How DJs Took Over the Music Industry in 2014

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While musicians were foolishly signing their livelihoods away by agreeing to 360 artist deals, there were tons of DJs making big money in 2014. Yes! There were DJs raking in more money than most artists this year.

I find it a little troubling that there are DJs making more money than musicians. No disrespect to the DJs of the world, but how is it possible to make more money playing music than actually creating the music? Am I the only person who sees the irony?

It’s hard to make a valid argument when there are millions of people supporting DJs all across the world. I can’t hate on any DJ who is wise enough to make millions playing gigs at hundreds of nightclubs and venues across the world. Calvin Harris played more than 125 gigs and earned $66 million this year. Wow! Don’t be fooled, artists may brag about having millions of dollars but the reality is, most aren’t making money like they claim to be making.

Top-tier artists like Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, and Jay-Z are bringing in huge checks, but most artists are not as rich as you think. Why aren’t musicians making money like they used to? I must have forgotten to explain what an artist 360 deal entails. The 360 deal enables the label to get more than just a percentage of an artist’s album sales. The way the deal is structured, the label also gets a percentage of an artist’s merchandise sales, touring money, and endorsement deal(s). All major record labels offer 360 deals, and if you sign to a major label, you must sign a 360 deal.

In essence, the days of building wealth by being an “artist only” are over. Touring and endorsement deals were a main source of income artists relied on to generate wealth. Touring is how a lot of DJs are making so much money now. I am aware some of these DJs are also producers and artists, but a lot of them are getting checks from just playing gigs.

David Guetta made $30 million this year, while DJs Avicii and Tiesto both raked in $28 million, respectively. According to Forbes magazine, Calvin Harris signed a multi-year deal at Hakkasan, America’s biggest nightclub. I highly respect the work of DJs, especially those who know how to keep the club live and entertaining. Obviously, Calvin Harris, David Guetta, and other multi-talented DJs know exactly what they are doing. The thirteen highest paid DJs in the world generated $268 million dollars in 2014, that was an 11% increase from 2013.

While artist’s revenue seems to be at a decline, DJs’ revenue is increasing. If musicians expect to start generating substantial money again, they must figure out a system that will allow them to do so. Or maybe they should all stick together and stop signing 360 deals. Oops! Did I just say that?! More power to the DJ. My message to all the successful DJs in the world: you are the real MVP.