YouTube ASMR videos have surged this year as people look to relieve anxiety and fall asleep. Here's how one creator grew to 150,000 subscribers and how much she earns.

By Sydney Bradley

This is the latest installment of Business Insider's YouTube money logs, where creators break down how much they earn.

2020 has been a year filled with high levels of stress, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness.

This has led many to discover new coping mechanisms, such as ASMR (shorthand for autonomous sensory meridian response) videos on YouTube. The "tingly" feelings that ASMR provides for some people have become a popular remedy for stress and anxiety over the past several years, and some viewers use these videos to fall asleep. And this year, there's been a particular spike in ASMR content.

ASMR was named one of the top ten YouTube trends for 2020, according to Izea, an influencer-marketing platform. Recent data from Izea's BrandGraph software also revealed that between March and August this year, there was a large increase in ASMR content across social media. 

Semide (who goes by SemideCoco online, and does not use her last name for privacy reasons) is a Toronto-based content creator and is among many "ASMRtists" on YouTube who've seen a piqued interest in ASMR this year as a result of the pandemic. She started making ASMR videos in October 2019 and is also a part-time naturopathic medical student.

She began by making medical role-play videos, like an eye exam where she interacts with the camera and pretends that it is the viewer.

But it wasn't until she started creating ASMR videos with real people, such as her cousin or sister, that she found her niche. 

"That's when my channel really took off," Semide told Business Insider. 

She's found a variety of different sensations that resonate with her audience and reliably cause soothing "tingles," including massages, acupressure, guided mediations, and "scalp checks." 

"I was looking around the house and I saw my mom's knitting needles and I was like, why not run this through the scalp?" she said. "I'm sure it'll be a really tingly experience."

In February 2020, Semide's YouTube channel had about 10,000 subscribers. Then her channel started to rapidly grow. At that same time, the pandemic was altering people's usual ways of life. By August, Semide had reached 100,000 subscribers, and today she has over 150,000. 

She attributes this growth, in part, to the pandemic and its impact on people's mental health. 

"I think a lot of that has to do with people being at home, being indoors, and also under a lot of stress," Semide said. "I'm here to help these people, to soothe them."

What started as a passion project for Semide has now evolved into her part-time job, helping her pay off bills and medical school tuition. She said she spends about 15 hours each week on her channel and has also enlisted the help of her mother (as an editor) and her sister (to take care of some YouTube logistics).

She earns the majority of her YouTube income through its Partner Program that shares ad revenue with creators from Google-placed ads on their videos (referred to as AdSense). Channels with at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours can qualify for this program.

Her videos earn an estimated $3.15 per thousand views (her "RPM"), according to a screenshot of Semide's AdSense dashboard viewed by Business Insider.

"I got into this really just to make ASMR for people," she said. "But it's gotten to be a point where it's a nice stable income to really support me and my naturopathic career as well."

"In the future, actually, I'm hoping to sort of bridge ASMR and naturopathy together," she added.

Semide Coco ASMR
Semide creates ASMR videos where she often role-plays as a medical professional.
SemideCoco

Like most YouTube creators, ASMRtists earn money through its Google-placed ads.

YouTube creators can usually play around with these features a bit, like adding ads at the beginning, end, and throughout a video (called mid-roll ads). 

But ASMRtists face a dilemma when it comes to monetizing their videos with ads: no one wants to be interrupted by a loud ad in the middle of their sleep-inducing trance.

"So, we do place ads on our videos, but only in the beginning," Semide said. "Never in the middle and never at the end, which reduces the revenue potential."

But even without ads placed in the middle or end of a video, ASMR viewers have a unique watch behavior that impacts how much creators can potentially earn.

"The great thing is with ASMR, if people really like a video, they're going to keep wanting to come back to it," she said. They're also likely to watch the entire video — which are often between 30 and 90 minutes — or fall asleep and keep it running.

"The longer they watch the video, the more revenue you get," she said. 

Semide has two videos that have reached over 1 million views on YouTube, and several that are inching close. These highly watched videos typically earn between $2,500 to $4,000 in ad revenue, she told Business Insider.

One of Semide's most popular videos features her doing a scalp check and massage on her cousin Ediya (who is also an ASMR creator). The video currently has about 1.1 million views and an estimated revenue of about $3,470, according to a screenshot of Semide's AdSense dashboard. 

Semide makes most of her YouTube income through AdSense, but there are several ways that Semide — and other ASMR creators — are able to monetize their content. 

  1. PayPal donations from viewers. On top of ad revenue, this was one of the earliest ways that Semide was able to earn money as a creator, she said. She includes a link to her PayPal in her video descriptions for donations from her viewers. 
  2. Patreon subscribers for exclusive content. Semide started her Patreon in August once she hit 100,000 YouTube subscribers and now has 218 patrons and earns about $654 each month, according to Patreon. She uses the money she earns from Patreon for upgrading her equipment and setup. 
  3. Brand sponsorships and collaborations. YouTube creators often partner with brands on sponsorships, which include product placement or shout-outs in a video. "In terms of brand sponsorships and collaborations, this is something I am still in the process of building," Semide said, and so far, she's worked with some brands on a gifting basis. She said she will only work with brands that align with her values, however.
  4. Distributing ASMR audio tracks on Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services. Creators can also share the audio from their YouTube videos on streaming platforms, Semide said. She uses SoundCloud's Repost Network, which distributes the audio and allows creators to monetize those tracks. Semide said she keeps 80% of the revenue.