The 10 highest-earning TikTok stars made about three times as much in 2021 as they did from mid-2019 to mid-2020, according to a new Forbes study. Charli D'Amelio, the #1 earner of the year, pulled in $17.5 million.
But for many of those creators, the money came from elsewhere. The biggest names on TikTok are now starring in movies, selling out concert tours and building big fashion businesses. TikTok is bigger and more lucrative than ever, but it's still better at making people famous than making them rich. That's beginning to change, though: Forbes estimated that 30-50% of the highest earners' revenue came from sponsored content, and that rates for sponsored posts on TikTok have more than doubled since 2020.
There's evidence that TikTok could get even bigger, though, and that evidence is YouTube. A similar recent Forbes study found that Mr. Beast, the highest-earning star on YouTube, made a total of about $54 million last year, about as much as the top 10 TikTokers combined and the largest single-year haul for any YouTuber ever. In all, the top 10 YouTubers made about $304.5 million last year, half of which, Forbes estimated, comes directly from YouTube ad revenue.
TikTok's effect on culture is undeniable, and potentially unmatched even by YouTube. But YouTube's audience, and its advertising platform, mean it's still the platform to beat.