I have had this post in draft since December 2015, but the following tweet by Victor Asemota earlier today prompted me to dig it out and finish it:
80% of people who get wealthy, start with just showing up. 19% are talented and sought after. 1% are online entertainers and overlords
— Victor Asemota (@asemota) March 5, 2016
Note the last sentence there: “1% are online entertainers and overlords”. It is not very obvious to the average observer, but there is a huge disconnect between internet fame and financial security. I know that in any field, only a few people make it to the exclusive top of the pyramid where there is a lot of money to blow, but it is even harder in the field of internet fame. The low entry barrier often means that making huge money is more difficult there than elsewhere. My famous internet stars earn too little from it to support even a basic lifestyle and often have to keep another job or have another source of revenue.
An article that highlights this issue puts it this way: Many famous social media stars are too visible to have “real” jobs, but too broke not to.
Fans do not expect an internet star to work at a job at a bank or an IT firm somewhere. He is a star, after all. But if you are going in that direction, take it from someone who has been an internet star for years: get a job or run another proper business to put money in your pocket so you can meet your obligations. I learned it the hard way, but I learned it. People expect me to be rich. They have said it to my face, and they have refused to believe it when I say that I am not. But let’s just enjoy the party; shall we?
Even in vibrant economies, it is just as bad. Read this:
Platforms like YouTube mirror the U.S. economy’s yawning wealth gap, and being a part of YouTube’s “middle class” often means grappling daily with the cognitive dissonance of a full comments section and an empty wallet.
The great dilemma is that “people assume you’re too successful to need money, and you’re too proud to tell them otherwise”. The writer of the article shares her story:
Nobody knows all this better than me. I’m 27 years old and have been building an online following for 10 years, beginning with a popular Livejournal I wrote in high school. A couple of years ago, after moving to Los Angeles, I made the transition from freelance writing to creating online video. The channel I have with my best friend Allison Raskin, Just Between Us, has more than half a million subscribers and a hungry fan base. We’re a two-person video creation machine. When we’re not producing and starring in a comedy sketch and advice show, we’re writing the episodes, dealing with business contracts and deals, and running our company Gallison, LLC, which we registered officially about a month ago.
And yet, despite this success, we’re just barely scraping by. Allison and I make money from ads that play before our videos, freelance writing and acting gigs, and brand deals on YouTube and Instagram. But it’s not enough to live, and its influx is unpredictable. Our channel exists in that YouTube no-man’s-land: Brands think we’re too small to sponsor, but fans think we’re too big for donations. I’ve never had more than a couple thousand dollars in my bank account at once. My Instagram account has 340,000 followers, but I’ve never made $340,000 in my life collectively.
Victor Asemota did not state the source of his statistics, but they sound very accurate. Of people who get wealthy, 1% are online stars and celebs. Even if the figure is not exactly 1%, I can assure you that it is close. Very close. So, if you are eyeing a career in internet fame, you should at least approach it armed with the facts and reality on ground – and hopefully find a way around, over, underneath or through the issues involved. May success be yours.
If you have the time, you should read the article for yourself: Get rich or die vlogging: The sad economics of internet fame (it is a long read, so grab a bottle or a cup of your favourite drink).