For budding comics, the beauty of YouTube is that they can create videos from the comfort of their own bedrooms. The genius of Maker Studios is that it brings some of the Web’s most popular/promising self-made personalities out of such obscurity and under the roof of a single L.A.-based production company, using innovative cross-promotion techniques to drive more than half a billion views a month across a network of 250-plus channels (see star roster at right). “I feel we’re unique because we’re founded by talent. Most people don’t understand the space,” says Ben Donovan, who co-founded the company with sister Lisa (whose parody videos under the name LisaNova landed her a spot on “MadTV”) and Danny Zappin.Stepping into Maker’s Culver City studios suggests a mix of Hollywood’s early days (rooms have been overhauled to support makeshift greenscreen stages and soundbooths) and its future (dozens of employees sit at computer terminals producing content and managing Maker’s many verticals, which include Comedy and Gaming). One of YouTube’s first revenue-share partners, Maker went unfunded for 18 months, surviving on ad dollars distributed among its contributors, until venture capital partners stepped in earlier this year with $4 million to take the creator-driven collective to the next level.
Ray William Johnson
Total streams: 1.4 billion
Subscribers: 5 million
Personality behind YouTube’s most-subscribed channel built his aud riffing about viral videos on his show “Equals Three.” Also performs with the animated musical comedy group My Favorite Martian.
YouTube alias: NicePeter
Total streams: 301 million
Subscribers: 1.2 million
Chicago improv comic turned L.A.-based Web musician hosts the “Epic Rap Battles of History” series, pitting Darth Vader against Hitler, and other fantasy throw-downs.
YouTube alias: KassemG
Total streams: 203 million
Subscribers: 1.8 million
Jordanian-born stand-up produces such popular Web series as “California On” (featuring man-on-the-street bits) and “Going Deep” (a cheeky excuse to interview porn stars).
YouTube alias: Timothy-DeLaGhetto2 (aka Traphik)
Total streams: 353 million
Subscribers: 1.1 million
Asian-American rapper-comedian’s improvisational uploads range from lo-fi song parodies to casual video sessions in which he banters with fans.