The World’s Top-Earning YouTube Stars: MrBeast, Jake Paul, and Markiplier Take Home Jaw-Dropping Paychecks

The Phenomenal Rise of MrBeast

If there was ever a YouTuber destined for greatness, it’s MrBeast. The 23-year-old sensation shattered records in 2021, earning a staggering $54 million—the highest annual earnings ever for a YouTuber. With a whopping 10 billion views on his videos, MrBeast’s fame has skyrocketed. But what makes him so irresistible to audiences? Well, it seems the internet has an insatiable appetite for larger-than-life stunts, and MrBeast delivers them in spades. From spending 50 hours buried alive to dishing out $10,000 for sitting in a tub of snakes, his audacity knows no bounds. He even created a Squid Game-inspired spectacle, meticulously recreating the show’s sets.

YouTube Stars Rewrite Earning Records

MrBeast takes the crown as our top-earning YouTuber, securing his place among the highest-paid entertainers worldwide. His astonishing $54 million payday would have comfortably placed him in the Top 40 of our last Celebrity 100—a definitive ranking of the entertainment industry’s highest earners. To put it into perspective, MrBeast would have outearned celebrities like Billie Eilish, Kim Kardashian, Angelina Jolie, and even the sensational BTS. Following close behind are Jake Paul, ranked second with earnings of $45 million, and Markiplier in third place with a hefty $38 million. Both Jake Paul and Markiplier would have also comfortably made the Celebrity 100 list, which had a minimum cutoff of $35 million.

The YouTube Money Machine

In 2021, the collective earnings of YouTube stars soared to an unprecedented $300 million—an astounding 40% increase from the previous year. Their skyrocketing fortunes are largely driven by the surging number of views on their YouTube channels and the resulting ad revenue. The popularity of YouTube has swelled to nearly 2 billion users, a remarkable 40% growth over the past five years. Approximately half of the YouTubers’ earnings come from ad revenue. Additionally, these stars boost their income with branded merchandise lines and venture into various platforms like Twitch, Snap, Facebook, podcasts, NFTs, and even the culinary world by creating their own hamburger franchises. Some have even secured lucrative deals with Spotter, a Los Angeles startup that acquires rights to older YouTube videos.

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MrBeast: The Reigning Champion

#1 | MrBeast

MrBeast’s earnings in 2021 nearly doubled compared to the previous year’s top earner. This rise can be attributed to the immense popularity of his latest project, the MrBeast Burger. Through an innovative app and menu, fans can order MrBeast-branded meals from partnering restaurants across the country, while MrBeast leverages his marketing prowess to promote the venture to his massive audience of nearly 90 million YouTube subscribers. The profits from these orders are then split between MrBeast and the restaurants. To date, this culinary endeavor has sold an astonishing 5 million sandwiches.

Jake Paul: A Controversial Comeback

#2 | Jake Paul

Jake Paul makes a triumphant return to the top earners’ list, having last appeared in 2018 with earnings of $21.5 million. His resurgence can be largely attributed to his ventures in the world of boxing. Throughout 2021, Jake engaged in highly publicized bouts with two MMA fighters, Ben Askren and Tyron Woodley. Defying expectations, Jake emerged victorious in all three matches. Boxing seems to be a natural fit for Jake, who has had his fair share of controversy. One infamous incident involved his brother Logan, who filmed a highly insensitive video in a Japanese forest known for its association with suicides. Both brothers faced severe consequences for their actions, including the loss of sponsorships and demonetization on YouTube. Today, Jake primarily utilizes YouTube to promote his boxing career, which now accounts for a staggering 90% of his earnings.

Markiplier: The Merchandise Maestro

#3 | Markiplier

Few social media stars possess Markiplier’s merchandising prowess, which played a crucial role in doubling his earnings since the previous list. Markiplier struck gold with his Unus Annus series—collaborating with fellow YouTuber Ethan Nestor-Darling—which led to a highly successful line of T-shirts, hoodies, and other items. Markiplier’s sights are now set on conquering the world of television. In 2021, he filmed a TV adaptation of his post-apocalyptic thriller podcast, The Edge of Sleep. Currently seeking a network like Netflix or Hulu to pick up the series, Markiplier continues to be a beloved YouTube fixture with a massive subscriber base of 31 million. His fame initially took root by uploading gameplay videos of popular titles like Five Nights at Freddy’s, a bone-chilling game set in a haunted pizzeria.

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Beyond the Top Three: Rhett and Link, Unspeakable, and More

Further down the list, we encounter other influential YouTube stars who have made a significant impact on their audiences and their bank accounts.

#4 | Rhett and Link

From humble beginnings hosting a nerdy daily talk show called Good Mythical Morning, Rhett and Link have built an entertainment empire. Their empire includes spin-offs and brand extensions that elevate their YouTube views and earnings. Notable among their successes is Mythical Kitchen, a cooking series hosted by Josh Scherer that has amassed 1.8 million subscribers on YouTube. Rhett and Link have also launched the Mythical Accelerator fund, with a $5 million investment aimed at supporting other YouTubers.

#5 | Unspeakable

Unspeakable knows no bounds when it comes to his love for Minecraft—a game that has become a childhood staple for over 20 million fans of his four YouTube channels. In his videos, you’ll find adventures like filling a room with live alligators. Unspeakable recently made a calculated business move by selling his catalog of YouTube videos to Spotter, acquiring a lump sum that can be invested in growing his business swiftly.

#6 | Nastya

Nastya, a seven-year-old YouTube sensation who immigrated from Russia, has captivated a staggering 87.5 million subscribers with her Like Nastya channel. Her channel chronicles the everyday moments of her life, ranging from decorating Halloween cupcakes to spending time with her best friends, Evelyn and Adrian. Nastya has not only struck a deal with Spotter, similar to Unspeakable but also expanded into other realms, including merchandise and NFTs.

#7 | Ryan Kaji

Ryan burst onto the YouTube scene at the tender age of four, captivating audiences with toy reviews and playful antics. Now ten, Ryan’s team, which includes former Disney executive Chris Williams, is focused on sustaining his brand as he matures. The introduction of animated characters like Red Titan has broadened Ryan’s appeal, and his main channel, Ryan’s World, continues to draw an impressive 31 million subscribers. Ryan’s brand has expanded to include an extensive line of merchandise and toys available at major retailers like Target and Walmart.

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#8 | Dude Perfect

Daredevils and sports enthusiasts, the fivesome known as Dude Perfect delivers adrenaline-pumping content that keeps viewers coming back for more. Their videos feature incredible stunts like bench-pressing 405 pounds underwater and walking on a biplane’s wings mid-flight. Fans also have the opportunity to witness these awe-inspiring feats firsthand, as Dude Perfect embarks on their third live tour, scheduled to hit 24 cities this summer. For those seeking an at-home adventure, Dude Perfect published a captivating book titled “101 Tricks, Tips, and Cool Stuff,” complete with awe-inspiring photos and step-by-step instructions.

#9 | Logan Paul

Logan Paul, like his brother Jake, makes a triumphant return to the top earners’ list. In the aftermath of a highly controversial incident in 2017, both brothers faced significant backlash. Logan’s path to redemption has been paved with professional boxing matches and a foray into the world of NFTs. His podcast, Impaulsive, has garnered over 100 million YouTube views within the past year.

#10 | Preston Arsement

Preston Arsement, the mastermind behind several YouTube channels, has won over the gaming community with his highly popular channel, PrestonPlayz. Specializing in Minecraft, Preston boasts nearly 12 million subscribers who eagerly follow his gaming adventures. He consistently brings topical content to his channel, as evident in his recent creation of a playable Minecraft version inspired by the challenges featured in Squid Game.

The Methodology Behind the Rankings

Our estimates are based on earnings from January 1 to December 31, 2021—a shift from previous lists that considered pay from June to June. The figures represent pretax earnings, excluding fees for agents, managers, and lawyers. Our methodology relies on data from Captiv8, SocialBlade, Pollstar, and interviews with industry insiders.

Justin Birnbaum and Brett Knight contributed to this report.

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