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The Top 5 People Making Bank from YouTube

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

You know that people are making money from YouTube (and that YouTube is making earning from videos), but do you know just how much revenue that the ads on YouTube videos generate? The average person who makes a YouTube channel earns around $2 per 1,000 views. This might not seem like a whole lot, but it’s also a passive way to earn money; video makers post videos that may get more and more views over time. Super, you may be thinking, but are people seriously making a living from this? Yes, indeed they are.

The highest grossing YouTube video of all time is Psy’s Gangnam Style, which was released last summer. In less than a year, Gangnam Style has seen over 1.5 billion views, which is the most viewed YouTube video ever and the first video to reach a billion views (the runner up has just about 850 million views, for comparison).  In January, news came out that Gangnam Style generated over $8 million in ad revenue; the revenue is divided up between YouTube and Psy.

Justin Bieber’s song, ‘Baby feat. Ludacris,’ is the second most viewed YouTube video of all time with nearly 850 million views since it was released in February 2010. According to statistics tracking website Social Blade, Baby has earned an estimated revenue of anywhere from $637,000 to nearly $6 million. This is a huge range, but factors like deals that YouTube may have made with a record company factor into ad revenue earnings. Unfortunately, YouTube has not publically released information about what individual videos gross for the site.

Research done by UK newspaper, The Independent, partnered with TubeMogul, an analytics company, to calculate the highest earning independent performers (i.e. not affiliated with a record company, movie studio, etc) are making. They published a list of YouTube stars taking in the most cash as of 2010.

The top earner on the list is Shane Dawson who earns around $315,000 annually from his YouTube channel. At the moment Shane’s channel (ShaneDawsonTV) has 3.6 million subscribers and 843.5 million total video views. Shane is a 20-something comedian from California who describes himself as an “innocent guy with a dirty mouth.”

The next independent act that made the list is The Annoying Orange, which is an anthropomorphic, “obnoxious fruit” that often reenacts scenes from pop culture or media and seems to exist to irritate other fruits. The Independent estimated this channel’s revenue at $288,000 annually and the channel currently has almost 3 million  subscribers.

The third spot on the countdown is Philip DeFranco, with $181,000 in annual earnings. His channel, sxephil features a weekly show that involves his commentary on news, gossip, and other topics. He also has weekly shows on movies and more serious topics. At this writing, he has 2.5 million subscribers.

Fourth up is Ryan Higa, who vlogs from the channel nigahiga, which has 7.9 million subscribers and 1.4 billion total views as of today. According to The Independent’s research, Higa earns $151,000 per year from YouTube. His channel includes comedy and commentary.

Finally, the fifth person on the list is Fred Figglehorn and his channel, Fred. The creator of the character is Lucas Cruikshank, who plays the Fred, an overly excited 6-year-old. The channel is estimated to be making $146,000 per year and Lucas has also made a deal to work with Nickelodeon.

As previously mentioned, this list is a few years old and it’s likely that if this list were compiled now, these performers would still be some of the top earners, but there would be some new earners in the mix. According to statistics site VidStatsX, Smosh is now the channel with the most subscribers, followed by RayWilliamJohnson, and the ever popular JennaMarbles. One expects that these would be some of today’s top YouTube earners.

Angie Picardo is a writer at Nerdwallet, a personal finance website that offers advice on money saving tactics from finding scholarships for college to LAX wifi. by Angie Picardo