Creative New Yorkers Bet on the Business of YouTube

Creative New Yorkers Bet on the Business of YouTube

February 06, 2012 at 4:00 am

Several creative NYC residents are trying to making a living off YouTube. Composite image: Mister Chase, YouTube/MisterChase; JR Sport Brief, YouTube/JRSportBrief; Maangchi, YouTube/Maangchi; Rachel's English, YouTube/Rachel's English. Composite image by Karen Brazell for MetroFocus.

Want to make money off your hobby?  How about taking your talents to YouTube?

It may sound crazy, but some YouTube stars are actually making legitimate bank creating videos. The biggest star on YouTube, Ray William Johnson, known as RayWJ, is estimated to make approximately $1 million a year, sources told the Wall Street Journal in their splashy story last week. However, RayWJ emailed the Journal’s reporter that rumors of his six-figure income had been greatly exaggerated.

In New York City, where the unemployment rate isn’t dropping as quickly as it is in the rest of the country, any amount of extra cash helps, and some industrious New Yorkers have taken their futures into their own hands. Like Johnson, they are members of the YouTube Partner Program, which allows users who create original videos for YouTube to make money off the advertising on the site. The program has 30,000 participants globally, and hundreds in New York City. YouTube spokesperson Jessica Mason told MetroFocus that thousands of YouTubers make more than $1,000 a month and several hundred make more than $100,000 a year.

According to Mason, “Per the terms of their agreement, partners are prohibited from sharing how the deal is structured i.e. the revenue share.” But people familiar with how much top performers on YouTube make told the Wall Street Journal that, “for every two million views, performers who have partnered with YouTube receive $3,000 to $9,000, depending in part on the country and the platform where the video is viewed.”

The four New Yorkers MetroFocus profiled all said their YouTube gig enabled them to quit their jobs. Not bad, eh? Have a look:


Total number of video views: 12,487,276

Maangchi Kim, who lives in Midtown, first posted a video of herself cooking Korean food back in 2007.

“I was camera scared at first,” she said. “My first video is so blurry. Whenever I see this, I’m embarrassed!”

But with some encouragement from a friend, she kept at it. Now, she has 127 Korean cooking lesson videos (which she shoots and edits herself) under her belt and has quit her day job as a family counselor.

“I had worked so many jobs when I posted the first video,” said Maangchi.


Maangchi Kim makes Korean fried chicken and teaches Korean cooking through a series of videos available on YouTube. YouTube/Maangchi

Kim says YouTube has given her the chance to not just cook and teach for a living, but also to meet people and travel the world.

“Success means money, but the more important part, I thought, is I get feedback from all over the world,” Kim said. “Every day I get a touching story.”

Last spring, Kim was one of the winners of the inaugural YouTube NextUp competition, which awards money to partners to develop their YouTube programs. The $35,000 check enabled her to take her cooking show global, sending Kim to nine countries and 11 cities on her Gapshida! (translation: “Let’s go!”) tour. She met with fans and cooked Korean food with them, and also learned to cook the foods native to the countries she visited. She brought nothing but a backpack, “filled with gadgets,” and did all the filming herself.

Rachel’s English

Total number of video views: 2,304,972

Rachel Smith, who lives in Manhattan’s Gramercy area, decided to make teaching pronunciation her life’s work after giving a Turkish friend some pointers on how to pronounce English words. And being a classically trained singer, Smith had already had the importance of pronunciation (in English, French, German…) drilled into her.

In 2009, she made her first video, and by 2011 she had reached her 1 million views mark. She has since relinquished her full-time job.

“I felt comfortable quitting my job,” said Smith, who had been running a guest house in Manhattan and said she makes more money as a YouTube partner. She teaches pronunciation offline as well, and the majority of her students found her on YouTube, she said.


Rachel Smith teaches how to pronounce words in English to those who speak English as a foreign language.  In this episode, she demonstrates how to pronounce “can” versus “can’t.” YouTube/Rachel’s English

Smith, who does all the camera work and editing herself, says in order to “make it” on YouTube, a user has to be 100 percent committed to the videos they are making. Editing is painstaking, she said, and if you’re not fully devoted, it shows. Her advice to aspiring YouTubers? Make a video of whatever it is you mumble to yourself when walking down the street.

“I love walking around New York noticing accents and pronunciation idiosyncrasies,” she said. “I play with them, try to re-create them, think about how to teach a correction. Basically, I walk around New York mumbling to myself.”

JR Sport Brief

Total number of video views: 42,983,878

JR Jackson, who lives in Yonkers and grew up in the Williamsbridge section of the Bronx, spent years working in Internet TV production before he began making his own videos. But in 2009, at a colleague’s suggestion, he began producing his YouTube sports commentary show, JR Sport Brief. And in typical YouTube fashion, Jackson is a one-man band, doing most of his own shooting and editing.

Jackson has since made 773 videos. He quit his day job, where he made approximately $60,000 per year, and is hoping to expand his YouTube channel by having videographers worldwide produce segments on what’s happening in sports in their regions.


JR Jackson hosts a sports talk show on YouTube. In this episode, he gives commentary on a Denver Broncos v. Pittsburgh Steelers game. YouTube/JRSportBrief

Jackson says YouTube is the perfect medium for sports talk shows. The site fills a “void” and gives fans the ability to interact with the person in the video, he says, either by leaving comments or “thumbing up” the video (giving a thumb’s up).

“I wouldn’t have started if I didn’t see an opportunity,” Jackson said.

Mister Chase’s Songs in Sign

Location: Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan

Total number of video views: 1,058,463

This songwriter and music video creator, who goes only by the name “Mister Chase,” came up with a creative way to make fans on YouTube while also doing something good for others. In his Songs in Sign video series, Chase uses his college language course skills to make music videos for the deaf and hard of hearing. He takes a popular song, dresses up and dances to the beat while using sign language to show the lyrics in the song.

“As a singer it is important for me to allow everyone to experience this thing called music,” Chase said.


The YouTube phenom known as Mister Chase performs songs using American Sign language. In this video, he signs Nicki Minaj’s hip-hop hit “Super Bass.” YouTube/MisterChase

Chase also composes original music, which is how he makes money through YouTube (his Songs in Sign videos feature copyrighted material, so he’s not allowed to profit from them on YouTube).

When his second Songs in Sign video, to the Britney Spears song “Womanizer,” was posted on Spears’ website, Chase’s Internet fame went through the roof.

In October, he quit his job as a sign language interpreter.

“After that, people began to really take an interest in seeing a new way of experiencing music,” said Chase. “People embraced seeing a creative, new way to enjoy a song, and they began to follow me.”

Chase credits YouTube for helping to build the audience for his original music as well.

“I don’t believe that this would’ve come about if it weren’t for YouTube,” he said.

For more technology news, watch “MetroFocus: The Tech Economy,” airing on THIRTEEN on June 30 at 5 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. and July 12 at 8:30 p.m.; on WLIW at 5:30 a.m. on June 30; on NJTV on July 1 at 5:30 a.m. and July 2 at 4:30 a.m.