The top ten YouTubers collectively earned $300m in 2021: is that good or bad?

It’s always interesting to see hard figures about how much individuals earn online from their activities there. For example, Forbes published an article recently that looked at the top ten YouTubers. The income of the stars in this relatively new medium turns out to be comparable to that of those working in traditional ones like music, cinema and sport:

MrBeast leads our latest list of the top-earning YouTubers for the first time and likely earns himself a spot among the world’s highest-paid entertainers. In fact, his $54 million payday would have put him in the Top 40 of our last Celebrity 100, a ranking of the top-paid stars across all of entertainment, above folks like Billie Eilish, Kim Kardashian, Angelina Jolie and even BTS. The two right behind MrBeast – No. 2 Jake Paul ($45 million) and No. 3 Markiplier ($38 million) – also would have made that Celebrity 100, which had a $35 million cutoff.

In total, the top ten YouTubers earned around $300 million in 2021, up 40% from the previous year. While the sums involved are obviously good news for the YouTubers, there is a worrying aspect to that solid increase. The figure of 40% is also the growth in the number of users of YouTube, which is now close to 2 billion – a quarter of the world’s population.

The Chinese social network TikTok currently has around 1 billion users, and is still growing rapidly. But its short-form videos don’t compete directly with the core of YouTube. That may change as TikTok seeks to expand into new markets, but currently YouTube dominates the general video sector, wielding a monopoly power there.

As a result, anyone who hopes to earn money making videos is likely to choose Google’s service. Inevitably, that means submitting to YouTube’s Content ID upload filter. It’s a notoriously flawed system that can block perfectly legal material. Although people can and do challenge such blocks, it’s often easier simply to accept the result and move on.

YouTube’s dominance means that Content ID’s rules effectively define what is the law regarding the upload of copyright material, not what the local legislation might be. In the world of online videos, Google is judge, jury and executioner, a situation created in part through a combination of legislative rules inducing chilling effects and the continual pressure of the copyright industry. The only consolation is that if TikTok were to take over from YouTube as the dominant video platform, its automated filtering rules would probably be even worse.

Featured image by Wikipedia.

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