MrBeast is the new No. 1 with record earnings and Jake Paul is second despite past scandals. Here's how much these celebs grossed.
WWith a name like MrBeast, maybe it was just inevitable that it would grow as big as it has. The 23-year-old earned $54 million in 2021 - the most of any YouTuber of all time - as his videos racked up 10 billion views, doubling from the previous year. What do people like so much? Well, the internet loves watching stunts, and MrBeast excels at delivering oversized stunts. For the past year, he's spent 50 hours buried alive, offering $10,000 to anyone willing to sit in a bathtub full of snakes, and hosting his own version ofSquid Gameto build replicas of Netflix show sets.
MrBeast tops our latest list of highest-paid YouTubers for the first time, and likely earns a place among the highest-paid entertainers in the world. In fact, his $54 million payday would have put him in our top 40 most recentPromi 100, a ranking of the highest paid stars in all of entertainment, above the likes of Billie Eilish, Kim Kardashian, Angelina Jolie and even BTS. The two directly behind MrBeast–No. 2 Jake Paul ($45 million) and No. 3 Markiplier ($38 million) – would also have made the Celebrity 100, which had a $35 million cutoff.
Overall, YouTubers collectively earned around $300 million in 2021 — another record amount — up 40% year over year, largely due to the increase in views on their YouTube channels and the ad revenue they earn from those videos to generate. (More people are on YouTube than ever before: The platform now has nearly 2 billion users, a 40% increase in five years.) About half of its revenue comes from this ad revenue. To further supplement their pay, all of these stars have branded lines of merchandise. And they're trying a variety of ways to generate additional revenue from Twitch, Snap, Facebook, Podcasts, NFTs - even hamburgers. Some have signed lucrative deals with Spotter, a Los Angeles startup that buys the rights to old YouTube videos.
Her thick checks make one thing clear: it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish a digital star from an Angelina.
#1 | MrBeast
Thanks to that spike in views, his 2021 payday is nearly double what it was last year at #1. (That would be the $29.5 million earned by Ryan Kaji, who slipped to #7.) Another attention-grabbing project out 2021: MrBeast Burger, an app and menu that allows fans to order MrBeast-branded meals from 1,600 restaurants across the country that work with him to fulfill the orders. MrBeast handles the marketing and pushes the burgers to his nearly 90 million YouTube subscribers. He and the restaurants then split the profits from the orders. To date, the company has sold 5 million sandwiches.
Look who's baaack: Paul returns to this list — he last made it in 2018 with $21.5 million in earnings — mostly due to his boxing earnings. He had three high profile fights with two MMA fighters last year: one fight with Ben Askren, two with Tyron Woodley. (Paul won them all.) In many ways, boxing, a sport long populated by controversial stars, is a natural fit for Paul, who is no stranger to controversy himself. He was one of the most popular names on YouTube until December 2017 when his brother Logan released a video shot in a Japanese forest, grimly famous as a suicide site. Fans hated it - they thought it was downright distasteful - and the backlash hit both Paul brothers. Their sponsors cut them and YouTube is demonstrating them. Now they can make money from YouTube advertising again, but Jake is posting less frequently than he used to and mainly uses the site to market his boxing career, which is what matters nowalmost 90% of his income.
Few social media stars can move merchandise like Markiplier, who has seen particularly strong sales of t-shirts, hoodies and other items from his Unus Annus range, the main reason his earnings have nearly doubled from our previous list . (These Unus Annus videos were a collaboration with YouTuber Ethan Nestor-Darling and ran on Markiplier's YouTube channel as of 2019. A year later, Markiplier intentionally deleted them all.) Next, Markiplier hopes to reinvent himself as a TV star. In 2021 he directed a television adaptation ofthe edge of sleep,a post-apocalyptic thriller he first dramatized as a podcast in 2019; The TV project still needs a home, and he's hoping to sell the series to a company like Netflix or Hulu later this year. Markiplier remains a popular YouTube device (31 million subscribers) after initially cementing his fame by recording himself playing things likeFive nights at Freddy's, a video game about a haunted pizzeria.
#4|Rhett and Link
What started with the duo hosting a nerdy daily talk show,Good mythical morning, has grown into something of an empire with spin-offs and brand extensions, increasing their views and revenue on YouTube. One of their most successful efforts:Mythical kitchen, a cooking series with a separate host, Josh Scherer. The two-year-old show already has 1.8 million subscribers on YouTube. Another initiative is their Mythical Accelerator fund, through which they plan to invest $5 million in other creators. (They made their first deal of 2021, donating an undisclosed sum to up-and-coming Jarvis Johnson.) And in October, they fulfilled a long-standing fan request to ditch their family-friendly number by hosting a two-hour, decidedly R-rated livestream, a Event for which they sold 70,000 tickets for up to $50 each.
Unspeakable can't shut upMinecraft, the pixelated video game that has become an integral part of childhood. Over 20 million people subscribe to his four YouTube channels, where he posts videos of himself playingMinecraftand other games. For example, in other clips he fills a room with live alligators. Born Nathan Graham in Houston, he has posted regularly on YouTube for the past decade. Last year, Unspeakable sold its catalog of YouTube videos to Spotter, hoping the lump sum could help it grow its business faster, rather than waiting for the videos to generate ad revenue. (Spotter is now one of the largest independent owners of YouTube content, and has struck several deals like that for Unspeakable's back catalog over the past few years.) Meanwhile, Spotter's cash was at least enough for Unspeakable to debut here.
Nastya also struck a spotter deal last year, selling the monetization rights to her old YouTube videos to Spotter for cash upfront, while retaining the rights to any new videos she uploads. The seven-year-old, who immigrated from Russia with her parents, has garnered 87.5 million subscribers to her Like Nastya channel, where she chronicles her life in prosaic rates. (Top hits of 2021: videos about decorating Halloween cupcakes and spending time with their best friends Evelyn and Adrian.) Alongside the spotter money, she and her corporate executives have been busy adding other brand extensions, including a merch -Line and a NFT collection.
Ryan started on YouTube at the tender age of 4, reviewing and playing with toys. Now 10, his parents and the others who protect his business interests — including former Disney exec Chris Williams — are increasingly focused on keeping his brand alive when he's off playtime. The answer, they hope, could be the animated characters accompanying Ryan. (They've made some progress, thanks to Williams' licensing and media startup pocket.watch. One of those characters, Red Titan, a child superhero with a crimson cloak and a passing resemblance to Ryan, has become well-known enough to be known as Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon for the past two years.) His main YouTube channel, Ryan's World, currently has 31 million subscribers and a huge selection of branded merchandise and toys sold at major retailers like Target and Walmart.
If it seems dangerous to you, it's gold for these sports comedy five (twins Coby and Cory Cotton, Garrett Hilbert, Cody Jones and Tyler Toney). Her videos are filled with things like someone benching 405 pounds underwater and walking on the wings of a biplane in mid-flight. What's better than watching these stunts online? Experience up close: The group will be performing their third live tour in 24 cities this summer. And for the bravest at home, Dude Perfect came out last year101 tricks, tips and cool stuff, a 250-page photo-filled book with step-by-step instructions.
Like his brother Jake, Logan returns to this list after a scandal in 2017 pushed both siblings out. And like Jake, Logan has turned to boxing. He had a fight last June against former world champion Floyd Mayweather, who as an exhibition match had no official winner. As Logan continues to polish his image, he had one of the first celebrity NFT releases last February, selling for $5 million, while his podcastImpulsive, has generated over 100 million YouTube views in the past year.
#10 | Preston Arrest
Preston runs several YouTube channels, but the name of his most popular one, PrestonPlayz, says everything you really need to know about him: The guy usually plays a lot of video gamesMinecraft. Almost 12 million people subscribe to this four-year-old channel, which he keeps well updated: In one of his latest videos, he built a playableMinecraftVersion of the challenges fromSquid Game.
—Justin Birnbaum and Brett Knight contributed coverage.
These estimates measure earnings from January 1 through December 31, 2021, a change from our previous lists, which looked at salaries from June through June of a given year. The numbers are pre-tax; Agent, manager and attorney fees are not deducted. Earnings estimates are based on data from Captiv8, SocialBlade and Pollstar, as well as interviews with industry insiders.