The highest-paid YouTube stars will make you re-evaluate your career choice

YouTube stardom is the new one-hit wonder of yesteryear. Except the payoff for vloggers may stretch a bit farther than, let’s say, Vanilla Ice. I’m not sure if he ever made $15 million. While being Vanilla Ice never occurred to me, I do find myself deeply considering YouTube fame after reading Forbe’s second annual highest-paid YouTube stars list. Ten stars collectively earned a whopping $70.5 million in 12 months from June 2015 to June 2016. And the bankroll for YouTube stars is only increasing. This year’s combined revenue is up 23 percent from last year’s. So here I am, at work, wondering why the hell I went to grad school for journalism when YouTube was a viable option.

If everybody could turn YouTube videos into a million dollar hustle, they would. YouTube has roughly 1.3 billion users and its famed millionaires don’t even scratch the surface. I guess we’ll never know if I would’ve made the cut. But as a testament to how YouTube fame can pay off in such a short amount of time, look no further than Roman Atwood, the second highest-paid star on Forbe’s list. Atwood uploaded his first YouTube video five short years ago. He made $8 million dollars this year.

What does he do to rake in $8 million a year, you ask? Prank people on camera. You read that right.

What each YouTuber does ranges from rapping, to pranking, to gaming, but like in the real world, off camera, the high earners are mostly white men. Lilly Singh, who earned $7.5 million, is the one woman of color. She’s a Canadian rapper-comedian-dancer, meaning she’s on the list because she’s getting paid for actual skills. Rosanno Pasino, who earned $6 million with a baking show, and Colleen Ballinger, who earned $5 million for her “comically inept alter ego,” are the only other women to join Singh. Even in the online video galaxy, women and people of color are criminally underrepresented.

According to Forbes:

“The list measures earnings before subtracting management fees and taxes. Our figures are based on data from Nielsen, IMDB and other sources, as well as on interviews with agents, managers, lawyers, industry insiders and the stars themselves.”

Recording videos only account for part of the stars’ fortunes. Monetizing videos with ad revenue and sponsored content is one way to make money. For example, Atwood is sponsored by Scott toilet paper. The other streams of income come from book deals, touring, selling merchandize, appearances and creating their own products. Their pseudo-celebrity status affords them some of the same opportunities as A-list celebrities.

We’re going to give you the breakdown of the list of 10 stars, but first we have to tell you what the guy in the top spot does. PewDiePie (real name Felix Avrid Ulf Kjellberg) turned videos of himself playing video games while giving foul-mouthed commentary into a $15 million check. His 50 million followers must really love what he has to say about those damn video games.

Here’s the list of YouTube stars making more than all of us and how much cash they made in a single year. Go ahead, it’s OK. We’re taking shots of whiskey to cope too.

1. Felix Kjellberg (PewDiePie) – $15 million

2. Roman Atwood – $8 million

3. Lilly Singh (Superwoman) – $7.5 million

4. Anthony Padilla (Smosh) – $7 million

5. (tie) Tyler Oakley – $6 million

5. (tie) Rosanna Pansino – $6 million

6. (tie) Mark Fischbach (Markiplier) – $5.5 million

6. (tie) German Garmendia – $5.5 million

7. (tie) Colleen Ballinger (Miranda Sings) – $5 million

7. (tie) Rhett & Link – $5 million

I hope this is a safe space where I can admit… I’ve never heard of any of these people.