In the history of music there has always been different genres and musicians who change the face of the medium or become huge for their 15-minutes of fame. The one constant has been their physical skill and talent with instruments and singing.
Writing this in the new year however, it is clear where the spotlight is at the moment – and it is not musicians. DJ’s have been front and centre for the first time in their history, and with artists clambering to feature with them, they are pulling in huge numbers of people and even more dollars than you ever thought possible.
What is EDM?
Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is the fastest growing genre of music in the world right now. The Grammy’s even gave the genre its own stage in 2012. David Guetta, who is the most veteran of DJ’s on the circuit, is the most followed artist on Spotify with 6.9m people.
Supposedly starting after the death of disco, EDM was born in the late 1980’s and one person who has been there throughout was David Guetta. "I started in ’88 to play House music, it was a huge revolution for me. I went to London and I saw a DJ on stage and that was crazy at the time. A DJ on stage and people dancing and facing the DJ, looking at him? I was like ‘wow!’" says Guetta.
It is bizarre to think thousands of people now show up to watch a middle aged man jumping behind a laptop, but it has grown exponentially from those humble beginnings Guetta describes. DJ’s are not playing instruments or singing, but simply playing recorded tracks back to the crowd. Of course there is skill in the mixing of tracks live but many DJ’s have been accused of playing pre-recorded mixes anyway, surely meaning the crowd are being short-changed.
EDM seems to be benefitting from the time it is born into. With social media a major player, tunes that don’t take long to put together on software can be pumped out to the masses quickly. The genre has also created its own version of a chorus with the ‘drop’. This gives something for artists to build for, excite the crowd and then allow the them to release with dance rather than singing, which would be seen at a rock concert. It is this attraction for live shows that makes it so lucrative in the modern market too.
Lets Talk Digits
In 2015 Forbes released a list of the highest earners in DJ’ing and the numbers were shocking. Calvin Harris topped the list bringing in $66m in revenue from the 156 gigs that it was calculated from. Harris also banked a huge deal with nightclub Hakkisan, in Las Vegas, for a residency for 2 years. The Scottish hit maker will be payed $400,000 per gig! These figures are astronomic and reminiscent of rock stars from the past. David Guetta was second on the list, earning $37m, and Dutch DJ Tiesto came in 3rd with $36m. The lifestyles of these men are similar to the rock stars of a by gone era and that has created a whole industry with clothing, computer games, and even Las Vegas are chasing in, with casino games based on DJ’ing.
The numbers seem incredible when viewing EDM, as it was, 10 years ago. Who would pay that much to watch a DJ? But the popularity is undeniable, and the DJ’s are regularly brining people through turnstiles in arenas and festivals. USA EDM festival Tomorrow’s World has 150,000 capacities.
The business minded executives of music have found a cash cow that can exploit live shows. With the modern music industry in the state it is in, with royalties and record sales harder to earn from, live events have become artist’s best way of earning big money. EDM is suited for it cheap staging and mobility, able to hit up all the big party spots, sometimes multiple shows in one night.
EDM and suitability to the current demands of making money in the music industry in 2016 is allowing to rise above the rest. Big time DJ’s are charging huge sums and are becoming the biggest earners in music. With money lining the pockets of businesses too don’t expect to see David Guetta disappear back to the back of the stage anytime soon.