Jake and Logan Paul have become top earners once again -- but neither of them was the No. 1 highest paid YouTuber of last year.
Over the past decade, YouTube and its stars have become an increasingly important part of the entertainment landscape. These digital content creators are now celebrities in their own right and in 2021, being a YouTuber was more profitable than ever before. With viewership at an all-time high, the website’s top users brought in big bucks from ad revenue -- on top of all their other creative ventures.
Forbes took a look at the earnings of YouTubers from January to December of 2021, estimating their income based on data from Captiv8, SocialBlade and Pollstar as well as interviews with industry insiders. What they found was incredibly impressive.
Stars like Markiplier and Rhett and Link easily brought in millions of dollars over the course of the last 12 months -- and one star even broke records, making the most money of any YouTuber ever. Jake and Logan Paul even made a return to the list thanks to earnings bolstered by their recent boxing careers. And with the opportunities to expand their online earnings always increasing, these digital celebs are sure to make even more in 2022.
Read on to find which YouTubers made the most money in 2021…
Preston Arsement is at the helm of several YouTube channels but he’s most well known is his gaming videos on PrestonPlayz. 12 million subscribers regularly tune in to watch Preston play a variety of video games but a majority of his views come from his Minecraft-related content. Meanwhile, Preston's personal channel boasts over 18 million subscribers and features videos of over-the-top challenges with his friends.
Logan Paul's online career was rocked by scandal in 2017 but in 2021, he made his comeback thanks to a lucrative boxing career. Beyond his massive earnings in the ring, which included an exhibition fight against former world champion Floyd Mayweather, Logan also entered into the NFT industry. He even had one of the first celebrity NFT releases with a $5 million sale. Logan's podcast "Impaulsive" also helped him bring in major earnings, bringing in over 100 million YouTube views over the past year.
Dude Perfect, comprised of twins Coby and Cory Cotton, Garrett Hilbert, Cody Jones and Tyler Toney, have been bringing their own brand of comedy to the internet since 2009. This past year, their YouTube channel reached over 55 million subscribers as they took on more of the hilarious (and dangerous) stunts they've become known for. While their Nickelodeon show didn't make it to 2021, they did publish their own book, "101 Tricks, Tips, and Cool Stuff," to help fans figure out how to safely try out their own stunts. The group also planned a summer tour for 2022, spanning 24 cities around the US.
7. Ryan Kaji
Earnings: $27 Million
Ryan Kaji may only be 10 years old but he's already a YouTube veteran. In 2015, his parents helped him start his own channel, now known as Ryan's World, and he's garnered over 30 million subscribers. Young viewers tune in to watch Ryan not only review his favorite toys but also test out science experiments, travel around the world, and spend time with his family. Fans can even find his merchandise and toys sold at major retailers like Target and Walmart. Ryan has expanded into traditional media too, with his Nick Jr. show being renewed for a fifth season in 2021. One of the show's characters, Red Titan, has also branched out from the show with lines of toys, clothing, and other merchandise.
Like Ryan, Nastya got her start on YouTube very young, with her parents creating a channel devoted to their daughter when she was only two years old. Now at age seven, Nastya's endearing personality has helped her gain over 86 million subscribers. In 2021, Nastya's back catalog of videos was sold to Spotter, one of the largest independent owners of YouTube content. Her team has also helped her expand into new ventures including a merchandise line and an NFT collection.
Earnings: $28.5 Million
Unspeakable, AKA Nathan Graham, has been on YouTube for more than a decade but 2021 has been one of his best years yet. His numerous channels with millions of followers primarily focus on Minecraft and challenges, and have allowed him to also sell his back catalog of videos for a massive profit. Nathan reportedly wants to use the lump sum to grow his business more quickly instead of waiting for videos to accrue ad revenue.
Rhett and Link have built an empire since joining YouTube back in 2006. The duo has amassed millions of subscribers, with over 17 million fans tuning into their talk show, "Good Mythical Morning," and almost 5 million watching their more personal Rhett & Link channel. They've also branched out into new series with their Mythical Kitchen channel gaining almost 2 million fans since launching in 2019. Additionally, the pair also hosted a massive livestream that sold a whopping 70,000 tickets
Earnings: $38 Million
Markiplier, whose channel boasts over $31 million subscribers, has long been a top-earning YouTuber -- but this year he nearly doubled his profits. According to Forbes, his monetary increase could partially be attributed to merch sales, particularly items tied to his Unus Annus series. In 2021, he also branched out into more traditional media, filming a television adaptation of "The Edge of Sleep," a post-apocalyptic thriller he initially dramatized as a podcast in 2019. The project still needs a home, but he will reportedly be reaching out to Netflix and Hulu later this year.
It was a great year to be a Paul brother, as evidenced by both Jake and Logan’s massive earnings. Like Logan, Jake also stepped into the boxing ring, and thanks to three well-publicized fights with a pair of MMA fighters, Jake earned millions. Jake is still posting to his 20 million YouTube followers but less frequently than before, which makes sense as 90% of his income now comes from boxing.
1. Mr. Beast
Earnings: $54 Million
Over the course of 2021, Mr. Beast saw a massive surge in viewers across his six YouTube channels. While his primary channel jumped to 88 million followers, his gaming channel also saw an increase to 25 million fans. He additionally launched MrBeast Burger, an app that allows fans to order MrBeast-branded meals from 1,600 restaurants across the country, splitting the profits with the establishments. So far, he's sold over 5 million sandwiches.