The YouTube beauty community exploded last week when some of the biggest influencers in the industry found themselves in hot water after controversial tweets were dug up from the past. The cringeworthy remarks had far reaching implications beyond losing views and subscribers.
While I don’t have time to unpack all the drama in this post, I will say it ignited a very sharp shift within the beauty community.
Several videos have been made targeting the behaviors of the top influencers and revealing behind-the-scenes business deals never previously discussed on YouTube.
Marlena Stell, founder and CEO of Makeup Geek, posted a video that shed light on the truth behind sponsored videos and exposed just how much the top beauty gurus charge to talk about their products.
“The reason why [Makeup Geek hasn’t] been supported by beauty influencers is because we haven’t paid them massive amounts of money,” she explained. “We don’t have $60,000 to pay someone to do one video and that’s the rates we’ve been given.”
Marlena went on to say, “I just want to be very true of the story of what’s really happening in the beauty industry. It is a lot about money, and people talk about products of who pays them the most.”
Other YouTubers are speaking up as well.
Samantha Ravndahl, a beauty influencer with over 850,000 subscribers, recently discussed how much money YouTubers actually rake in each month.
She outlined the various ways beauty influencers generate revenue including AdSense, brand sponsorships, affiliate links, product placements/endorsements, brand trips, events, meet and greets, and appearances.
I’ve summarized the main points below, but you can click here to watch the full video.
Smaller influencers make anywhere from literal pennies to maybe a couple hundred bucks on their AdSense.
Medium sized influencers make usually a couple thousand dollars to about like $11,000 a month on it. Mega influencers can make upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. Then you have affiliate links and affiliate codes. Same thing, obviously this is always going to go in tiers: smaller influencers are going to make less, medium influencers a little bit more, large influencers a massive jump into the tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands a month. There’s a popular company with many popular influencers backing it and a lot of the higher earning influencers are making around and over $50,000-$75,000 a month off of their codes.
Then you have actual sponsorships: Instagram, Instagram stories, SnapChat, Twitter, YouTube, whatever it may be across any platform you can do sponsored content. People typically make thousands of dollars doing this. Even smaller influencers a lot of the time are making thousands of dollars. Larger influencers can sometimes be charging upwards of six figures for an exclusive YouTube video, medium influencers usually around five figures, and smaller influencers usually around four figures. Then you have things like paid brand trips, paid events, paid meet and greets, paid appearances– all ranging in prices usually around a few thousand dollars upwards of five figures. I’m sure in some cases six figures.
In general, a lot of the top tier influencers are making anywhere from $300,000 a month to upwards of almost a million dollars a month depending on how big they are. Medium sized influencers a lot of the time are making a minimum of $10,000 a month upwards to probably $50,000 or $100,000 a month. Smaller influencers it really, really varies for smaller influencers or micro influencers. Usually they are making nothing or they’re making a few hundred dollars or they’re making a few thousand dollars, but it’s nowhere in the league of the top people.
Hollywood makeup artist Kevin James Bennett took to Instagram to reveal some staggering numbers that back up Sam’s claims and support Marlena’s frustration within this industry.
A brand I consulted with asked me to inquire about working with a top-level beauty influencer. The influencer’s management offered me these options:
1) $25K – product mention in a multi-branded product review.
2) $50K-$60K – dedicated product review (price determined by length of video).
3) $75K-$85K – dedicated negative review of a competitor’s product (price determined by length of video).
4) A minimum 10% affiliate link or code to use on IG and YT.
Another YouTuber, Alex from Pretty Pastel Please, agreed with Kevin’s claims and knows from first hand experience.
She revealed that beauty influencers not only make money to talk about certain products but they also make money to trash talk competitive brands. A company even approached her to lie about their sponsorship deal all together:
A company emailed me and they said, ‘How much would you charge us to show a product in your PR box haul vs. how much would you charge us to show it on its own vs. how much would you charge us to show the product, say that you paid for it with your own money and that it is not sponsored?’ Let that sink in. The company literally said can you give us a rate for how much you’re willing to charge to sell your f**king soul. This happens every day.
And if you still don’t believe me, Huda Kattan, one of biggest beauty influencers in the world, went on record earlier this year to say she turned down an offer of $185,000 for one Instagram post. She explained to entrepreneur.com:
Once, I got offered $185,000 to do one post, and I was so close to doing it — I genuinely loved the product. We were just about to post it, and my team was like, “This is the caption,” with “#ad.” I just couldn’t do it. I had been looking at a car I was ready to buy, but I ended up turning it down. It was painful for me and my husband to reject it, because it was a lot of money. I know you have to identify it as an ad, but I just didn’t feel comfortable with it.
What do you think: should beauty gurus demand top dollar for product reviews or are they making too much money all together?
Jessica Bradford is a writer for Starcasm.