealously of his past, but unlucrative (in comparison to Phil$) sucess.

    Common sense might dictate, get this out in the open, along with all the underlining and disturbing causes related to life in general, but that would turn into one endless and troubling therapy session and not only would sukatra’s eyes bleed, she’d evaporate.

    Maybe one day, if it’s not too late, Kevin [click] will get the e-mail he’s been longing for:

    zefrank: “what the hell do you want?”

    or something to that effect. Until then, ze’s invisible presence will remain a familiar anchor to hang the WVFF evolutionary internet hat on.

    ah, c’est la vie

  10. What’s the pay like on that foundation stone gig?

    A V.A. doctor told me Monday that I have an oversized tongue which may be blocking oxygen to my brain at night. That’s not the only trouble my tongue has gotten me into.

  11. I read the NY Times! I read a lot of new websites, and now I read your blogs, how do you find the time to write all this crap, and more importantly why? Why?

  12. @22

    your zefrank obsession predates my discovery of this blog, thank the Lord. Now if we could just get you to stop sucking up to Daisy Whitney.

  13. Sir
    that front page story by Brian Stelter from Maryland journo school, shades of jason Blair?, just joking, is that story a faked story. ? Just asking. did the editors of the NYTimes check to make sure Buckley REALLY has pauyments of 20,000 bucks a month, 100,000 bucks a year, in his bank account. did they see the receipts. I smell a rat here. i think this story was a highly embellished faked story…show me the money receipts…..i say

    I wrote to the times and they are looking into this now

    don’t be fooled by novice reporters doing front page stories. i might be wrong. i often am. but check it out first…

  14. zefrank pulled well over $300k from his show. not bad considering it was 2006 (remember the ‘upgrade your flash player to see a video’ days?). also he did it without using youtube, which is another riddle to ponder. i did see amanda congdon at wendy’s last week, but i think she just likes the sauce.

  15. Hey Nalts, I came across this alternative YouTube site that pays you £3cpm for views of your videos on its platform, and I thought of you. It’s UK only at the moment I think, but it might still be of interest:


    (I work in for Unruly Media, a video seeding platform – I read your blog regularly, don’t work for Metro!)

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