We have all watched  the electronic music scene blossom into the juggernaut industry it is today, after coming out of a genre and culture of obscurity. Now, we can see how much money the “heavy weights” of the industry are making and it’s just obscene. Not only is it obscene, it also confounds us because there are some DJs on that list that make us scratch our heads in the purest sentiment of “WTF?”

The abbreviated list:

  1.  Calvin Harris -$66 Million
  2.  David Guetta – $30 Million
  3.  (TIE) Avicii – $28 Million
  4.  (TIE) Tiesto – $28 Million
  5.  Steve Aoki – $23 million
  6.  Afrojack $22 Million
  7.  Zedd – $21 Million
  8.  Kaskade – $17 Million
  9.  Skrillex – $16.5 Million
  10.  Deadmau5 – $16 Million
  11.  Hardwell – $13 Million
  12.  (TIE) Armin Van Buuren – $12 Million
  13.  (TIE) Steve Angello – $12 Million

The reason this list has us in such perplexity is that some of these DJs probably don’t often “DJ”. Now, one might say that they earned this money from record sales and that is a reflection of the market truly choosing the best. The fact of the matter is that the majority of their income is not from record sales. The majority of their income comes from merchandising, endorsements, and the always controversial performance fees. As with the DJ Mag Top 100, what this actually relates to is who has the best marketing team.

Let’s take a look at some of the people on this list. David Guetta is hands down the number one “WTF” moment for us. David Guetta has been put on the spot multiple times for not DJing and just making an extremely expensive celebrity appearance. It would be like having Snooki show up and dance in front of the turntables for a few hours. There is also the issue with music production. David Guetta is rumored to use a ghost producer for his work (If you need more videos as proof, take a look at the copious other videos on YouTube demonstrating Guetta’s…”abilities”). David Guetta’s supposed ghost producer is actually a very talented house music producer by the name Joachim Garraud. But heck, David is one hell of a self-promoter.

David Guetta Presses Play

Then there is the number one earner: Calvin Harris. Calvin is a talented producer and has made some of the most popular songs of the year. It’s not surprising that he has the top spot. The problem is that his performances leave you with a feeling of “meh.” It’s like being stuck in limbo. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either. Calvin Harris gets paid roughly $200,000 per gig according to Forbes magazine and on top of that some gigs pull in one million dollars for DJ fees. We wouldn’t be upset about that if he wasn’t just a “press play DJ”.

Tiesto is someone who lays on the Love/Hate line. Tiesto is definitely one of the most influential artists in this industry and has made some of our favorite tracks in his early career. His performances are amazing and he has cultivated one of the largest followings of many of the DJs out there. The problem with Tiesto goes back to two things: he uses a ghost producer to help with most of his production, and he turned from trance, the scene that helped cultivate his brand. Him being in the top five is no surprise and can be argued as deserved.

Honorable mention for “WTF” goes to Avicii, Afrojack, and Steve Aoki. Just like Calvin Harris, these DJs do produce some catchy and fun songs to listen to, but don’t really DJ.

We realize that our perspectives on some of these top paid DJs is not gospel fact, and instead is a matter of opinion. Many DJs on this list make the money they do by actually DJing, producing amazing music, and/or have had a positive influence on the electronic music scene as a whole. So kudos to them. This all begs the question: what does it mean to be a DJ in the present day? Is it about actual DJ ability? Or is production ability the new DJ?

What do you think about how much these DJs are getting paid? Is it fair from your point of view?