There are plenty of ways to become a hit sensation on YouTube. Whether it’s reviewing video games, giving satirical advice or performing pranks in public, YouTube gives unknown ‘average joes’ a chance at breaking out into the mainstream and it can be a very lucrative job. In fact, the top YouTube channel – and number one on this list – makes a reported £2.6m a year just by playing video games. Not a bad way to make a living.
Note: VEVO channels have been omitted from this list.
10. Ray William Johnson
Just making it on the list is YouTube sensation Ray William Johnson. Johnson is an American video blogger, producer and actor best known for his YouTube series Equals Three. The web series sees Johnson providing commentary on viral videos and has become the most watched web series ever. Johnson started his channel back in 2008 by combining his two passions: watching viral videos and video blogging. Since then he has established a loyal fan base of 10,823,294 subscribers and it has been reported that he is set to produce a TV show based on his own life with the television network FX.
TheFineBros, or Fine Brothers entertainment, take ninth place with a total of 11,292,449 subscribers. Real life brothers Benny and Rafi Fine have been making videos ever since they were little but it wasn’t until 2003 that the pair created their own website. Since then they have produced numerous videos but their most well-known is the REACT series which shows different age groups (kids, teens and elders) reacting to viral videos. In 2009 they also ran the multi-channel network Maker Studio – a company which was responsible for helping Ray William Johnson kick-start his career. The brothers believe that the internet is the future of the film industry and they plan to be a pioneering part of it.
8. Epic Rap battles of History
Rhyming their way into number 8 is popular rap sensation Epic Rap battles of History, or ERB. ERB is a YouTube video series created by Peter Shukoff (a.k.a. Nice Peter) and Lloyd Ahlquist (a.k.a. EpicLLOYD). The series pits famous historical and pop culture figures, real and fictional, against each other in a rap battle format. Although early episodes of the series featured only Nice Peter and EpicLLOYD, more recent videos have featured guest appearances from other internet and media celebrities including Snoop Dogg and parody artist “Weird Al” Yankovic. On September 26 2010, their first rap battle was uploaded to YouTube (featuring John Lennon vs Bill O’Reilly) and cost them a total of $50. Since then they have created a total of 4 seasons with 51 rap battles which have included Ellen vs Oprah, Darth Vader vs Hitler and even Moses vs Santa Claus. These diverse and always entertaining videos have helped ErB build a staggering fanbase of 11,694,802 subscribers.
7. Machinima Inc
Machinima Inc was originally supposed to be called Machinema (a portmanteau of the words ‘machine’ and ‘cinema’) but its founder managed to misspell the word in an email and the name stuck. This American gaming and media streaming website is a multi-channel network which hosts thousands of videos through a series of channels which include Prime, Respawn, ETC, Realm, Sports, VS and Trailers. This giant company doesn’t stop at YouTube though; Machinima is the first in this list that also uses Twitter, Facebook and Twitch to supply its followers with up to date news and live streams. Their subscribers have soared to 12,228,583 and they have received million dollar investments from big companies like Microsoft and Google.
Starting out in mid 2006, Nigahiga’s videos consisted mostly of founders Ryan Higa and Sean Fujiyoshi lip-syncing to songs. Nigahiga is one of the most controversial channels on this list as it has had numerous videos removed due to copyright disputes – the channel was even temporarily suspended in 2009 as a result of these infringements. Higa and Fujiyoshi were required to remove all copyrighted videos before the suspension would be lifted. Nigahiga changed octaves and started composing and performing their own music in their videos as well as branching out by trying different comedic routines. Since then they have attracted 13,646,364 subscribers, created a second channel (under the name HigaTV) for bloopers and video blogs and even starred in their own movie – ‘Ryan and Sean’s Not So Excellent Adventure’. The name Nigahiga comes from the Japanese word ‘Niga’ meaning ‘rant’ and Ryan’s last name.
5. Jenna Marbles
The only female on this list finds herself at number five. American Jenna N. Mourey is more commonly known by her online alias Jenna Marbles: a pseudonym she created to prevent her mother from listening to her foul language. Jenna’s first video in 2010 titled “How To Trick People Into Thinking You’re Good Looking” was viewed 5.3 million times in its first week and her video “How To Avoid Talking To People You Don’t Want To Talk To” was featured in articles by The New York Times and ABC News. Jenna and her dog Mr. Marbles have also made a reputation for themselves by guesting on other popular channels, including an appearance on an Epic Rap Battles fight between Adam and Eve (Jenna played Eve). Jenna has 14,607,287 subscribers who regularly tune in to watch her act a fool and buy stuffed toys for her beloved Mr. Marbles.
Smosh – so-called because of a miscommunication regarding a mosh pit – was founded by comedy duo Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla who have been friends since sixth grade. Smosh started out with Ian and Anthony lip-syncing many famous TV theme songs like Power Rangers, Mortal Kombat and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However, these videos were not meant for online purposes and it wasn’t until they were shared with friends that the two decided to create their own channel. Smosh’s first big hit came when the pair lip-synched the Pokemon theme. The video received 4.7 million views and it became the most-viewed video on all of YouTube in 2005 (a title which it held for a further 6 months). Over the next few years the channel diversified by branching out into comedic skits which included game and movie parodies. Smosh has 19,652,400 subscribers and the pair now have an app under their belt and are currently working on their own movie.
Our first non-American contender makes it in at number three. Germán Alejandro Garmendia Aranis is a Chilean YouTube comedian from Copiapó, Chile and he is the only non-English speaker on the list. Germán uploaded his first video in 2011 and in 3 short years he has accumulated 20,874,702 subscribers. This makes him one of the ‘newer’ personalities in the top 10, but his rise to fame is no surprise when you consider that he gains between 11,000 and 18,000 subscribers each day. Although it’s not particularly well known in English speaking countries, HolaSoyGerman has managed to attract huge amounts of Spanish viewers thanks to Germán’s unique and funny observational humour. Only 23 of his videos are English-subtitled and it is unknown if any more will be translated.
2. YouTube Spotlight
The number two spot goes to YouTube’s official channel which boasts a pretty impressive 22,695,257 subscribers . As explained by the name, the channel is used to spotlight videos and events on YouTube. Events that have been brought to light by the channel include YouTube Comedy Week and the YouTube Music Awards. The channel briefly took over the number one spot in 2013 before it lost the title less than a month later. Nevertheless, what makes YouTube spotlight so popular is that fact that it caters to everybody and gives updates of trending videos from around the world.
The most popular YouTuber in the world hails from Sweden and has a massive 34,013,528 subscribers. PewDiePie was one of the fastest growing channels – growing from 3.5 million to 19 million in one year – and holds the record of most viewed channel with over 7 billion views. Most of Felix Kjellberg’s videos are comprised of his commentary and reactions to various games as he plays through them. Since uploading his first video in 2010, Kjellberg has developed a huge following which he refers to as the ‘Bro Army’ and at the end of each of his videos he typically performs a ‘Brofist’ for his adoring fanbase. Originally a part of Machinima, Kjellberg hired a lawyer to free himself from his contract with his now rivals. who he openly admits his disdain for. Though his hilarious reactions and witty commentary provide entertainment for his many subscribers, PewDiePie has actually been able to positively influence the sales of indie games and raise money for charities. Being at the top brings a lot of power and it’s unlikely that Kjellberg will be giving up his YouTube crown anytime soon.