10 Highest Paid DJs in the world: Calvin Harris makes $400K per gig
The great thing about being a DJ is success comes in many forms – and at any age. When you make it big, you also get paid a whole lot of dough. According to the annual Forbes Electronic Cash Kings rankings, Calvin Harris topped the list for the fifth year running in 2017, rounding out at $48.5 million per year. His rate per gig? About $400,000. Here’s a list of the 10 highest paid DJs from Forbes, plus a few fun facts about each:
Calvin Harris: $48.5 million ($63 million in 2016).
Top hits in 2017 – Feels, Slide, Faking It
Circa 2005, Calvin Harris was stocking shelves in his hometown’s local grocery store, saving to buy DJ gear. He got to where he is today in large part because he’s able to blend traditional electronic music with a pop sound, attracting big-name artists like Ellie Goulding and Rihanna to collaborate and pulling in a wide audience of listeners.
Tiësto: $39 million ($38 million in 2016).
Top hits in 2017 – On My Way, Harder, Scream
Also known as the godfather of EDM, Tiësto is considered by many to be the greatest DJ of all time. His career began in the Netherlands in 1994, first attracting mainstream attention for his remix of Delerium’s “Silence,” which features Sarah McLachlan. He has produced five studio albums since 2001.
The Chainsmokers: $38 million.
Top hits in 2017 – Something Just Like This, Paris, The One
The Chainsmokers rose to stardom in 2014, after forming just two years prior. Now they’re at the top of the Forbes list and U.S. and global charts, with hits like, “Don’t let me down,” “Something just like this,” and “Closer.”
Skrillex: $30 million (up from the number 7 spot and $20 million in earnings in 2016)
Top hits in 2017 – Would You Ever, Saint Laurent, Favor
Skrillex began his career as the lead singer of post-hardcore band, From First to Last. He released his first solo EP, “My name is Skrillex” as a free download in 2010. Throughout his career, Skrillex has collaborated with other prominent DJs, including deadmau5 in 2010 and Kaskade in 2011. He and Diplo also make up a duo called Jack Ü.
Steve Aoki: $29.5 million ($23.5 million in 2016)
Top hits in 2017 – Lit, Darker Than the Light That Never Bleeds, All Night
Another master collaborator, Steve Aoki has worked with a diverse range of vocalists, including will.i.am, Afrojack, LMFAO, Linkin Park, Lil Jon, and Fall Out Boy. In 1996, Aoki founded his own label, Dim Mak Records, which has since released music by a number of other electro house artists. In addition to his relationships, much of Aoki’s success is attributed to his busy tour schedule, which averages about 250 shows a year.
Diplo: $28.5 million ($23 million in 2016)
Top hits in 2017 – Imperfections, Swerve, Get It Right
Perhaps better known these days as lead member of Major Lazer, Diplo first rose to fame while working with British artist M.I.A. in 2004. Their 2005 collaboration “Paper Planes” solidified both artists’ rise to fame, with Diplo taking off as a major producer and founder of record company, Mad Decent.
David Guetta: $25 million (down from the number 3 spot and $28 million in earnings in 2016)
Top hits in 2017 – 2U, Versace on the Floor, Dirty Sexy Money
David Guetta came to fame in 2009 when he released “One Love,” but before that, he had already released three other albums. In fact, Guetta has been DJing since 1984 (the year Calvin Harris was born), and first adopted house music way back in 1987. If Tiësto is the godfather of EMD, David Guetta is its grandfather.
Marshmello: $21 million.
Top hits in 2017 – Chasing Colors, Silence, Wolves
Three years ago, had anyone heard of Marshmello? In a word – nope. Whether or not you’ve accepted he’s Christopher Comstock, aka Dotcom, the fact is the Marshmello brand only came to fame two years ago. In fact, Marshmello posted his first original song to SoundCloud in 2015, which went viral after receiving attention from prominent DJs like Skrillex.
Martin Garrix: $19.5 million ($16 million in 2016)
Top hits in 2017 – Scared to Be Lonely, Byte, There for You
At only 21 years old, Martin Garrix is already an international sensation. He was inspired to become a DJ after watching Tiësto perform, and was ironically then discovered by Tiësto in 2012. Despite this early success, Garrix mostly ghostwrites for other artists, and didn’t perform his own music live until 2016.
Zedd: $19 million (down from the number 4 spot and $24.5 million in earnings in 2016)
Top hits in 2017 – Stay, Get Low
Zedd is the son of two musicians, and began learning piano at age four. He began his career in 2002, playing for a German deathcore band, until he launched his solo career in 2010. His remix of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” earned him wide scale attention, and he has since produced three studio albums.
These rankings include pre-tax earnings from June 2016 through June 2017. Any fees paid to agents, managers and lawyers were not considered, and have not been subtracted.
Over the years, DJs have debated whether it’s fair that these stars earn so much for live performances. In 2012 deadmau5 pointed out on Tumblr that a lot of the top EDM stars essentially just “hit play” during live shows, striking a chord with DJs who actually improvise, making each performance unique.
On the flip side, these DJs had to work hard to make a name for themselves, and their studio tracks make it to the radio for a reason. When the stars align, success can also come pretty quickly. You never know when you’ll sign your dream gig, so it’s always good to be prepared. Make sure you have DJ insurance to protect your equipment. In fact, ProSight Insures 50 of these top 100 DJs and we also allow smaller-scale DJs to buy insurance online in just minutes through ProSight Direct.
One thing’s for sure, there’s a lot of money in this business, and who knows what could happen. You might be underground today and on top of the world tomorrow. Tell us what you think about the possibility of making it big as a DJ and what factors are most critical to success.