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.

Michael Buckley: Making a Living as YouTube Star

Michael Buckley was on CNN discussing the YouTube Partnership program, and how it has allowed him to follow his passion full-time. I’m hoping Buckley’s recent press can remind people of two things. First, this space has grown up. I predicted people would be earning 6-figure incomes in 2007 and I was too ambitious. But now folks like KipKay on Metacafe (who earned 6-figures last year, but has slowed down significantly) and Michael Buckley (WhattheBuckShow) are proving that it’s possible. Second, Buckley reminds us to be realistic. Buckley worked like crazy, has crowd-gathering talent, and promotes himself well. Buckley is on Inside Edition tonight, and the media seems rather interested in the notion that people can quit their jobs and live independently via YouTube.

Want to make a living on YouTube? Some tips

  1. Remember it won’t happen overnight.
  2. Find a niche. Buckley is appealing to celebrity-watchers that like a regular online digest.
  3. Read my free eBook: How to Become Popular on YouTube Without Any Talent
  4. Promote yourself, and ensure you use copyright-free content.
  5. RSS or read this blog often- it’s dedicated to helping creators make income (and show advertisers how to enhance their brands via known YouTube creators.
  6. Join the YouTube Partners program once you have a decent amount of videos and views
  7. Create a lot of content that people want- much of Buckley’s revenue is due to his constantly topical videos, and residual income he earns from his collection. For instance, the vast majority of my income comes from continuous views to the top videos I’ve created that continue to get views.

You’ll need to be a top YouTube creator to live from its advertising sharing, but many of us are supplementing our income. I maintain that the highest earning comes from “sponsored videos.” These aren’t easy to find, but they’re nice income. 

Buckley had a modest income before going full-time, and that helps. I’ve got four kids and a mortgage, so it will be a while before YouTube can match my day-job income. But it’s a fun way to make an additional income source, and my video revenue is certainly more than I made in my first job post MBA.

Minow Catches Sharks: Brett the Intern

How does a guy (Brett the Intern) with 778 subscribers solicit some of the top YouTubers to be in his collaboration? Persistence, patience and a pretty funny script.

This video includes cameos by:

(and me)

HBO Web Series “Hooking Up” to Star Popular YouTubers

Lonelygirl15 and naltsI’m just so glad this cat’s out of the bag, so I can officially boast that I used LonelyGirl15’s Visine in the dressing room. Too bad the set was closed to cameras. In one of those moments I wish I had on tape, I had to ask the star of LonelyGirl15 what we should call her, because I couldn’t remember if Jessica was her real name or stage name.

Says the Hollywood Reporter about the HBO Labs web series debuting October 1, “”Hooking Up” could prove groundbreaking for the nascent webisode genre by amassing a sizable viewership, given its aggregation of Internet personalities who can promote the production to their devoted audiences of millions of young viewers.

Tilzy called it “a small scale Ocean’s 11 for the YouTube set.” I don’t know what I’m allowed to say or not say about this production, so I’ll keep it safe and say that some of the people that work for HBOLabs are so cute and talented I’d buy McDonald Happy Meal toys of their likeness. And this post is not a McDonalds or Visine promotion anymore than yesterday’s Twinkie post. I got contacted last night by a Forbes.com guy writing about sponsored blog posts, and I groaned at the thought that anyone would think my pop culture references have backdoor incentives. Ewww!

YouTubers of the HBO web series include whatthebuckshow, sxephil, lonelygirl15, kevjumba, charlestrippy, smpfilms and nalts. Honestly I thought I was an extra, until I was walking off the set and I saw some people I didn’t know. “They’re extras,” someone explained.

And for the record, this isn’t the first time all of us have been scripted. In a grade school production of The Wizard of Oz, I was the soldier that leaned over upon the dying Wicked Witch of the West and said, “she’s dead… you’ve killed her.”

“Hooking Up,” by the folks who brought you RunAway Box, can be seen at www.hookingupshow.com or www.hbolab.com. The YouTube channel is here. See more coverage of the series in The Huffington Post, Tilzy, TechRadar, and Silicon Alley Insider. NewTeeVee is the only publication that didn’t bury its lead (Chris Albrecht used my name in the headline a opposed to “the show also included…”). Hee hee.

What do you think? Do Jessica (LonelyGirl15) and Sxephil have chemistry?

Parodies of Annoying YouTubers

Thanks to yesterday’s comments section (marquisdejolie) I’ve discovered YouTubeicide. It was going to allow it to be a quiet guilty pleasure since it’s somewhat macabre. But this parody of Michael Buckley (Whatthebuckshow) was simply too good to pass on.

Screw Retarded Policeman. I won’t feel like I’ve “made it” until these guys rip me a new hole.

Speaking of hole, I went to a friend’s mom’s funeral the other weekend. As I kneeled to pay respect to her, people noticed the 3-inch hole in my pants bottom. I’m talking about an L shaped rip that you could put a Rubick’s cube through.

Come to think of it, maybe that yellow square wasn’t corn in the toilet.