TikTok Stars Out-Earn S&P 500 CEOs

TikTok App
Image Credit: Getty Images, Wachiwit.

Sign up for smart news, insights, and analysis on the biggest financial stories of the day.

If you have kids, you probably repeat some version of this message: more homework, less screen time.

Well, it may be time to rethink that sage parenting advice. Last year, a handful of TikTok stars danced, pranked, and memed their way to bigger paychecks than some of the business world’s top executives.

TikTok Goes The Revenue Clock

S&P 500 CEOs earned a median pay of $13.4 million in 2020, according to data analysis from The Wall Street Journal and MyLogIQ. That’s certainly nothing to scoff at, especially considering the stock options, bonuses, and perks that come included.

But those Brink’s trucks full of income are no match for the TikTok celebrity scene. In 2021, the short-form video platform fully flexed its wings, and its biggest stars earned more than the C-suite:

  • According to Forbes data, seven of TikTok’s top performers earned a total of $55.5 million in 2021— a 200% year-over-year increase.
  • Charli D’Amelio, a 17-year-old with 133.3 million followers who makes videos of herself dancing, earned $17.5 million, according to Forbes. That’s more than McDonald’s Chris Kempczinski’s $10.8 million salary, Starbucks’ Kevin Johnson’ $14.7 million, and Exxon’s Darren Woods’ $15.6 million.

Like, Comment, And Sponsor: At this point, it’s not just revenue from TikTok that earns its stars their millions. The influencers are bonafide celebrities, with all the trappings of the Fame Industrial Complex. D’Amelio and her influencer older sister Dixie launched a clothing line with Abercrombie and Fitch’s Hollister brand, and starred in a reality show for Hulu. Addison Rae, another influencer, starred in American Eagle commercials and the Netflix film “He’s All That.”

America Runs On TikTok: D’Amelio is so famous, she now has menu items named after her. In 2020, Dunkin’ launched a cold brew beverage known as “The Charli”. “It’s simply cold brew with caramel and milk,” Scott Murphy, the company’s president, boasted in an earnings call. For bright ideas like that, Murphy was paid less than 9% of the influencer’s 2021 earnings.