Being Realistic About YouTube Revenue: The OK Go Dilemma

Being Realistic About YouTube Revenue: The OK Go Dilemma

I recently read an article at Digital Music News that quoted the manager of OK Go as saying that the money they've seen from YouTube is like "finding change on the street."  This is an important thing for people to realize when they are hoping to score big on YouTube and hope to make a career out of posting videos.  OK Go's channel has over 150 million views.  A few months ago we were able to do a sorta-kinda estimation of what videos make when the New York Times got the "David After Dentist" dad to admit they had made over $100,000 for a video that had eclipsed 100 million all by itself.

Taking the same figures, OK Go's channel has probably made a little over that, with much more videos.  So it's not hard to see where their manager is coming from.  But it also brings into focus the reality of YouTube revenue, which requires not only patience, but frequent uploading.

The Importance Of Building A Channel With Frequent Content

That's the issue for a band like OK Go, which had made viral hit after viral hit.  In the same article, it was reported that manager Jamie Kitman, who made the sobering statement about YouTube revenue to a SF MusicTech Summit audience last week, said they are looking for revenue in terms of sponsorship like they did with Chevrolet, who teamed with them on their last video:

There is no doubt that the money for views is paltry.  Most estimates are less than a penny per view, and even if it gets larger than that for some partners, it's probably not much more.  I don't think there's any doubt that many of those top YouTubers have other revenue streams, and it's why you see a guy like Philip DeFranco sign up with Revision3 even though his channel is one of the most-viewed on the site.

Beyond that, however, if you're just a guy who likes to make videos, and somehow you're able to get a million views a video, and you're able to come out with new content every week, you may not get rich, but you can certainly make a living.  A lot of people also forget that this is a job, that there are other factors outside of just making the video and posting it.  Sharing it, using the YouTube analytical tools, following the Creator Playbook, making content every week your fans will enjoy...these things take some time, and it's not easy.  Not everyone can do it.  That's the ugly truth in the world of video posting.  If you are deficient in just one of those areas that the Playbook highlights, that could mean the difference between making a living and not.

For OK Go, they are a musical act that gets a ton of views, but they don't post a new music video every week, and no doubt, making something like $150 grand (I'm estimating using hazy figures, but I bet I'm close, and even if it's double that, that wouldn't be a lot for a music act) over the course of 6 years is very much "like finding change on the street."  But look what the viral sensations have gotten them: easier access to bigger money from sponsors.

Still, this is something to chew on for would-be video posters.  Doing something you love, like making videos, and hoping to earn some of that YouTube money, will probably require doing a lot of things you don't love.  When you're ready to look at your videos as a business rather than just a creative endeavor, you will realize that more work is necessary to be successful, and have a better chance out there.  Just like anything in life, there are no guarantees.


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Posted in Video Marketing
About the Author -
Chris Atkinson joined ReelSEO in 2011. He is a longtime film and television reviewer, and has almost two decades of experience in the theater industry. He also writes on his personal blog - http://nymoviereviews.com. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1177363116 Mark Robertson

    "When you’re ready to look at your videos as a business rather than just a creative endeavor, you will realize that more work is necessary to be successful, and have a better chance out there." Nice. Great article Chris Atkinson ;-).

    • Chris Atkinson

      Thank you, sir.

  • Blake Lagasse

    I'd imagine Philip DeFranco signed up with them as they'll invest in the start up/production costs while he still gets his original revenue numbers (maybe even more) who wouldn't take up an offer like that makes absolute sense. And it also fits his niche/subscriber base well.

    And as you rightly mentioned for a band of course those figures are terrible but for an individual they'd be solid numbers, how about the ability to play videos from mobile (but there's no ad model for that yet on every mobile device out there right now) that's going to change pretty fast surely? what's lost revenue now may make 100 million views on youtube almost 100% profitable rather than perhaps 50-80% as it is now.

    I see it as a growing spectrum (like soccer players salaries) surely advertising revenue will increase along with video consumption. I can see 100k being made off of half the views within 3 years it takes to make right now. Work hard now to reap the growing rewards later I say. Too many factors come into play though as mentioned. Once all devices are potential revenue makers for a youtuber I think these stats will vastly improve until then. Some will quote big/small figures based on a variety of factors.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=873040580 Josh Rimer

    Funny how this story can be seen in two totally different ways. For an individual, like the Dad in David After Dentist, $100K from a video intended for the just kid's grandmother is incredible. For a band like OK Go, it's minor. Depends on who you are and if it's just you benefiting financially, or a whole team of people / organization.