Logan and Jake Paul moved to Los Angeles in 2014, at the height of Vine’s heyday, and not long after found themselves crammed into an apartment at 1600 Vine Road with other young creators hoping to make it big in America’s entertainment epicenter. Over the next few years, they became world-renowned celebrities (often for the wrong reasons), moved into gigantic mansions, and threw the types of obnoxious parties high school kids worshipped and neighbors dreaded. Now, years after they both moved into their own mansions in the wealthiest part of the city, the brothers have independently decided to leave the place they’ve called home.
“I think I got the bug that’s bit everyone leaving LA,” Logan Paul said on his podcast, Impaulsive, in February. “It’s the closing of one chapter and the beginning of a new one. There’s a lot of senior vibes around the house lately.”
They’re not the only ones, either.
YouTube is full of videos posted over the last several months of creators deciding to leave Los Angeles. Some are going back to cities and towns they grew up in to be closer to family. Others, like Logan, are finding entirely new places to live, like Puerto Rico. (Jake has yet to announce where he’s moving.) The exodus is similar to what’s happening in the tech sector, which is seeing employees at companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook move away from San Francisco to set up life elsewhere. Even YouTubers have found that, without a daily routine and places to be, there’s no reason to stay in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
“We came here on our visa a year-and-a-half ago,” Jasmine Saini, a YouTuber who moved to Los Angeles from Toronto with her husband, said. “The first six months were great. Then the pandemic happened. We just realized there’s literally no point of us being here; we can’t go anywhere, we can’t meet with anybody, we can’t network.”
Actors, directors, and writers have called Hollywood home for close to a century. But since the early 2010s, online creators have turned the city into their playground. Around 2014, the popularity of the shortform video app Vine helped convince a few future superstars to move to Los Angeles and start working with one another. Jake and Logan Paul (Ohio), David Dobrik (Chicago), Liza Koshy (Houston), Jenna Marbles (upstate New York), and other familiar names came together to collaborate and use the city to carve out their own space within the entertainment capital of the world. Certain areas, like the spot around Sunset and Vine — once referred to as Radio Row — attracted a sea of creators all hoping to become superstars.
By 2017 and 2018, creators weren’t just roaming down the streets of Los Angeles with Sony and Canon cameras attached to their hands; they were buying mansions and moving other personalities into their homes. Clout Gang, Team 10, and the Vlog Squad all started turning their lives in Los Angeles into an ongoing show for the internet to watch. More people moved to Los Angeles trying to ride the wave of internet stardom that people like the Paul brothers found just a couple of years prior. Then came TikTok, and hype houses became a staple. The messaging was clear: to become a superstar creator, chances are, you’d have to move to LA.
But over the past year, that’s changed. The pandemic has limited creators’ ability to collaborate, and going out to different locations to film — like a giant water park or hanging out with wild animals, anything that can be turned into an adventure — can be difficult. Creators say it’s removed their key reason to stay.
“It closed down any opportunity to work in LA, it changed the social life of LA, which is so much of what you pay for, and it’s very expensive to live in LA,” Brian Redmon, a YouTuber who originally moved to LA for acting, said in a November 2020 video. “I couldn’t hang out with my friends and so many of my friends were leaving LA.”
The feeling among some LA-based creators is similar to what many workers in the tech sector have been saying about why they’re leaving San Francisco for a remote-first life. Between March and November 2020, more than 80,000 people left San Francisco, according to SFCiti. That’s a 79 percent increase compared to the same period in the year prior. If there’s no office to go to every day, and working remotely works just as well, why spend the cash on expensive living arrangements away from family and friends?
Not everyone feels the same. James Rath was already contemplating leaving Los Angeles before the pandemic started and ultimately decided to move back home to be closer to family. But once everything is back to normal, he’s considering moving to New York City, which he thinks will be more accessible as a legally blind person. Ultimately, he still wants to be in a location with access to potential collaborators.
“Creators have adapted very well in this new remote-working world, but I think there is a longing for in-person collaborations and as soon as it’s safe to do so, either creative will return to the city or new ones will emerge looking for the same opportunities as before,” Rath said.
Not everyone is leaving Los Angeles, of course. David Dobrik just bought a $9.5 million mansion in Sherman Oaks. Los Angeles is still home to the entertainment industry, and there will eventually be a post-COVID world where things return to some form of normalcy. For people trying to break into the industry or find their place within that world, not being in Los Angeles can be career-ending.
But for others, Los Angeles will always be a plane ride away. Jasmine and Harjit Bhandal realized they could be home with their families in Toronto and fly out to LA when they needed to in a post-pandemic world. The decision to move was a little easier after three members of Harjit’s family came down with COVID-19, and two wound up really sick. With a built-in subscriber base and contacts already made in Los Angeles, this was the perfect time to go home.
“Collabs are happening less and less, and I feel like YouTube has definitely changed,” Jasmine said. “We’re paying a ridiculous amount of money for rent, where it’s just the two of us and our dogs. We don’t have anybody else. It just makes more sense to go home. Especially since everyone realized that you can really do anything online.”