- YouTube introduced channel memberships in 2018, letting creators charge fans a monthly fee.
- Charging for exclusive content has created an additional income stream for some YouTubers.
- Two creators broke down how channel memberships work and how much they earn.
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
This is the latest installment of Insider's YouTube money logs, where creators break down how much they earn.
Paid memberships have been a trending revenue stream in the influencer world in the past year, and dedicated paywall platforms likeand OnlyFans have seen surging growth and valuations.
YouTube has been in the space since 2018 with channel memberships. Creators with at least 1,000 subscribers who are a part of YouTube's Partner Program can use the feature to charge subscribers a monthly fee in exchange for members-only perks.
Over 140,000 channels earned money in December from paid digital goods (which include channel memberships), according to YouTube.
For the YouTube creators Jeff Thorman and Cory McElroy, charging for exclusive content has been lucrative and helped build a community of superfans.
Thorman's YouTube channel Home RenoVision DIY (1.8 million subscribers) earns an average $15,000 to $17,000 a month from his membership program, YouTube confirmed. And McElroy's YouTube channel Aquarium Co-Op (653,000 YouTube subscribers) earns an average $12,500 a month from his memberships.
"YouTube has more than replaced my business income," said Thorman, who closed his construction company two years ago to focus on YouTube full time. Besides memberships, he earns money from ads, sponsorships, and affiliate income.
Both Thorman and McElroy said their biggest revenue streams were brand sponsorships but that memberships had made up an increasingly big chunk of their incomes in the past year.
How channel memberships work on YouTube
Thorman has been a general contractor for 25 years, and he started his YouTube channel in 2016 as a way to help homeowners learn renovation skills.
His YouTube channel spiked in viewership in 2020 as people increasingly stayed home and improved their spaces, he said.
"We started the membership as a way to provide access," Thorman said. "We wanted to support them while they are renovating so that they can be successful."
Here's a breakdown of Thorman's YouTube membership tiers. Every time a subscriber goes up a tier, they are offered the rewards in the tiers below:
- Tier 1: "Money in the bank." This tier costs $5 a month and includes loyalty badges, livestreams, access to the community forum, and phone-in live shows, and all questions asked by members will get a response back.
- Tier 2: "Loving it." This tier costs $10 a month and includes project planning and building-practices advice.
- Tier 3: "Cheers and thanks." This tier costs $25 a month and includes additional phone-in livestreams.
- Tier 4: "Saved my bacon." This tier costs $100 a month and includes additional phone-in livestreams.
He also sometimes offers his members access to discounts to help them renovate their homes, he said.
McElroy launched his YouTube channel in 2013, and his most popular YouTube videos focus on an aquarium fish market (9 million views), a tour of a fish farm (2.6 million views), and a fish feeding in his aquarium (2.4 million views).
He offers only one tier, which costs $5 a month, and his channel membership helps people get the support, knowledge, and products they need for freshwater fish keeping.
"If our channel has 1 million unique people watching every month, we can't possibly hold a relationship with all those people," McElroy said. "But when you boil it down to a couple thousand members, you now are recognizing names and know these people."