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How Much Money Animated Shorts Earn on YouTube

YouTube Partner

Read UPDATES at bottom of the piece.

When I speak to indie filmmakers, there’s always a lot of confusion about the potential money that can be earned by posting shorts on the Internet, especially by posting them onto YouTube. An article in last month’s Wall Street Journal shed some much needed light on the situation. The article said that those who join YouTube’s Partner Program receive between $1,500 and $4,500(US) for every million video views. The wide variance in price is attributed to the country and platform where the video is viewed.

According to YouTube, they had 30,000 partners in 2011, up from 20,000 in 2010. “Several hundred” of those partners made more than $100,000, which is an 80% increase from the “couple of hundred” partners who achieved the six-figure earnings mark in 2010. Using that data, I think it would be fair to guess that they have at least 350 people earning six-figures, or slightly over 1% of their YouTube Partners.

Using the numbers above, I decided to figure out what some of the most successful animators on YouTube are making. I’ve shared the numbers below, which are not yearly earnings, but based on the total number of views the filmmaker has received. Considering how difficult it is to make money with animated shorts, the numbers are fairly impressive, especially if viewed as a single revenue stream as part of a larger plan that includes broadcast sales to foreign TV channels, merchandising, dvd sales, digital downloads, and so forth.

It’s also impressive that many of the most successful animators on YouTube are young filmmakers whose reputations were established exclusively online. Another important point to consider is that all of these animators have dozens of films posted on their channel. There are no examples yet of people earning this kind of money from just a handful of films. Simon’s Cat has the least videos of any of the channels below, with only twenty.

Animation Filmmaker Earnings on YouTube

29.3 million video views (as of Mar. 19, 2012)
Estimated total earnings based on views: $43,950 – $131,850

Lev Yilmaz
36.3 million video views
Estimated total earnings based on views: $54,450 – $163,350

66.7 million video views
Estimated total earnings based on views: $100,050 – $300,150

Harry Partridge
74.4 million video views
Estimated total earnings based on views: $111,600 – $334,800

102.4 million video views
Estimated total earnings based on views: $153,600 – $460,800

FilmCow (aka Charlie the Unicorn)
227.3 million video views
Estimated total earnings based on views: $340,950 – $1,022,850

Simon’s Cat
232.3 million video views
Estimated total earnings based on views: $348,450 – $1,045,350

Daneboe (aka The Annoying Orange)
628.8 million video views
Estimated total earnings based on views: $943,200 – $2,829,600

UPDATE (9:53pm ET): Since this piece was published, I’ve been in contact with Harry Partridge, one of the filmmakers whose estimated earnings were posted above. He posted a comment on Twitter that said in part, “I don’t make anywhere near half of their lowest ballpark. Crazy.” When he posted that comment on Twitter, he assumed that I was talking about yearly earnings. We cleared up that I was referring to total earnings based on the number of pageviews listed above, NOT yearly earnings.

Harry also provided some ballpark figures for what he’s made from YouTube since 2009. The numbers turned out to be slightly more than half of the lowest estimated earning, which means he has been earning a more modest $750-800 per million pageviews instead of the $1,500-$4,500 claimed in the Wall Street Journal piece. More recently, he has joined with Channelflip, which he says pays him more annually than YouTube, but which is still a relatively modest sum. However, I should point out that I have confirmed with other filmmakers that they have earned the higher figures listed in the WSJ piece so there are apparently wide gaps between what different filmmakers earn. The lack of transparency in YouTube’s payments to its partners is a great reason to be having this discussion and leveling the playing field for filmmakers who are thinking of posting their work on that platform.

UPDATE #2: Harry pointed out that though the videos were posted beginning in 2006, YouTube started paying out in 2009. I’ve updated the above to reflect that the earning period has been the last three years. He also writes, “Overall I’m not bothered by the article now it states that these are total earnings, my concerns about it arose from the fact that I thought it was yearly.”

UPDATE #3: Filmmaker Cyriak wrote a comment below in which he says that he hasn’t monetized most of his video vieww as part of YouTube’s Partner Program. He says that his most recent earnings have been in the range of $600 per million video views.

  • That’s good to know some animation folks are making good money. I have yet to crack the three-figure mark on all of my videos combined.

  • Demin

    and Harry Partridge just said on his Twitter that he doesn’t even make half of the lowest estimate you have on here.

    • If that’s what Harry says, then you’ll have to take his word for it. But keep in mind that the filmmaker interviewed in the WSJ piece, Ray WJ, was also very evasive about his earnings and refused to confirm the financial figures the reporter had discovered.

      A lot of indies want to maintain the illusion that they’re just another struggling artist and fear that revealing their success will erode their young fanbase. I’m not saying that’s what Harry is doing. But just keep in mind that there’s an incentive to telling your fans that you’re not making any money.

      And if he’s genuinely making so little money from all those pageviews, then he should be concerned for an entirely different reason. Because he’s claiming that he’s making approximately 65-75 cents/CPM on his video views and that doesn’t sound right.

      • oh, and thanks for implying that HappyHarry is a liar instead of rethinking your sources. Great way to endear yourself to the animating community.

        Also RayWilliamJohnson is hardly a comparable benchmark to people that rely on taking time, effort and honed skills to develop bodies of original content that take a minimum of weeks to create. The incentive for a person like RWJ to hide their numbers when essentially they do little more than stitch other people’s content together to make floods of videos isn’t farfetched, but the animators you listed by name are far from that league. This article, and now you, even mentioning such possible implications has the power to hurt innocent animator’s reputations.

      • Trevor

        They’re evasive because part of their agreement as partners is not to share how much they make.

      • Scooch

        Also, I think in general people aren’t comfortable with talking about how much money they make because it’s just plain rude.

      • Tak

        It really needs to become a lot less of a taboo subject for society to advice. Otherwise all we’ll ever get are Lords & Ladies sheltering in the castles while people outside throw stones. The Ol’ Medieval times, what a civilised age.

        I think Harry is being genuine in his remarks, but now all he & other need to do is be more open about the real figures or ballpark & instantly the problem & argument dissolves.

        “keep in mind that there’s an incentive to telling your fans that you’re not making any money.”
        This line of tact is a bit unnecessary Amid, there are other ways to broach the subject without inciting a direct conflict of words & potentially igniting an all consuming argument. We don’t want to have a pissing contest or a witch hunt, we just want to discuss this, right?

        Money definition: “a source of great angst”

      • Eric

        “They’re evasive because part of their agreement as partners is not to share how much they make.”

        That’s a lie. I’m a YouTube partner and there’s no agreement like that.

      • Falconslayer777

        Are you a full Youtube partner or just a partial one. There is a difference and I know that at least some Full Youtube partners are required by NDA not to share their earnings but are more then open about the fact that they do in fact make money off it as its their source of living. I am only a partial partner and signed no nda but I can see why they would not want to share how much they earned. For example modesty, lets face it I know i got pissed when i found out how much Oprah made. Just my personal thoughts though.

  • Scooch

    “Someone just linked me to this and I lol’d hard. I don’t make anywhere near half of their lowest ballpark. Crazy.”- Harry Partridge.

    • Alain

      I agree, you should try . it’s launching later this month, pay is more generous than what’s out there right now.

  • wtf are you smoking, i know a few of those animators/live with one personally and its nowhere near the -half- the numbers you assume. Do some actual interviewing before posting wild speculative numbers like that and giving people false ideas or hopes about this very intense and taxing artistic profession.

    • Any animator on the list (or not on the list) is welcome to contact me privately and tell me how much they make. If I had a hunch that the Wall Street Journal‘s numbers were baseless, I wouldn’t have posted them, but they check out with other figures that I’ve heard from artists who put their work on YouTube.

      • not a zombie

        Why did you feel the need to post this information? A person’s income is very private information, and under certain circumstances revealing it can be very damaging. You’ve made it clear from your comments that you didn’t contact any of these artists to ask them if this information was true, or to even ask if they wanted this information public. If you were truly doing this just to see for yourself the *potential* income you could make online, then there would be no reason to post this in public. Don’t sit there and give these people the ultimatum that they have to disclose their personal information if you got it wrong. If you really are someone looking to make it in the industry then you of all people should respect these people’s privacy.

      • Tak

        I’m all for privacy, but if everyone kept everything private then no one would ever learn anything, and how could any of us ever possibly progress in a world like that? Naivety serves no one.

        Perhaps there is a better way to discuss this than on a CartoonBrew post, and it’s understandable that people are often sensitive over their income. High income or low income often leads to derision. Also, a lot of people might try harder to jump on this bandwagon, which leads to competition & a lot of imitation.

        But if the cat’s out of the bag then people should be willing to talk about it, present their sides of the story and their revision of those figure above. And perhaps we cam start discussing something that might be worth a discussion, rather than just calling out or accusing one another. Right or Wrong, what’s here is here.

    • Jorge Garrido

      Not a zombie, that’s why he said ESTIMATE, based on publicly available figures, an estimate that could be deviated from. The end result in that estimate’s inaccuracy (which was WSJ’s, not Amid’s) is that now we have a clearer figure on how much partners are paid, which will more accurately influence some other animator’s decision to partner with Youtube or not.

  • Bazzer

    Would be good if the figures were right though, try to remember that it’s only estimates, which for at least one is widely off.

  • wever

    Wow! I can cover my smaller bills!

  • Don’t forget sites like Newgrounds and Blip, where you can also monetize animations.

  • James Fox
  • Trevor

    lol who’s estimates are these?

    • These are estimates based directly on the Wall Street Journal‘s figures for YouTube’s Partner Program. I’ve heard similar numbers from others before which is why I felt comfortable using their data.

      • Trevor

        Wasn’t there an article here awhile back making fun of the WSJ’s incredibly ignorant analysis of animation?

    • Anexplosion


  • Tak

    Beautiful post Amid… Thanks

  • Sable

    YouTube CPMs are sometimes shockingly low. Where are you getting your information and why do you seem more willing to trust it than what the artists are saying themselves? Tracking sites like Socialblade also seem to overestimate figures based on some mystery CPM.
    Youtube has plenty of reasons to ballpark their figures high, especially if they’re generating a mean using their top partners who often get deals for CPMs as high as $5 or more. I’ve had times where my videos pull hundreds of thousands of views in a week and my adsense CPM didn’t rise above 50 cents. Is “something wrong” with this?
    Probably, but it’s not under the content provider’s control, and I think it’s pretty ridiculous for you to insinuate that the artists are lying about their earnings in order to keep an “indie” image just to protect the integrity of your article. Your figures might be right but they’re just as likely to be wrong.

  • bigbooty

    Amid’s attitude in this comment board kinda makes me distrust him in general.

  • Das booch

    I don’t doubt Harry Partridge, CPMs are nowhere near that estimate.

    Phil DeFranco is a Top-tier partner and he only pays himself about 100K/year the rest going to a little production house with about 6-8 employees. That’s also including ALL revenue streams. (CPM, merchandise, sponsorships, etc.)

    YouTube user TheReplyGirl did an interview recently and claimed she makes about $100 per video, $1,000 per video that goes over 500,000 views. I’d guess that’s probably the going rate for 99% of these partners.

    As far as people upset at the insinuation that Harry is lying, consider that fact that he’s partnered with ChannelFlip Media, was paid to do a couple cartoons promoting Elder Scrolls/Skyrim videos and made no effort to disclose they were paid advertisements on either of those videos. He didn’t lie about it, but he wasn’t upfront about it either.

    • You mention that YouTube user TheReplyGirl earns $1,000 per 500,000 views. That would be $2,000 for a million views, which falls squarely into the $1,500-$4,500 per million views that was mentioned in the WSJ piece.

      • Das booch

        Not quite. She mentioned that she makes $1000 for videos that go over the 500K mark, $100 for ones that go below. If I was to look at Harry’s numbers based on over/under CPM he’d have taken in only about 30K or so altogether, give or take a thousand. That would be in line with Harry’s claim that his actual earnings are less than half of what’s posted above.

        As I mentioned with DeFranco, if he’s clearing 100K/year as he claims and putting in 12-hour days like he says, he’s only earning $8-$13 per hour depending on if he works 5 or 6 days/week.

        I’d say YouTube Partner Animator’s comment below would be accurate. If the CPMs were as good as the WSJ claims, I doubt these guys would be putting so much effort into so many different revenue streams.

      • YouTube is not a winner-take-all where you have to reach a certain threshold to make $1000 or you only get $100 instead. Also, your figures about Harry’s earnings are incorrect. See the update we put on the post above with the info that Harry provided.

  • YouTube Partner Animator

    I’m a recent youtube partner and animator. I network with people doing the same thing. We are all Trying to monetize YT animated content. We try and figure out how much the Yt stars are making. The real money comes from selling the preroll ads, not the banner ads. Even still, I don’t think it’s as high as those estimates. YT isn’t transparent with the earnings and are most likely making far more from the ads than the content creators. A YT creator must try and monetize with a combo of banner ads, preroll sales, merchandise, freelance work gotten from the YT channel, product placement type deals from brands and hopefully a “what else you got” deal from a studio.

    • AC

      Me too. Rough world for us. It’s REALLY hard to keep that weekly release schedule when everything’s drawn.

    • AC

      Btw where do you network, sounds like a world I should finally become a part of. What’s your YT channel? Mines is linked through my username here.

  • The Gee

    Amid, not that this is the absolutely most important story ever or anything,but

    if the view numbers are correct and all you can do is estimate the possible dollars earned then can’t you contact someone at the Journal, YouTube or the film-makers directly to corroborate the estimates? If they don’t cooperate, report that.

    Like I said, it isn’t important, especially to me. However, since you put it out there you may want to iron it down. At the least, it would hopefully make people stop ripping your post.

    Personally, I’ve only know of people who have six figure viewing numbers. They get paid every so often but they said it isn’t much. I doubt it covers true expenses, like labor. It would be interesting to hear from some one who is mainly making some dough on YT.

    Interview. Cite.

  • Brandon

    I like how you quote 1 source and then turn around and make crazy assumptions of how much youtubers make. Do you know about click through rates? How about contracts with advertising partners that pay such a small percentage and not paying for click through rates, while their sales team makes 90% of the revenue? No? Your numbers also don’t take into considering how much time a youtuber has been on youtube. Lets even USE the math you used, lets say $2000 per million views. That’s $144,000 for 72 million views. But Harry has had his youtube channel for 6 years. That’s an average of 24,000 a year. Hell even if it was the average of 3 years, that’s only $48,000 a year, which is what many college grads make coming out of school anyway. And that’s using math that’s wrong anyway, so those numbers are lower as it is. And lets not even begin to talk about that’s all untaxed income, which means the individuals need to pay double in taxes that what joe sho makes at his or her job (double because employers usually pay half of the taxes incurred on their income, argo if you are self employed you essentially pay double). So those number are even LESS than that. AND remember no benefits like paid vacation, health care, dental etc.

    BIG corporate Youtube channels with their own sales teams? Yeah they make eCPM that’s super high. But independent guys with standard Youtube contracts? You’re grossly misinformed.

    But hot damn why do you even have the balls to not only post what people are making, but refuse to accept ANY wrong facts in your argument, and just tell them to email you with their real salaries. Why would they EVER do that. Who does that? You really are just looking to start a fight on the internet, seriously.

    I hope this post gets retracted soon, because it’s INSANELY misleading.

    • And because Amid posted, this good information is coming out, and a healthy discussion is being had, that leaves everyone better informed. Serious, people need to chill out.

  • As far as I know, most of these animators did not become partners until very recently, so their total view count would not be a very good number to use for your estimate. Still, I’m glad this was posted because of all the feedback, and because I am interested in Youtube animators/partners.

  • m(_ _)m

    First, let me say I think it’s an interesting article here. I echo the sentiment of other posters who say it’s kinda invasive and rude to be talking about these specific people’s income. But, I do think it’s cool to see a post based on seemingly credible stats which demonstrates the potential of indie animated shorts online. Neat idea, but maybe could’ve been handled better.

    Anyways, as much as I’d like to stay out of this, I thought I’d mention that Harry’s videos span 4 years. Divide his estimated 100k by 4 years and 25k a year doesn’t seem as impressive. Again, as others have said, Harry himself is the only person who knows what he makes, and rightfully so. I’m not really interested in knowing how much money he personally makes each month. But I just wanted to point out that these numbers are accumulations of years of views/pay. The article isn’t saying Harry brings home 100k a year. Charlie the Unicorn is also 4 years old.

    • Brandon

      I agree that it’s interesting to talk about how you CAN make on YouTube, but the way this post was made was completely wrong. You don’t line up youtubers and say “this is a range of what they have made” from 1 cited source. There are SO many factors to come into play for that. Also keep in mind that news outlets almost always blow up numbers to keep readers interested.

      But yeah, I had a problem with the list. It really looks like it says “this is how much they make a year.” that’s just how it’s always portrayed. He didn’t include “this is over the course of 4 years,” he just put a name and a number, and that’s going to mislead people.

      • The Gee

        He can, and he is, updating the post.

        The web is fluid like that. Just like you can say the information is wrong, he can make it right. And, he’s being honest about it by adding an update and not deleting the earlier information.

        Real time takes time.

  • Thanks Amid for starting this conversation. For those who complain about the piddling dollar amounts, I would point out that this is one source of revenue only. Having an ongoing venue for your films is a big plus. The dollar values will continue to rise as your videos remain available year after year. This to me seems ideal for building equity as an artist. Talking about the CPM rates openly will keep Youtube honest in dealing with their partners.

  • Excellent article, Amid. We need more of this kind of transparency in the online film world. Competition is stifled when earnings are kept secret, and we filmmakers take the hit. We become more empowered the more we share about our successes and our failures.

  • YouTube Partner Animator

    Yes, great that the earnings info was updated. As YT partners we have discussions with each other as whether or not to post on multiple sites like Vimeo, Daily Motion, Newgrounds etc. The consensus is to only post where you can monetize and YT has the biggest audience, do the default is YT. If it’s true that Channelflip pays more than YT, then that proves that posting on multiple channels may be the way to go. One question to ask is how much can be made from banner ads and prerolls on multiple channels. And how much is made from ancillary sources such as merch. But mainly what creators want to know is can revenue from banners and prerolls fund the production as well as have some left over for the creator or studio. One site that looks at the YT creator success and growth is I suggest going there for daily updates on this subject.

  • Scarabim

    It’s great that some independent online animators are making money from their efforts.

    Now if only creators of webcomics could do the same…

  • Amid, this kind of post will always draw some kind of controversy, but in the end it serves a greater good in that it encourages information to surface from all sides. No matter what the haters say, please keep up with these kinds of posts, they are extremely helpful for those of us who are trying to make our way in this area.

    Keep up the good work.

  • informative post, thanks – but if happyharry says he earns x amount and a publication and maths and speculation says he earns y, I’m gonna believe happyharry and not call him a liar for not fitting into my formula.

    • Which is precisely why I wrote, “If that’s what Harry says, then you’ll have to take his word for it.”

  • Wow… seeing as you are speculating on my earnings I may as well contribute some facts to the discussion.

    First of all I don’t get ad revenue from all my videos, and secondly I was only allowed to get ad revenue from any of my videos relatively recently, so my total income is going to be a tiny fraction of my total views.

    According to youtube I got about a million ‘monetizable views’ in the last 30 days, which gets me abut $600. So that figure you based your calculations on is also wildly out.

    Thats not to say there might be youtube channels out there making more, but they will have the backing of companies that are actively promoting them, selling their ad space and adding pre-roll adverts. I get emailed by these companies all the time trying to get me on their books, so the fact they exist makes it obvious there is more money out there to be made than I am getting (although they will probably take 50% of the revenue for their trouble anyway).

    Its still a nice source of income (not enough for me to live on with my sporadic output), but as far as I’m concerned you can take my lower figure and drop one of the zeros and you’d still be way over.

    • The Gee

      This does bring up questions:
      If the creator/content owner makes X amount then what does YT make for the viewings? If your stuff is watched about 67 million times, what might the take be for YT?

      I guess my quick thought would be the earned numbers *could* be closer to what YT earns for the content rather than what the creators get from it.

      Does that sound off or close to likely?

      • YouTube Partner Animator

        YT doesn’t tell you what they’re making. I’m sure it’s much more than paid to creators. Look at Google’s stock price. Maybe they’ll up the dollar amounts for exclusive content. But the way they see it is YT has the most views of any video sites, so you, as a creator, get the most exposure there.

  • AC

    I’ve recently become a partner too (through and boy does this world stink for animators. Back when I was an IVP (meaning, I was able to monetize my videos but without partner branding options) it took me a full year to get $141.00. I doubt I’ll see much change now.

    Worst yet it’s very hard competition against the popular live-action partners. I’ve seen a steady increase in subs and views ever since I’ve gone weekly with my animation but it’s VERY stressful to keep going and I’m not even making enough back to cover buying royalty free sound effects and music.

    It’s hard man. Very. I hand it to partners like Harry whom can awesomely keep doing what they’re doing-I don’t think I’ll ever catch on to their success. I’ve been sticking to these little “inflation” videos because they’re so easy to make on short notice but I’d love to actually upgrade to “real” shorts someday.

    …if it were worth it. Case in point, I’m currently inbetweening a project while sick just to meet my weekly deadline. You start losing your passion for this. :-(

  • Jorge Garrido

    Amid, shouldn’t you this update the figures to reflect the lowest per million views figure of $600 as posted in this comment thread?

  • carp

    Definitely a hard job for anyone to make money on youtube. Even the yogscast (standing at over 803 million views) have to work 7 days a week to make ends meet.

  • Seb

    Interesting to note that none of the top earners do 3D animation

    • The Commenter

      because its more expensive?

  • AC

    Anyone know of any alternate monetization programs for animated shorts besides

  • I don’t have anywhere near the video views that many of the animators you listed have, but I make anywhere between $300 to $600 per month. YouTube has not found a way as of yet to monetize views that come from many mobile devices, which are actually the bulk of my views. I would assume this to be true for all of YouTube.

    Once those devices ARE monetized, I would expect a huge uptick in dollar amounts, but I’m not holding my breath.

    This discrepancy could account for the higher estimate given by the WSJ, had they only counted those views as desktop computers and not mobile devices.

    • AC

      And I see $10-$16 a month…you fellow animators have GOT to tell me your secrets to those millions of views-I release fresh content weekly, what more? :-(

      • Tags are important. Use tags that help people find your videos. Do a search for similar videos, then find the one with the highest view count. Reply to that video with your video. People who watch it may then look at the responses and watch your video. Also, make sure you put your video in the appropriate category.

      • AC

        I’m big on tags, though I’ve been getting overzealous with them (I’ve seen people suggest not using too many). Category’s always “film and animation” with the exception of some game parodies that I’ve tested featuring in “gaming” Should I give a go at using ‘Comedy’?

        But the reply thing…indeed, my most viewed one was a response to a Disney cartoon….lately instead I’ve been responding to my own videos (Youtube playbook tip that hasn’t worked as awesomely as it sounded)-I’ll have to give this one a try again. Thank you.

  • For the sake of the community, according to my current stats in my Adsense (how the videos are monetized), I have a total of 5,714,146 views lifetime, and $8,439.67 total money collected. I’ve got 54.8% of my views coming from Mobile Devices.

  • Brandon

    Can you please remove your earning estimates, as it has been proved that they are wrong. You put the update posts, however, why even include the income range if it’s wrong.

  • This is going to sound awfully self serving but here goes anyway…

    We created to avoid the de-valuation of Indy Film Makers work. We think it is insane that you are driving traffic of millions to YouTube and get paid $850/million views. The advertising YouTube generates is stratospheric.

    Fillim gives you a new way to monetize your genius. You can drive traffic to it from your YouTube channel and add “premium” content to Fillim.

    It is free to sign up, free to upload, free to host. In fact everything is free! You can charge whatever price you like and you get 70% of the revenue.

    Essentially it works exactly the same way as the app store does for developers.

    We have just launched our Beta just 6 weeks ago and are growing rapidly.

    Check it out and start uploading films. We are adding new elements every day so if you have ideas for us don’t hesitate to tell us.


    dan solo


  • Dink

    This is an old article I tripped across, but I figured I’d throw my two cents in anyway. My wife has a youtube channel and you aren’t taking into account that they do not count mobile views. If you get 1 million views and 500k were from a mobile platform, you are only paid for 500k views. That’s another reason the pay range can vary so broadly. Also, youtubers with a greater number of subscribers generally have more expensive ads running on their videos giving them a greater amount of money per view.

  • Lior

    Cut the crap. 600$ per 1000000 views? That’s 0,0006 of a dollar per ad. Doesn’t work that way in real world.

  • Suraj Dighe

    Can you please help me. For start earning money from YT, At least how many views OR subscribers need ?

    • The Commenter

      atleast a million views per video..and 100K subscriber..