Exclusive: How Much Money YouTube Partners Make

{Update from 2013 reveals YouTube stars making $4 million plus per year}

How much do YouTube stars make each year? Oh for goodness sakes. Just like my same 5 YouTube videos (see right column of channel page here) represent the majority of my online views… It seems that most of WillVideoForFood’s blog traffic comes from people searching for how much YouTubers make. If you’re curious, read on. If you want to make big bucks, buy my book first. You’ll still be facing tough odds, but at least you’ll wander into the jungle equipped with some survival tools.


We YouTube “Partners” (or “stars” as I hate saying) are all contractually forbidden to share our revenue. But I’ve given hints and clues over time. For those of you who Googled your way here, I’m both a marketer/advertiser and a creator/YouTuber, so that gives me two lenses into this Da Vinci-Code like mystery. Davinci made me think of “Da Bears.”

I’d estimate there are have at least a few dozen YouTube Partners earning $100K per year. That’s great money if you’re in your 20s or 30s and have minimal costs in production or overhead (like 4 kids and a horrific mortgage). But it’s a rounding error for a professional content creator or network.

To calculate a particular Parner’s income, here are some tips:

  • You basically take the Partner’s total views for the month, multiply it by a fraction of a penny, and you have a rough idea. TubeMogul‘s Marketplace shows some of the most-viewed people (and their monthly views). But remember: the most-subscribed are not necessarily most-viewed and vice versa. YouTube doesn’t give a hoot how many subscribers you have (although that certainly helps drive views, but increasingly it seems less powerful than being a “related video”). In general, the commercial content is getting more daily views but the amateurs have a lock on subscribers.
  • Most ads are placed by advertisers based on total 1K views, but some is on a per-click basis (CPC text ads placed by Google Adwords/Adsense). Google/YouTube is usually paid by an agency or media buyer a CPM (cost per thousand, say between $5 and $25 dollars per thousand views), then shares some of that with the creator. This can be highly misleading, because:
    • Some views earn nothing (if they’re embedded and no ad follows it).
    • And increasingly advertisers are paying a high premium for specific content they commission, target, or hand select. Sometimes this might average a few bucks and others it might be much higher… $25 CMP was the published rate of InVideo ads and I know of specific integrated campaigns that command a higher premium from YouTube. Yey!
  • Another confounding variable: potty-mouthed creator turns away advertisers. So watch the ads on your Partner for a while. Are they premium InVideo ads with accompanying display (square) ads? Or are they garbage Adwords/Adsense ads?
  • The text ads may SOMETIMES be paid on a per-click basis, which can make them fruitless or profitable depending on people clicking and buying the advertiser’s product (the latter must occur, or a savvy advertiser will quickly stop the campaign that’s raping them of click dollars and not generating business). I was telling my YouTube buds to turn these off because they’re ugly and don’t make much money, but a few of them gave me a stern stare like they knew otherwise. So whatever… maybe they make money and maybe they don’t. I don’t get a breakdown on them, and they’re still ugly.
  • Then you have to factor in “sponsored videos,” where a YouTuber promotes a product or service for a flat fee (or variable based on views) via Hitviews or related companies. That can easily be more than YouTube shells out per month for ad sharing. The going rate here is incredibly wide: from $1K to $20K and higher per video.

So in conclusion:

  1. Do your own math using monthly views on TubeMogul and assuming some CPM (cost per thousand), but recognize YouTube takes a cut and some of the advertising inventory isn’t sold or is driven by keyword Google adsense text thingies. Maybe the creator/partner gets a few bucks per thousand views and maybe more or less.
  2. Use some of the assumptions above to calibrate your estimate if you’re trying to peak into the W-9s of your favorite “Stars” like Fred. There are now dozens of popular YouTube people that make a full-time living on YouTube revenue, and I’d guess a lot of $50K-$100K per year people. I am not among the full-timers. With a family of 6, I gotta have a day job too. But Shaycarl, Sxephil, Charles Trippy, Michael Buckley and many more… they’re full-time at this. If I was making the bucks I’m making via YouTube after college, I’d probably go full-time too. Fred? Let’s just say he’s got college covered, or a nice nest-egg.
  3. Before you get excited (or jealous), it’s a long haul to cashville. And if you start with the hope of making money, you’re doomed. You need to LOVE it, and be extremely patient as the road to loads of views is tougher to climb, and requires an ass-load of persistence. Start as a hobby and “just keep swimming.”
  4. Finally, there are two forces at odds that impact the sustainability of this revenue for YouTube amateurs. First, we’ll probably see continued competition from more professionally-produced content that fetches higher ad dollars because it feels safer to squeamish media buyers (see, I’m not calling them all dense anymore… only the ones that don’t read this vlog). But the good news is that dollars are projected to grow dramatically. Currently, as a marketer, I’d argue that YouTube is selling itself short.

How’s that? About as specific I can be without breaking my contract or confidence from my friends.

I know some of you peeps know more than I do, so feel free to comment below anonymously or not. Da bears.

62 thoughts on “Exclusive: How Much Money YouTube Partners Make”

  1. Thanks for all the insight. It’s nice to see the internet breaking out into such a strong career for some. I hope to someday make a living from the internet. Until then I’m just soaking up the knowledge and testing things out.

  2. Here is my dilema. I want to make wholesome videos that the family can watch, but those are the ones that seem to not get the most views. As a amateur videographer, is that even a word, I find it hard to compete with those vids by Shane Dawson, Raywilliamjohnson, and Phil Defranco. I don’t want to compromise my values for I feel that a open site like Youtube, I don’t want to set a bad example to kids, who I know watch these explicit videos unknow to their parents. I guess I just have to keep my eye on the prize and not compromise my values. Thanks for Nalts and Shaycarl for giving us moral-youtubers a gleam of light at the end of that dark tunnel.

    Thanks UncleNalts

  3. I pretty much make a living. I also work, too, because the idea of relying on a fluctuating income scares me. Although the more I make, the less the fluctuation is scaring me.

  4. I cant Truly reveal what i make, but i paid for Nalts consulting session fees with my revenue and now i make more money than him. In fact, i also own a ShamWow and like to punch him in the face with it from time to time, just to keep him on his toes.

  5. The most important metric is also the most illusive. That is the rock bottom dollar to view ration. How many views do I need to do to get $XX or $XXX,XXX,XXX?

    We know it’s a fraction of a penny but a big fraction is much larger than a little fraction. Most great tubers are augmenting their income with other things that play off their channel’s popularity. This is where the big money is anyway.

    ValsArtDiary has a whole lot more potential to make money selling paintings, prints and DVDs than from the cash flow from her partnership program. Many musicians sell CDs and DVDs as well. Some sell books and T-Shirts. Still others (like AtheneWins and LisaNova) drive traffic to their self-created fan club sites which generate more ad revenue than their YouTube accounts.

    So for those serious about learning to make money off YouTube and Social Media it is less about the partner programs, where they mooch off the big guys monetizing their audience, and more about connecting with fans and creating ways to monetize their interactions.

    With economies of scale it’s all about creating a fanbase and milking it. The big guys will always drink all the milk if we let them. But the more milk we got the more we should think about creating our own dairies… ;-)

  6. Nalts,I googled “fart” and wound up here……kidding,but that would probably work because of your farting in public video.At the moment,with adsense on my blog,im making FAR more than what im making on youtube,but im sure that will eventually change as i gain subs/views and monetized videos,thanks for the info {:-O

  7. I’ve known many Youtubers that make $2.50 per thousand views every video. But you also must calculate the other videos they make and the views those get every month. For people like Shaycarl, averaging 100,000 to 350,000 views on his vlogs (which he makes everyday) he definitely makes at the very least $500 to $800 a month.

    But that’s just Youtube, think of the T-Shirt sales, merchandise and other deals they make with companies (e.g., sxephil and Carls Jr., and Shaycarls RIP Beardtard Shirt)

    They make a lot of money off of not just Youtube, but the whole shabang.

  8. @3 Raymond, don’t abandon your own code. I’ve done fine with PG-rated humor. It just takes more work and perhaps better writing.
    @12 Jacob. Assuming $2.50 is correct… Shay doesn’t make $500 a month. He at least makes $500 a DAY, and probably double that. 200k views at $2.50 = $500, per DAILY vlog. Now add in all the views he gets on his older videos on various channels. I’d bet he’s making $1,000 a day, easily.

  9. as much as I would like to be partnered and get some small slice of the pie, I’ve seen the other side of the partner program. My good fried Justin Levesque was partnered with over 10,000 subs for only 2 months and then had it all taken away due to content. If you get accepted, they have to watch the videos at some point. They shouldn’t have accepted him if they were just going to shit-can him. It’s made me think twice about ever joining the partner program even if I got thousands of subscribers. If anything, I would just establish a seperate website which I already have a domain for, nobudgettv.com, and set up separate advertising there.
    I don’t want to get rich, I want to entertain and have a fan base. If anything the money would only help to expand what we already do with better equipment, a studio and so on. But for now, I’ll just worry about getting out name out. No Budget TV

    Great blog as always Nalts!

  10. Nothing in this blog is remotely accurate. Good work Nalts, your YouTube Partnership is safe.

    YouTubers make about 30 cents for 1000 views. Is that a secret? (I hope YouTube doesn’t find out that I am Happyslip).

    Partners are only paid for clicks, not impressions. (Did you lie Nalts or are the first people to be made Partners getting paid for impressions?)

    YouTubers with friends who are YouTube employees get spotlighted and featured and are allowed to use pictures of breasts, f@$king obscenities, misleading titles and Miley Cyrus to get enough views to make a living.

    YouTube is a public toilet. There are always ways to make money in a public toilet. But you are still working in a toilet.

  11. @1000 Anywhere you work, you work in a toilet. The world isn’t pretty.

    As far as I am concerned, YouTube is a pretty clean toilet in a bathroom that has not been taken care of otherwise.

  12. Very interesting information! I don’t ever expect to make a living from my videos, but it would be nice to have a hobby that paid for itself! Does YouTube factor in the length of a video or how much of a video is actually viewed?

  13. Leave it to Nalts to write an awesome blog post like this, something other YouTube partners are either afraid of doing (worried about losing their YouTube partnership honor) or don’t want anyone to know what they are making.

    Sounds like there is money to be made on YouTube, and I expect many more people to be making full time livings in the coming years.

    Right now we see individuals earning $x dollars on each video, but I see multiple individuals earning a part of those $x dollars per video but on far more videos than individuals who produce solely by themselves. An individual production effort vs a team production effort is something to watch out for in 2010 and beyond.

    I agree those AdSense ads are ugly and likely nobody ever clicks on them, the interactive overlay banners are where it’s at, hopefully more interesting creatives pop up in 2010. Advertisers should ask the question “would I click on this overlay if I was watching a video I really liked?” if the answer is no then please create something better.

  14. Here’s the tricky part
    getting partnered up

    NOW
    if some partner was good enough to start a new channel – taking in some individual videos which would generate some income then used those funds to start a web site promoting the channel and the users channels who contributed; spinning channels off like characters from All In the Family, why it could be it’s own cartel or like Amway.

    With Tubemogal it would be pretty easy to figure out the revenue that would support the web page and upkeep and if something went viral it’s easy enough to cut the sound off and provide an annotation link to the user’s channel,

    Sure there would have to be a few rules and a couple of understandings, but for the smaller guy it’s a way to get seen – I don’t know why no one else has though of doing this already – is it fear, greed or crossing the fine line of community?

    I bet there are a bunch of non-partnered people who have one or two good videos in therm and I bet a number of partners might donate a video to help promote it.

    or maybe not

    ??

  15. $500 a day I’d say is over-the-top, I’m sure some Youtubers are making a flat-line amount of money each month to make their content. But Youtube is owned by google, and together Youtube and Google are worth billions, and everyone would want an ad on a multi billion dollar site – so who knows, really?

  16. This blog post just saved me a great deal of time…Thank You! I now know there’s really no money to be made through youtube’s partnership program. Especially for someone who’s not doing it full-time. Thank you guys for the great insight.

  17. Great post Nalts.

    I don’t understand how the Station makes money. They need to split it between so many different personalities and the crew. It must be revenue coming from outside the Partnership program to be worth anything. And who gets what? Who ever in that particular video?

  18. too vague really

    should have thought some creative way to telling us the numbers

    or do u think youtube reads your blog just to check if you are not telling any secrets?

    cmooooonn

  19. I love what you said about starting it off as a hobby. I really think that’s great advice for small YouTubers who can only dream and this point. (me)

  20. Thanks Nalts for the good info and perspective. I particularly enjoyed reading Micon Frink’s comment #8

    I saw a posting on yahoo answers that suggested $3.30 per 1,000. The tech blog at wired suggested $5 per 1000 for the bigger showbiz concerns such as Sony who was haggling over the revenue from Simon Cowell’s Susan Boyle video which had 100 million views.

  21. ooops, maybe I didn’t read the fine print so well … don’t remember seeing anything about not revealing profits.

    I have had 2 vids in the google add sense program on youtube for almost a month now. The vids have been posted for about 3 years and only accumulated 120,000 views in that time. I’ve had a little over 3200 views since joining the revenue share program and there have been 14 clicks on the adds so far. My take $5.08, yeilding an CPM of $1.89 … and that’s only because a couple of the clicks were worth .75 cents to $1.00 each (wish I could always have those adds). Most clicks net me .05 to .12 cents each. Page impressions rate very little revenue for me ~.05 CPM

    While this has been notso profitable, it did get me off my butt to start posting again … who knows maybe I’ll get a hit one day.

  22. Youtube pays on a scale. Not every partner is paid the same.

    The more views your videos get, the less money per view you get. The formula also takes into account how many people favorite the video and put 5 stars etc.

    Guys like RWJ with millions of views per video make a fraction of a penny per view. But they also have inset ads that when clicked add up very quickly.

    Most youtubers with a million subscribers make mid 6 figure income. Which puts them in the top 1% of all tax paying wage earners. Not a bad way to earn a living.

  23. Another thing that sucks is that youtube only features the same few people over and over again. People are sick of seeing shaytards on the front page.

  24. Saw a ridiculous article on Yahoo finance that a friend posted. They only quoted TubeMogul as a source, and claimed that by some magic calculation (mostly CPM estimates) there were a herd of $100,000 earning YouTube creators.
    Anyway, it was great to be able to come here and get some corraborating evidence to my knowledge of CPM vs. CPC.
    I’d like to see more transparency in the entertainment and content creation world. Nalts didn’t quite lift up his shirt and show us the magic marker, but this was a good start and I’m glad to see others come here to post.

  25. I also saw that retarded article on yahoo finance. They are trying to make it look like anyone can make a lot of money making youtube videos.

    Those people featured in the article are the only people that make good money doing it and that is because youtube features every crappy video they do. Also, I suspect they are secretly employed by youtube on some level but this is not publicized.

  26. There’s a reason why this shows up as one of the first hits for how much partners make, the article does a great job showing the reality of how the partner program isn’t a get rich quick scheme. I think it would be good to explore sponsored videos in another article, since those are usually the bread-and-butter of how these creators make their living.

  27. You dont have to get rich off your youtube videos. There are many many people making $5-$50. off there videos per day, which is not too bad for just posting a video..

  28. Ok, I read ever word of the article from the title to the last period, and all of the comments. Now, I only have one question left…..How much money do youtube partners make?

  29. I finally figured out how to make money off my videos that are not in the youtube partner program. Just start a blog on google’s blogger. They will let you monetize it right away, and set up your google adsense account.

    Then, embed your vids onto your blog page. If you don’t know how, right click an embedded video from a browser like Google Chrome and then click ‘Inspect Element’. then just cut and paste the html into your blog. Update the 11 character video code so it displays the right video .. and sometimes you have to adjust the display size of the video to fit your page.

    You will have to do some work to drive traffic to your blog and hence your videos. Join lots of message boards. Find topics that are relevant, and post links back to your blog site ( not directly to the video’s youtube location ).

  30. James, that’s a stupid fucking idea because you are only going to make pennies doing that. Also, stop spamming and fuck off, bitch.

  31. I am planning on fiming a mini series. The show audience will be a very targeted demographic, but still a big audience. $20k budget.

    The plan is to release it on youtube. One episode per week for 6 weeks. We’ll also be putting up about 4 five minute interviews per week. I am a member of a couple pretty big forums targeted to said demographic. This will allow me to start a pretty big grass roots marketing campaign.

    questions:

    How can i sell commercial space in my videos?
    Would google get a peice?

    Can i sell product placement to businesses in my demographic and locally where we shoot?

    any insight would be great, i’m a total noob to all this

  32. *edit* The final goal is to get the show bought or picked up, with or without the original characters. I sent the show treatment out for copyright a few weeks ago.

  33. Shane, Ray does make a lot of money, for sure! Assume a very realistic figure, say, $1 CPM (1000 views that is), and these guys get at least 1 million views for their videos in the first week. And in a month, the video crosses 2 million views.

    Most of the guys make 2 videos every week. I’d say their channel gets at least 5million views every month (the old videos still gets good number of comments).

    So, that’s at least 50k dollars of profit, every month. If it’s $2 eCPM, then the profit doubles! These kids are rich now — plus they get offers and stuffs like that from other industries folks. Amazing!

  34. my guess is being in this field as well, not making as much, i can easily assume one can make anywhere from $5 to $10 for every 1000 views, watching e.g shay carl gets around 130,00 views a day on his videos, he can make somewhere around $500 to $1000 a day, my guess is more :)

  35. I think the numbers in this article (and many of the comments) are probably fairly close for the established, “big time” youtube partners.

    However for relatively new and unknown partners like myself, they are WAY overstated.

    All I can say is that it’s a good thing I love making videos because otherwise there would be no point at all. I figure I’ll probably start making a profit sometime in 2011. Probably by next December at the current rate.

  36. Hey guys I own a youtube channel with 26k subs and over 7million upload views. I mainly upload videos of gaming glitches or exploits. Now i know I can get a partnership but I heard youtube don’t pay users who upload gaming content and instead need to get a contract from machinima or Activision for Call of Duty videos? Can anybody confirm if that is true?

  37. RSP, you need to own the copyright of your videos.

    Now I don’t know what would happen if instead of just posting the gaming content you’d make a show featuring yourself talking about the gaming glitches (and showing it after you introduced it). That way it’s your show and the clips are there just for clarification…

    In other words, are channels like “The Young Turks” YouTube partners? They use short clips of channel TV news all the time.

  38. Well machinima used to post glitch videos but then there users started to dislike the those sort of videos. about half of my 350 videos have voice tutorials. the initial partnership doesn’t require you to submit videos to machinima so hopefully i can at least get that.

  39. I have a channel and had about 70 vids with 25 with rev sharing when I decided I should apply for partnership. I kinda knew I would get turned down but wanted to get the ball rolling with getting my channel considered. I was gonna wait the obligatory 2 months and then do it again but made a horrible mistake by happily and rather innocently adding my footage from a Prince concert. I love that guy. It didn’t dawn on me that it was illegal. It seems so stupid in hindsight but I just didn’t see it then. Anyway, I got hit with a copyright strike and it is almost 2 months. I was gonna apply again but am now thinking “Whats the use?” Many on the forums say you can’t become a partner with an infringement but others who are now partners say that you can with just one infringement strike but it might take a long time. I am just so ready to get on with it. The thing is that I started a blog a year+ into making vids and link to my blog on them and also embed. When I found out that I may have screwed my first channel I started a new channel that is branded for my blog. It is good for building a brand but I have to build up viewers again because only like 1% of them came from the old channel. I started making regular personal ranty type vids on the old channel and put my main focus hair/health vids on the new channel and now embed the new channel vids on the blog. I make a link to my new channel on all my old channel videos. Not too bad. I am going for 50%. Might make it in the next month or two. It is probably gonna take a while to get any revenue sharing on the new channel. I hate that I had to trade in some of popularity and viewers to start again. Any input about partnership after this kind of stupidity on my part? I don’t make much money but I am so grateful for it and my desire to continue is driving me crazy. Sorry if this is only mildly on topic. Still deals with partnership and I know I’d be making more then than I do now.

  40. You do know that you can just counter claim the strike and it will be gone in 2 weeks whether it waslegit or not

  41. I didn’t know that at all. YT gives some pretty big threats for making a false counterclaim. I think it says I will lose the whole page if they find me in fault after the claim. I’ve seen Prince on tv and he is really angry about the internet. He intends to prosecute to the fullest extent possible. I dont think his team will let it go. I feel so scared to jeopardize my channel and my little $ per month.

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