Talking about money is never easy, but in the realm of social media stardom, it has remained a particularly hushed and incendiary topic. That’s because, being a relatively new and rapidly evolving industry, money-making prospects aren’t widely known -- nor have they yet to be fully realized.
With YouTube serving as a principal launching pad, a new class of digital stars is drumming up massive viewership -- and, increasingly, paychecks to match -- by simply smiling into a camera lens and asking, ‘What’s up?’ The fact that these decidedly regular characters are now becoming multimillionaires has led to a disconnect of sorts.
For instance, when it was revealed yesterday that YouTube’s most subscribed star -- the Swedish video gamer PewDiePie -- earned $7.4 million last year, the Internet was shocked and appalled. (PewDiePie’s wealth is actually no secret: in a Reddit AMA last year, he said he made $4 million in 2013.)
And so the 25-year-old, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, uploaded a video in response to haters bemoaning the fact that he “could get paid that much for being a complete retard in front of a webcam.”
“I’m not gonna pretend like [money] doesn’t matter to me, because it matters to everyone,” Kjellberg says, in a frank and self-deprecating discussion about his unlikely rise to fame. He recounts quitting college and working at a hotdog stand in order to pursue his love for making videos.
“I didn’t know you could make money out of it…This is just something I love to do. And here we are, five years later, and it’s exploding.” Kjellberg, who sometimes uploads several videos per day, adds that the frivolity of his content belies long hours and a ton of hard work.
Perhaps most surprising of all, however, was the fan response to Kjellberg's unapologetic clip. Rather than knocking his wealth, the majority of the video’s top commenters applauded it. “You started from zero and now you’re way up there,” wrote one fan, who described scraping by with his girlfriend to put food on the table. “One day I will be there too hopefully. You’re an inspiration for me.”
Check out Kjellberg's video right here: