The 10 Highest-Paid DJs In The World
Forbes’ latest list ranks the world’s highest-paid DJs over the past year.
With the increasing popularity and resurgenceof electronic dance music, better known as EDM, DJ paydays have also seen a record high.
The top ten “Electronic Cash Kings,” as Forbes calls them, earned anywhere from $7 million to $22 million in the past year alone.
As Forbes points out:
One need only look at the recent activities of the genre’s most prominent practitioners: Last year, Skrillex was one of the main attractions at Coachella; last month, Deadmau5 ended up on the cover of Rolling Stone; last week, Kaskade became the first electronic act to sell out the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The proof is in the hundred-dollar ticket prices, EDM is officially mainstream. And the top earners who hide behind computers with headphones on, all of whom are male, are reaping the benefits.And unlike rock bands and pop stars who take home just one-third of gross ticket sales, DJ’s production costs are often extremely minor as they simply require a USB stick, headphones and a laptop. Forbes put together the following ranking after looking at recorded music sales, endorsements, merchandise sales, and sourcing Pollstar, RIAA, promoters, managers, lawyers, and some of the artists themselves.
10. Avicii—$7 Million
This 22-year-old Swede spins all over the world with his two essential tools: “a thumb drive and a good set of head phones.”
He also picked up a Grammy nomination this year for Best Dance Single and was a featured performer at this year’s Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago.
“Major festivals can pay [acts] $1,000–$2 million … Music has gotten huge thanks to the internet,” Lollapalooza co-founder and artists booker, Marc Geiger, told Bloomberg.
9. Afrojack—$9 Million
The former boyfriend of Paris Hilton, this Dutch DJ also moonlights as a music producer.
He was featured on Pitbull’s number one hit single “Give Me Everything” and contributed to Beyoncé’s single “Run the World (Girls).”
Afrojack also runs Wall Recordings, which has Dutchhouse DJs such as himself signed onto the label.
8. Kaskade—$10 Million
41-year-old Ryan Raddon, better known as Kaskade, performed 125 shows over the past year, according to Forbes.
The Illinois-born DJ rose to prominence alongside Deadmau5 and Wolfgang Gartner during the revival of American progressive in late 2008–early 2009.
7. DJ Pauly D—$11 Million
In addition to his “Jersey Shore” paycheck from MTV, DJ Pauly D gets half his annual earnings from the 132 DJ gigs he played over the past year.
And the reality TV star has managed to parlay his fame into a lucrative DJ career, commanding an average of $40,000 per club gig, private parties, and a stint opening for Britney Spears on her Femme Fatale tour.
Pauly D also launched a clothing line called Dirty Couture, a Pauly D Bronze Beats tanning lotion, plans for an SMS Audio headphone line with 50 Cent, a beverage called REMIX Pre-Game Cocktails in partnership with a Grey Goose cofounder, and a spinoff series titled “The Pauly D Project.”
But with success comes the haters, including the competition. After Deadmau5 said “there’s nothing creative about” Pauly D’s work, the MTV star tweeted:
“T-shirt $40. Jeans $100. Hair gel $12. Getting hated on by deadmau5: priceless.”
6. Deadmau5—$11.5 Million
Joel Thomas Zimmerman, better known as Deadmau5 (pronounced “dead mouse”) or the DJ who wears an enlarged Mickey Mouse head, is a 31-year-old electro-house music producer, DJ, and performer based in Toronto.
In 2009, he was the best-selling artist on Beatport with more than 30,000 digital downloads with his singles “Not Exactly,” “Faxing Berlin,” and “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff.”
5. Steve Aoki—$12 Million
While Aoki earns less per gig than his DJ counterparts, according to Forbes, he plays more gigs than most—performing over 200 days a year.
The 34-year-old American electro-house musician, record producer and founder of Dim Mak Records also co-owns a management company called DECKSTAR with the late DJ AM. The roster boasts artists such as Blink 182, Holy Ghost! and Rancid.
Not that Aoki needs the money, as he’s the heir to the Benihana fortune. His father,founded the restaurant chain, was also a former Japanese wrestler.
4. David Guetta—$13.5 Million
This French DJ earns his paycheck by performing at countless music festivals all over the world, including this year’s Coachella.
After entering the pop music world with his album “Nothing but the Beat,” Guetta also got an endorsement deal with HP to showcase the TouchPad and appeared in a TV commercial, print and billboard advertising, and two videos.
The partnership was beneficial for webOS and the TouchPad, as Guetta’s videos are viewed an average of 100 million times on his YouTube channel.
Guetta has since collaborated with Nicki Minaj, Akon, Sia, Usher, Ludacris, Chris Brown, and Lil Wayne, among others.
3. Swedish House Mafia—$14 Million
This Swedish DJ trio were the first electronic act to headline at Madison Square Garden and tickets to their shows sell for hundreds of dollars.
SHM manager Amy Thomson told Billboard there was no giant sponsor underwriting the MSG event and major marketing campaign planned. The idea was simply to throw “the biggest private party on earth … There’s no TV, no above-the-line glossy magazines. All our advertising is just three dots, and if you don’t know what they are, cool—don’t come.”
2. Skrillex—$15 Million
At just 24 years old, this California-born DJ has already won three Grammy awards after he made “dubstep”—a genre of electronic dance music that originated in South London—popular worldwide.
“I’ve been listening to electronic music since I was 12,” Skrillex told Forbes. “Even when I played in rock bands, I’ve been making it … This is the first time it’s gotten so big.”
In December 2011, he was named MTV’s Electronic Dance Music Artist of the Year.
1. Tiësto—$22 Million
According to Pollstar, this Dutch-born DJ pulls in up to $250,000 per night playing all over the world.
At age 43, he has his own label, Black Hole Recordings, and was the first DJ to ever play live on stage at the Olympics, spinning at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.