The exact statistics vary, depending on what you define as "famous", but let’s assume you want to make a living on YouTube. An average YouTube channel might receive about $3-5 per 1,000 video views. To make $2,000 per month—a livable, but not comfortable wage in most of the United States—you’d need to attract over 27,000 views per day.
Of course, if your audience has a higher than average engagement rate (meaning they’re attractive to advertisers and therefore more likely to see ads), you’ll make more per view, but you’ll still need thousands of views to earn big money from YouTube alone.
Per an analysis by Mathias Bärtl, a professor at Offenburg University of Applied Sciences in Offenburg, Germany, 96.5 percent of YouTubers makes less than $12,140 (the federal poverty line). The top 3 percent of YouTubers attract about 1.4 million views per month on average, so there’s something to shoot for—but the bottom 85 percent of creators who started posting in 2016 got a maximum of 458 views per month.
Many YouTubers supplement their income by promoting brands, reviewing products, and selling books, but these secondary income streams require a substantial audience. To build that type of audience, you’ll need to choose the subject of your video carefully. Bärtl notes that high-performing videos tend to come from the genres News & Politics, Comedy, Entertainment, How To & Style, and Gaming.
In particular, News & Politics videos seem especially likely to crack the "Most Viewed" rankings, although YouTube’s sorting algorithms could change at any time—and that’s another hurdle for creators.
Even if you’re able to make money on YouTube, becoming as famous as someone like PewDiePie is a tall order. According to social media analytics site Social Blade, there are 31.5 million YouTube channels, and only a handful of those channels feature world-famous personalities.
The bottom line: According to the experts, creating videos on YouTube can be fun, but it’s not a great career choice.
"If you’re a series regular on a network TV show, you’re getting a good amount of money," Alice Marwick, an assistant professor of communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told Fortune. "Yet you can have half a million followers on YouTube and still be working at Starbucks."