Only 3 percent of YouTubers make enough money to crack the poverty line
It's not such a good gig after all.
The other night, our family was sitting down to dinner attempting to talk about anything and everything that could get our minds off of the suck happening around the world. My step-daughter, eternal optimist as she may be at 11 years old, chimed in with her plans for the future.
"I want to be a teacher," she said. "First grade. ... And a secret YouTuber."
This isn't the first time she's brought it up, being a YouTuber. She and her friends spend an obnoxious amount of time following their favorite personalities, watching them attempt everything from Enduro-like video game binges to glittery pancake art. These personalities rack up tens of millions of views, hundreds of thousands of excited fans, and brand shout-outs sometimes worth a few months of rent for one simple placement.
Except, according to new research, very few of them will even breach the U.S. poverty line. Turns out, being a YouTuber isn't such a great career ambition after all.
"These YouTubers, they have great reach and engagements, but it's not something Hollywood is really taking seriously."
That's Laura McDonald, talent agent for The Gersh Agency. She, like many others in the industry, see the appeal for wanting to hire on "influencers" to promote a brand, but the bridge from in-pocket personality to superstar just isn't there yet. And with increasingly smaller paychecks coming in from YouTube's strategic pay-scale, branching out is necessary to break even on bills, but unlikely.
"Some of these people came up on Vine, which is great for a 7 second joke, but it's hard to translate that into a half hour show," McDonald adds. Talent, as anyone knows, is only a small part of the larger battle in Hollywood (or any other entertainment Mecca). It's just not as easy as hitting record and adding in a few cutesy filters afterward.
According to Digital Music News, the new research from Offenburg University of Applied Sciences shows just how poorly people are being paid and what an uphill struggle it really is to become a YouTube celebrity. Taking the past 10 years of data, the reality is some 96.5 percent of YouTube uploaders will never breach the U.S. poverty line — $12,060 for individuals.
That's because the site pays only $0.00074 per stream — a mere $740 per one million views.
Not only that, competition is fierce; and only continues to get worse. According to the same report, only 3 percent of uploaders receive the lion's share of views. See that chart down there? It means a struggle is ahead for noobs.
“If you’re a series regular on a network TV show, you’re getting a good amount of money,” says Alice Marwick, an assistant professor of communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to Bloomberg. “Yet you can have half a million followers on YouTube and still be working at Starbucks.”
So if my daughter's dreams ever come to pass, and she does in fact become a teacher and secret YouTuber, she's looking at a cool $48k per year combined, before taxes, with about 60-70 hours worth of work each week to get there.
It's hard to crush the dreams of someone who doesn't understand the world just yet. But being a parent means being the bad guy sometimes.
And I for one will not stand for having to spend my remaining years in a shithole retirement home because someone pretty on social media made it look so easy.