You have probably heard of some famous DJs like David Guetta or Calvin Harris making between 10 to 40 million dollars per year. How is that possible? Why do DJs are paid that much money?
Some DJs can make a lot of money because they can fill entire stadiums. They abide by the supply and demand rule. Most of their money comes from touring, especially festivals. Their revenue is based on fame which is mostly earned thanks to their singles.
How did it become like that? Let’s dig a bit deeper.
DJs’ money comes from touring
Like most musicians, DJs don’t make money from selling their songs but from touring. Indeed, at the age of streaming and illegal downloads, the revenue from the songs itself is often negligible.
A DJ set from the top 10 at a big festival is between $100,000 to $400,000. But those are exceptions applying to the top superstars. Most “known DJs” (for instance Kygo or Skrillex) make something between $10,000 to $90,000 a gig.
Of course, if one does make a massive radio hit, that will bring you a non-negligible amount of money. But that’s only a part of it, and many DJs never have this chance.
On the other hand of the spectrum, your local club DJ may only earn from $0 to $300 a night. Indeed, many of them do that for free for the love of the craft or against a few drinks. There is a huge gap with DJ superstars. The wedding DJs are paid enough to make ends meet, they are paid as any regular job will do. On the other hand, they bring their own requirements. Other DJs don’t do that.
So when we say that “DJs make so much money”, that’s in fact only a bunch of them. Still, as you probably came here for this type of DJs, I will cover why the superstar DJs make so much money.
Money comes from fame
Money comes from touring, and the biggest a festival is, the more money you make. Thus DJs make money by their capability to fill entire stadiums. It really is a simple supply and demand thing. If people absolutely want to see you, you can charge them extra.
Some people believe DJs don’t deserve that much because “they only play records” and that “everyone can do that”. But as long as people will come, and there is a demand, they will charge that much. Moreover, everyone needs to keep in mind that the top paying ones are masters at their craft. It’s like esports: many people play video games, still many pay to see a video game competition in a stadium. I am a DJ myself and like going to festivals listening to DJs I like.
It really comes down to his: their capability to fill entire stadiums and that comes from fame. For many, that fame comes from their music productions. You probably all know a song from Avicii, Calvin Harris, or David Guetta. For many DJs, that’s the entry ticket to a big festival. One of your songs was a massive hit? Jackpot! A good way to build fame is also to do collabs with renowned artists, something many DJs understood.
In the long run, however, a DJ will release songs that may be less popular. Therefore, in order to keep being invited to festivals, a DJ needs to be a good entertainer: Reading the crowds mood, making remixes of popular songs, arouse the crowd over the mic, connect with the crowd by dancing moves, etc. Those are the skills that you will be required to be a top paying DJ. People want to see a good performer, that’s also what they paid for.
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DJs have fewer expenses
Compared to other renowned musicians, DJs need less staff to come with them. They don’t need an entire crew to take care of the equipment on stage and that type of thing. Checking the instruments are correctly plugged? That’s not necessary for a DJ! Most of them only need to bring some USB sticks and are good to go.
I am not saying DJs don’t have staff, some of them do, especially the top of the top. But their crew is usually smaller than other performing acts. Moreover, they perform alone whereas bands play in groups.
Thanks to that, DJs have fewer expenses. At the end that’s more money for them.
Other ways DJs make money
Owner of a brand
In the digital age of social media and online business, DJs also became online influencers. Many of them appear on online adds, have partnerships with brands, etc. As such, having social media accounts and followers are important for any famous DJ. Nowadays a name is a brand itself and much money can be made from that.
Owner of a label
Many top DJs have their own music label. It means they sign other artists that are close to their sound. It has several benefits, as making money thanks to other artists’ music. But another big advantage is having people come to see you in order to hear songs from your label. That’s one of the reasons your name becomes a brand. People do not only come to hear your own music production but your label style in general.
For DJs that’s great! You have people creating material for you to use in your own mixes and your fan loves it. If your label is entirely delegated, you can make more money without the need to work more. For upcoming artists, that’s a way to be known by others. It’s a win-win for everyone.
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