Among the sea of people jointly uploading 300 hours of footage to YouTube every minute, there is an elite group of creators who earns a comfortable salary off the ads that run against their videos.
Then there’s the YouTube 1 percent.
Many of these top gamers, comedians and other personalities earn north of $100,000 annually from YouTube ads alone — and even more from brand and content deals stemming from their success on the video-streaming platform. Here are three such creators who killed it on YouTube in 2014:
Sky Does Minecraft
Last year, Adam Dahlberg quit his job at Subway to focus full-time on his YouTube channel, Sky Does Minecraft, and never looked back. Sky Does Minecraft has since become the 14th most-subscribed channel on all of YouTube, with more than 10.6 million subscribers and 96 million monthly video views (as of mid-December). That puts Dahlberg, 22, ahead of JustinBieberVEVO and TheEllenShow, the 15th and 16th most-subscribed channels respectively.
In his Sky Does Minecraft videos, the former sandwich artist plays and comically narrates Minecraft, an indie video game hit that enables players to build 3D constructions out of textured cubes. He is signed to Machinima, a multichannel network focused on gaming, which has helped him ink brand deals with Ubisoft, Tontino’s and the FDA (for an anti-smoking campaign). But he’s most proud of his work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which arranged a daylong adventure with a fan at a gaming convention.
“I never thought that someone would think of me as someone they’d want to do anything with,” Dahlberg told Adweek this summer.
The popularity of Rubén Doblas Gundersen is proof that YouTube stardom is an international phenomenon. Another comedic gamer, Doblas Gundersen is Spain’s most-subscribed YouTuber. His rapid-fire antics and editing have captivated Spanish-speaking gamers around the world, garnering his elrubiusOMG channel nearly 9.3 million subscribers and 27 million monthly video views. He produces around 15 videos each month, a mixture of skits, vlogs and “Let’s Play” gaming sessions.
Doblas Gundersen was working toward a career in video game design before focusing on YouTube full-time. His 3D animation and design studies helped him make the jump to YouTube, where he utilizes many of those same skills for video creation. He’s signed to European MCN Divimove, which he praised for its transparency in a June interview with NewMediaRockstars.
Doblas Gundersen expanded beyond YouTube this year when he published “The Troll Book,” an unrelated meme-filled tome that quickly became a best-seller in Argentina.
Joey Graceffa has his fingers in a lot of different pies. Originally known for comedy and parody channel WinterSpringPro, which he operated with his friend Brittany Joyal, Graceffa shifted focus in 2012 to focus on his personal channel (JoeyGraceffa). Filled primarily with personal vlogs, from “WHY I DYED MY HAIR BLUE!” to “BREAK UPS SUCK!” Graceffa’s channel has more than 4.1 million subscribers and 13.4 million monthly video views. YouTube analytics platform OpenSlate pegs Graceffa’s audience on that channel as 73 percent female, primarily in the 13-to-24 age range. He also has a second channel on which, like many top YouTubers, he plays video games and narrates those play sessions. (But unlike other top YouTubers, the strapping fellow tends to game shirtless.) That second channel recently passed a million subscribers.
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Graceffa’s big project this year was a supernatural Web series called “Storytellers.” The creator raised $141,000 on Kickstarter last year to fund the project, teen gothic horror fare with touches of comedy. The series’ voracious fans have since made #StorytellersSeasonTwo a worldwide top-trending topic on Twitter.
“Now that I have a larger audience, I feel that I have the opportunity to make higher-quality content and grow as a person and video creator,” Graceffa told TheVideoInk in February. “That’s why I created ‘Storytellers,’ because I wanted to bring something to my channel that was more than just my vlogs.”
Homepage image via Rydelio / YouTube