How much does PewDiePie earn?
If you ask a lot of “old” people (over 30) who PewDiePie is, a lot of them will be scratching their heads. However, to his predominantly male teen YouTube subscriber base, he is an internet sensation. Furthermore, his fortune has matched his fame. He has established influencer status with his audience, and as such, PewDiePie’s net worth has steadily increased since he created his YouTube channel in 2010.
So who is PewDiePie and how much does PewDiePie make, at least what is the “best guess” of the experts? Also, considering that he has a habit of diving into controversy, such as a recent incident involving anti-Semitic videos, can he continue his stellar rise to YouTube success?
Who is PewDiePie?
In the real, non-pixelated world of Sweden, PewDiePie is better known as Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg and was born on October 24, 1989. He grew up in a professional family that encouraged him to graduate in Industrial Economics and Technology Management at the Technological University of Chalmers in Gothenburg, Sweden.
However, the young Felix became bored with his studies, preferring to make movies instead of writing essays. He created a YouTube account in 2010, initially under the name “PewDie”, and then, after losing his login details to that account, started over with a new account, adding the “Pie” to the end, thus creating the name that will soon be known to the world as – PewDiePie.
Ultimately, he spent more time making movies than studying, so he dropped out of college. To finance his movie and living expenses, he sold Photoshop artwork and worked at a hot dog stand. At the time, PewDiePie’s net worth would have been very small. His parents were apparently horrified by the direction their son’s life had taken and made it clear that he was expected to maintain his lifestyle.
The early days of the PewDiePie video channel
He enjoyed success with his channel from its early days and already had 60,000 subscribers by the end of 2011. MoneyNation has estimated his net worth throughout his YouTube career, and they put PewDiePie’s net worth at $18.7 million in 2011. , not bad for a college dropout making some videos!
He reached 1 million subscribers in 2012. At the time, it must have seemed like a huge achievement. In time, this number was going to be well and truly dwarfed.
PewDiePie initially signed up to the multi-channel network, Machinima, but became unhappy with its performance, neglected by the company, despite being on track to be the most subscribed channel on YouTube.
Before long it jumped into the Maker Studios network, which was later taken over by Disney. However, it seems that his relationship with Disney was already on the rocky side since 2014 and recently came to a rocky end in February 2017.
Superstar days for PewDiePie
It was in 2013 that PewDiePie’s success on YouTube really took off. He reached 5 million subscribers in February of that year, and people began to take notice of his success. The New York Times even profiled him, though, at that stage, he was just one of six YouTubers featured in the article. Four years later, in 2017, he was getting entire New York Times articles dedicated to him alone.
By July 2013, he had the second most subscribed channel on YouTube.
It only took another month before he had that coveted number 1 spot, beating out then-leader Smosh. According to Wall Street Journal estimates, PewDiePie made $4 million in 2013. By the end of that year, he had reached 19 million subscribers.
Twelve months later, he had reached 33 million subscribers, and during 2014 he had 4.1 billion video views. According to Money Nations estimates, PewDiePie’s net worth skyrocketed to $55 million that year.
By September 2015, his YouTube channel became the first to receive 10 billion video views. He made an appearance the following month on Forbes’ list of the richest YouTube stars (a feat he repeated the following year). According to Forbes estimates, he received $12 million in 2015. According to Money Nation, this helped increase his net worth to $68 million.
In 2016, PewDiePie launched a series Scare PewDiePie for the YouTube subscription service, YouTube Red. This was obviously another source of income for him. In December, his main channel became the first YouTube channel to reach 50 million subscribers. Money Nation continued their more accurate calculations of her net worth and put it at a whopping $90 million in 2016, 2.5 times that of Hillary Clinton, though “only” a third of Miley Cyrus’s net worth.
Time magazine included PewDiePie in its list of the 100 most influential people in 2016. He is certainly an influencer to his audience, in every sense of the term.
However, not everything has been smooth sailing for PewDiePie. He had public disputes with YouTube in 2016 over the disappearance of subscribers and threatened to remove his channel. Eventually, he eliminated a subsidiary channel that he ran.
More recently, he has been in trouble due to the controversial nature of some of his videos, and in particular, a prank that backfired. These controversies and the criticisms that have arisen from them will undoubtedly set your money machine back for a while. He paid a couple of non-English speaking Indians on Fiverr to display the message “Death to all Jews” as a joke in one of his videos.
The anti-Semitic message, despite being a joke, did not go down well with its sponsors, Google and its network. The Disney-owned Maker Network felt he was no longer a good fit for them and cut all ties with him. Google removed it from its Google Preferred ad program and canceled the Scare PewDiePie YouTube red series.
As a result, PewDiePie is no longer connected to any multi-channel networks. This is likely to reduce your profits, at least in the short term.
Lessons for brands
A side effect of PewDiePie’s recent woes has been a sudden realization by brands that they only have limited control over influencers. Influencers, particularly those with the most influence, won’t necessarily tow a company line. They are not employees, they are often as famous as a brand itself, finally with a particular market or audience niche. Any brand that works with an influencer is putting themselves in the hands of the influencer.
So any company that worked with PewDiePie shouldn’t have been surprised by his offbeat and risqué humor, that’s what made him famous in the first place. “I make videos for my audience,” says PewDiePie. “I think of the content I create as entertainment, and not a place for any serious political commentary. Although this was not my intention, I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive.”
By removing PewDiePie from the Google Favorites List, YouTube has made it easier for brands to opt out of showing their ads in their videos. Of course, brands that heavily target non-PC teen boys (their target audience) will no doubt continue to run their ads.
Clearly, brands that want to be a part of influencer marketing need to make sure they select influencers who target their type of audience and have relatively similar values to themselves.
PewDiePie’s other earnings
According to Money Nation, PewDiePie’s earnings over the years from his YouTube views is $114 million. While this is, of course, a hefty figure, it only tells part of the story of the PewDiePie money machine.
He has also earned nearly $42 million from merchandise earnings, and an estimated $5.8 million from investment income alone. There is a wide range of products available from t-shirts to hats and hoodies. He even wrote and published a book in 2015 that instantly hit #1 for young adult readers on the New York Times bestseller list. It also released a mobile game downloaded in large numbers by its fanbase.
Of course, this high level of income puts you in the top tax bracket, which in Sweden exceeds 50% per year (although Money Nation’s calculations use the UK’s top tax rate of 45%).
Estimates from Money Nation give PewDiePie an average salary of $12 million per year, which equates to an hourly rate for a 40-hour week of $3,400 per hour. Not bad for a college dropout whose parents wanted him to get a secure job. Secure jobs like doctors, who were paid an average of $94 an hour, teachers, $28, and software engineers for $37 an hour, in some ways just don’t compare.