The World’s Highest-Paid DJs: Calvin Harris Leads List With $46 Million


Don't let anyone tell you a play button isn't lucrative, boys and girls. Forbes has issued their Electronic Cash Kings list, ranking the highest paid DJs on the circuit, and times have never been better for the bass drop. Calvin Harris pulled the top rank with $46 million, while Tiesto followed in second position with $32 million over the past 12 months. 

“The rise of dance music has been astronomical in the last three years,” Harris told Forbes. “I happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

That he did. Leading the pack of superstar DJs atop the cartoonishly massive wave of electronic music popularity, Harris is followed by third-position placer David Guetta ($30 million), Swedish House Mafia in fourth with $25 million, and bionic mouse-man Deadmau5 rounding out the top five at $21 million. Live shows and merchandising provided the bulk of revenue, with Harris and Tiesto each pulling upwards of $200,000 a night.

Check out the video below for the full breakdown of top earners in EDM:

The bubble is bound to burst eventually, however, as innovation and authentic musicianship in the genre take a backseat to play buttons and canned mixes. As Live Nation and A.E.G. rally behind the arena-show trend in America, and mass-market overkill makes caricaturized heroes out of easily embellished personalities such as Skrillex and Deadmau5, backlash is inevitable.

Joel Zimmerman, aka Deadmau5, has sunk his teeth into the hand that feeds so often it's looking like ground beef. Often an outspoken critic of current EDM trends on his blog or Twitter account, he's raged against everything from Madonna’s inane "Molly" shout-out at the Ultra Music Festival to David Guetta's play-button performance approach (“two iPods and a mixer and he just plays tracks – like, ‘Here’s one with Akon, check it out!’”). The backlash was strong, but by no means does that make him wrong.

We'll let the glowsticks fall where they may. But one thing's for certain: as long as the mollygoblins stay in the powder, we'll continue to see programmed music dominating the live music scene. Besides, there's a secret weapon in play that makes a world of difference – girls at rock shows never dressed like this: