With a name like MrBeast, perhaps it was only inevitable that he’d grow to be as big as he’s become. The 23 year old earned $54 million in 2021—the most of any YouTuber ever—as his videos accumulated 10 billion views, doubling from the previous year. What do people like so much? Well, the internet loves watching stunts, and MrBeast excels at delivering super-sized ones. In the last year, he has spent 50 hours buried alive, offered $10,000 to anyone willing to sit in a bathtub of snakes and hosted his own version of Squid Game, building replicas of the Netflix show’s sets.
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.
Altogether, the YouTubers collectively earned about $300 million in 2021—another record amount—up 40% from a year earlier, mostly propelled higher by increasing views on their YouTube channels and the ad revenue they generate from those videos. (More people than ever are on YouTube: The platform has close to 2 billion users now, a 40% increase in five years.) Around half their earnings come from that ad revenue. To pad their pay further, all these stars have branded merchandise lines. And they variously dabble in generating additional revenue from Twitch, Snap, Facebook, podcasts, NFTs—even hamburgers. A few have signed lucrative deals with Spotter, a Los Angeles startup buying up the rights to old YouTube videos.