Revealed: the YouTube rich list

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

For many it's a source of fun, but for these 10 people the video-sharing website is a serious business

Millions of people watch them each day around the world. Their audiences are young and tech-savvy and most people over 30 would be forgiven for never even having heard of them.

New research has revealed the names of the ten highest earning independent acts on YouTube. True their earnings may be miniscule compared to Steven Spielberg, James Cameron or Ben Stiller, but they have done something which for a long time nobody in the mainstream media industry believed was possible – turning what was essentially a bedroom hobby into serious money by uploading video or vlogs (video blogs) on the site.

It is estimated that 60,000 new films a week are added to YouTube – the equivalent of 12 hours of footage joins the world's most popular on-line video community each minute. But there among the vast digital landscape of bad lip-synching singers and unfunny TV bloopers are some emerging stars yet to be snapped up by an established media company or brand.

The research by TubeMogul, an analytics and internet advertising company, has revealed that at least 10 performers, writers and producers earned more than $100,000 (£65,000) each over the last 12 months from their short films which have achieved popularity largely through word of mouth.

Under a special partnership deal with the site, which is owned by search engine giant Google, original content creators are able to generate advertising revenues from their work and enjoy the same promotional benefits as more established stars. YouTube splits the revenue from banner ads 50-50 with its partners.

Nine of those that appeared in the top 10 are comics, including Shane Dawson, 22, a committed Christian who eschews sex before marriage, drugs and alcohol who was number one having earned an estimated $315,000 in the last 12 months from his near-the knuckle satirical videos.

Dawson, like many on the list, grew up with vlogging and see it as the natural arena for his talents. But many of the biggest names – such as The Annoying Orange created by Dane Boedigheimer – are already being eyed up by established media companies. In the two years since he has started posting his unique brand of humour, Dawson can lay claim to the fourth and ninth-most subscribed channel in history on YouTube, with total upload views of more than 249 million.

Increasing a website's number of hits is a notoriously dark art. Some on the list have been accused of so-called "tag loading", a process whereby vloggers can increase the number of hits they get by tagging material with search terms such as "Xbox" – which though unrelated to their work can drum up hundreds of thousands of extra views.

While some industry commentators suggested the earnings could be on the conservative side, other sources suggested they were close to the amounts earned. But Greg Benson of Mediocre Films, which came in at number seven in the survey, fiercely dismissed the figures. He said he loved his job and worked extremely hard – between 60-80 hours a week arranging shoots and working in front of his computer. He said: "I get asked this a lot. It's a fair question but it's kind of rude to ask someone how much money they make," he said.

"It's so wrong everything in the article appears to be wrong... I would be thrilled if I actually had any business being on that list or if I actually made that much money or had that many viewers that they say I have. That would be awesome. It would also be awesome if I could shit diamonds. But I can't do that either."

The $100,000-a-year stars

1. Shane Dawson

Estimated earnings from YouTube advertising on his video clips in past 12 months: $315,000 (£200,000). Views in that time: 431,787,450

Describing himself as an "innocent guy with a dirty mouth", the 22-year-old Californian's sketches include one of a vampire drinking menstrual blood and have earned him more than 250 million uploads. Success on YouTube has enabled Dawson to move out of his mother's house.

2. The Annoying Orange

$288,000. Views: 349,753,047

The obnoxious fruit that irritates the pips out of its fellow foodstuffs has proved a huge success for its creator, Dane Boedigheimer (daneboe), who recently celebrated one million subscribers to his own YouTube channel. The Orange is set to go mainstream with talks under way about a TV pilot.

3. Philip DeFranco

$181,000. Views: 248,735,032

Voted the world's sexiest geek by Wired.com readers in 2008, DeFranco created his Sxephil channel for YouTube while studying at East Carolina University. His eponymous video blog focuses on politics and gossip.

4. Ryan Higa

$151,000. Views: 206,979,909

Also known as Nigahiga, the Hawaiian-born Japanese-American evolved from lip-synching to original comedy and has had more than 150 million hits. Videos How to be Gangster and How to be Ninja went viral for him and his Yabo Crew.

5. Fred

$146,000. Views: 200,656,150

Lucas Cruikshank, 16, is the creator of the precocious, helium-voiced six-year-old whose videos shot with a $100 camera are said to have earned him more young fans than Hannah Montana. Soon to appear on Nickelodeon.

6. Shay Carl

$140,000. Views: 192,309,247

Behind the Shaycarl channel is a father-of-three from Idaho who used to be a radio DJ. He first broadcast his comic routines on YouTube in 2008 and has since produced more than 100 films. He now has three channels of his own.

7. Mediocre Films

$116,000. Views: 159,030,703

Comedy channel created by Greg Benson in 2006. Benson dismissed the findings of the survey as wrong, insisting he should not be in the Top 10. His best known work is Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show, written with his wife, which appeared in 2007.

8. Smosh

$113,000. Views: 154,936,876

Described as the Saturday Night Live of YouTube by Time magazine, shaggy-haired comedy duo Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox uploaded their first video in 2005. They were the No 1 YouTube channel in 2007 and are now the fifth most popular.

9. The Young Turks

$112,000. Views: 153,807,362

Hosted by Cenk Uygur, the longest-running online (liberal) political talkshow in the US was started in 2002 and averages 13 million hits a month. The company believes it can take on the networks at breaking stories.

10. Natalie Tran

$101,000. Views: 138,871,829

The 24-year-old Vietnamese-Australian is the No 1 Down Under. Her most popular video is How to Fake a Six-pack, parodying internet users' apparent obsession with getting a flat stomach. She has had 250 million hits worldwide.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
News
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
news
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Lars Ulrich of Metallica performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
film
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Graduate Recruitment Resourcers - Banking Technologies

    £18000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Huxley Associates are looking...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Pharmacuetical

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Real Staffing, one of the UK'...

    Associate Recruitment Consultant - IT

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Computer Futures has been est...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform