What does it mean to be a DJ Mag “Top 100 DJ”?
The DJ Mag Top 100 list has finally been announced and Hardwell has claimed the #1 spot for second time. Coming in second is big room power-force Dimitr Vegas & Like Mike while five-time winner Armin Van Buuren drops to third spot.
The list features talents old and new. Daft Punk maintain their legendary status at #43 without evening performing live to the public this year. Meanwhile, Deorro becomes the highest new entry on this year at #19, leading young stars like DVBBS (#20), Zedd (#22), and MAKJ (#63).
What is there to say about the list overall? Every year the DJ Mag Top 100 is controversial, and there is no way around it. The rankings are the result of the opinions of dance music fans around the globe. Furthermore, the DJs campaign for votes in this poll with varying intensity. While most will make mention of it in podcasts or on social media, some clearly pursue a high placement more commonly than others.
Last year’s surprise No. 1, Hardwell, came after a string of successful singles and constant touring, though it was widely understood that his team had mounted an aggressive social media campaign to dethrone fellow Dutchman Armin Van Buuren from the top spot.
Even more successful at gaming socials for voting were Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, whose surge from the 30s in 2012 to the Top 10 in 2013 and now come in at #2, above Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto, Avicii, Skrillex and Deadmau5.
Further down the list, the cracks in the system really start to show. Small DJs place higher than veteran names. Mid-level artists with Facebook likes disproportionate to their gig audiences rank above icons. Accordingly, each year’s poll results are met with deafening boos as both fans and industry accuse DJ Mag of unfair treatment and vote manipulation. Yet, year after year, the poll comes back to life and bigger than before.
What many seem to miss is that DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs poll is based on a simple American Idol-style public vote. DJs dump enormous amounts of money into marketing campaigns engineered to get them higher rankings, and a good deal of that money is channeled to the magazine itself.
As evidenced in emails obtained by THUMP (and replicated on this public thread), DJ Mag’s salespeople actively encourage DJs to buy a competitive advantage through banner ads strategically plastered all over the voting page. “The advertisements will be flashing in front of voters as they tick off boxes. If that doesn’t work, nothing will,” DJ Mag promises. Many of the ad packages also include full pages in the print magazine, so essentially, the playing field (the magazine and its website) is skewed in favor of artists who purchase ads at rates from around $18,000 to $40,000.
After Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike’s 2013 surge up 32 places to the number six position, the marketing team behind the duo reportedly had representatives (exclusively women) armed with iPads, roaming the grounds at Tomorrowland 2014. The women would ask festival goers if they wanted to vote in the poll, then tap to a page where they would be required to vote for Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, who happen to be managed by Tomorrowland’s promoters, ID&T.
One raver, a 24-year-old Texas native, relayed his experience of the bizarre tactic to Noisey. “At first I thought it was a joke and laughed,” he said. “She replied, saying, you have to [vote for them] or you can’t vote. I said, ‘This is insane. They’re not even in my top ten let alone number one.’ She then proceeded to take the iPad out of my hand and walked away.”
Shortly after the top three places were announced, the DJ Mag Facebook was flooded with fans who were not pleased with the top 10 results, but why? Presuming that the top 10 was voted by the majority of the EDM fans, why is the majority unpleased?
As reported by Main Room Scene, Indian film actor, producer and television presenter Salman Khan and Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez are among others who have no connections with EDM, yet strongly encouraged fans to vote for Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike.
As dubious as these tactics come off, they are supposedly within the limits of the magazine’s rules.
With Dada Lifes’s Olle Cornéer and Stefan Engblom having mixed feelings about the poll, the duo launched a satirical website called Bottom100DJs.com this year. Though they placed at #52 this year, the duo commented “It’s probably important for a certain kind of DJ, but not really for us,” they said in a statement to THUMP. “We don’t take it seriously. Or actually, we take it seriously enough to start our own award!”
For those who write the poll off as inapplicable, it’s important to note that the its popularity and influence cannot be underestimated. Promoters in emerging markets in Asia, South Africa and South America are left with fewer metrics to assess popularity and are thus reliant on the poll’s dubious credibility for determining fees. Artists spend thousands of dollars on publicity campaigns in return to make those funds back when touring. In the same way that artists use “Grammy-winning” or “Mercury Prize-nominated” before their names in bios, rankings in the poll still impart an edge of legitimacy.
Sadly, the poll has gone from a fun exercise to a cash cow for PR hacks and the magazine itself. Disillusioned fans are filling forums with threads devoted to calling bullshit on the rankings. But DJs, managers and publicists see it as a necessary investment in order to reap substantial financial and career benefits.
View the full DJ Mag Top 100 DJs list here and tell us what you think!