We recently talked about the reality of making a living as a DJ and I’m sure plenty of you were more than a little bit skeptical. Some of that may be because your parents have convinced you that being a DJ is a hobby not a career. For some of you that may be true, but if you don’t have a problem working hard and making your own opportunities you will find that you get to do what you love and make a good chunk of change while you do it.
But today you have more than my word to take for it. Forbes, the compiler of all things big money, recently released its list of the world’s highest paid DJs. Whether you make it to the super big leagues or not, this list should inspire you to fulfill your dreams.
Top 10 Money Makers
The ten highest earning DJs on the planet are: (drumroll please!)
Tiesto – $22 million
Skrillex – $15 million
Swedish House Mafia – $14 million
David Guetta – $13.5 million
Steve Aoki – $12 million
Deadmau5 – $11.5 million
DJ Pauly D – $11 million
Kaskade – $10 million
Afrojack – $9 million
Avicii – $7 million
Wow that’s a lot of money for what your mom and dad called “spinning records”. Remind them of that next time they tell you DJing is a real way to earn some money.
So, how exactly did these guys make their dough?
One thing that sets these world famous DJs apart from the rest of us—aside from a ridiculous amount of zeros—is venue choice. Of course all of us won’t get the chance to play big events like Coachella or Staples Center, what all of us can learn from this is that venue is a factor that shouldn’t be overlooked.
If you can’t play mega venues around the world, that doesn’t mean you won’t make any money. In fact if you notice the highest grossers on this list they have another thing in common: touring. The way you get the big venues is to pull in the big crowds and the only way to gain the fame of Tiesto and Skrillex is get out there and get your music heard.
Sure, you’ll start off in small hole in the wall venues, but even DJ Pauly D play dive bars and small clubs before his reality TV days. Get those venues and aim for steadily bigger audiences and pave the way for your lucrative DJ career. Here’s a little inspiration for you: number 5 Steve Aoki did 200 shoes in 2011, how’s that for grinding?
So how can a DJ really cash in on touring like these guys, even when the venues are selling hundreds of thousands of dollars in ticket sales? The answer is merchandise. Whether it’s t-shirts, hats, hoodies, headphones or CDs, merchandise can help you compensate for ticket sales until you’ve built a name for yourself.
Of course many of these high paid DJs have lucrative endorsement deals that make selling merchandise easier, if you have a unique product it will sell. In fact many DJs self-produce their first album which means after investment costs, you keep all the profits.
These world famous DJs have talent for sure, but another thing they have is low overhead. When touring you need to make sure that you aren’t spending an arm and a leg to lug unnecessary equipment around with you. Unlike rock stars and pop acts you don’t need lots of instruments and equipment, which means you don’t need a busload of roadies and dancers traveling with you.
With a small kit, headphones and USB stick you can hop a plane to your next gig without the hassle of a big production which means you keep more money than you spend on your gig.
Since DJs and electronic dance music are profitable these days many DJs like Skrillex, Pauly D and David Guetta have done residencies at some of the hottest clubs in Las Vegas. If you live in a big party city like this, don’t underestimate the power of tourists to be as effective as hopping a bus or plane and touring remote locations to improve your name recognition.
One thing all DJs can definitely learn from all 10 highest earning DJs is their business acumen. Learning to maximize your profits by taking things like overhead, travel and merchandising into account can really help you manage your career effectively. You may not have a manager or an agent working around the clock to get you gigs—and a chunk of your earnings—but neither did any of the top 10 at one point in their careers.
Until you reach the big leagues it is up to you to play the role of DJ, small business owner, event planner, booker, salesman and bookkeeper. But as you can see, it can really pay off in the end!
I hope I helped you figure out how to navigate your DJ career. Email in the box below to get access to Free video DJ lessons that will answer all of your questions on how to become a disk jockey!
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