The World’s Highest-Paid DJs: Electronic Cash Kings 2015

From Forbes

It’s been a year to remember for Calvin Harris. Over the past twelve months, the Scottish DJ earned $66 million, dropped an album that rocketed to the top of the U.S. dance charts and started dating Taylor Swift, in the process dethroning Jay Z and Beyoncé as music’s top-earning couple.

The fact that he’s the world’s top-earning EDM act—tying the record for annual earnings by a DJ, which he set last year—is almost a footnote. Harris HRS -2.74% is once again the top name on our Electronic Cash Kings list, nearly doubling the total of second-ranked David Guetta, who pulled in $37 million. Not bad for a guy who’s roughly a decade removed from being a supermarket stockboy in a remote town in Scotland.

Calvin Harris; The world’s highest paid DJ, again

Calvin Harris; The world’s highest paid DJ, again

“The rise of dance music has been astronomical … I happened to be in the right place at the right time,” he told FORBES. Harris and Guetta are followed on the list by Tiësto.

Though the Dutch DJ is one of the older names on the circuit, he played over 100 dates in our scoring period and out-earned twenty something whippersnappers from Avicii (No. 6, $19 million) to Zedd (No. 8, $17 million).  Here is the list of 15 best paid DJs in the world

Electronic Cash Kings 2015

1. Calvin Harris $66 M

Though he made headlines for capturing the heart of Taylor Swift, Harris earned quite a bit of cash thanks to six-figure DJ fees and endorsements with the likes of Giorgio Armani.

2. David Guetta $37 M

The ageless French DJ had another massive year, playing 30 shows in Las Vegas while still maintaining a weekly residency in Ibiza.

David Guetta is the second highest paid DJ

David Guetta is the second highest paid DJ

3. Tiësto $36 M

The Dutch DJ played more than 100 dates during our scoring period; he also pads his coffers with deals from Guess and 7UP.

4. Skrillex $24 M

Boosted by more than 95 shows during our scoring period, his total is the highest of his career. By our estimates, he’s pulled in $71.5 million since 2012.

4. Steve Aoki $24 M

He tallied 216 shows, down from 277 last year, but boosted his earnings by $1 million in 2015 by focusing on key areas like Latin America. [adrotate banner=”3″]

6. Avicii ($19 million)

The Grammy-nominated producer/DJ is still riding the momentum of debut album True, which spawned the 4x-platinum single “Wake Me Up,”a track that hit No. 1 in 81 countries en route to becoming the most streamed song of all time on Spotify. Despite playing fewer shows than some of his peers, Avicii commands healthy six-figure nightly fees, enough to keep him high on this year’s list. His new album, Stories, is set for release later this year.

7. Kaskade ($18 million)

Despite being in his 40s, Ryan Raddon, better known as Kaskade, is still among the most energetic DJs in the game. The former Mormon missionary and father of three got his start in the music business as an intern at San Francisco-based Om Records. Today, he’s one of the biggest acts in the dance music business. In January, he inked a two-album deal with Warner Bros. After spending most of his career releasing his music on independent labels.

8-tie. Martin Garrix ($17 million)

The Dutch wunderkind born Martijn Garritsen is only 19, making him the youngest member on our list after a monster 12 months that included 116 show dates and a number of endorsements including one with 7UP. Inspired by fellow countryman Tiësto, he started exploring music and production as a pre-teen. Garrix was boosted into the limelight with the mega-success of single “Animals” and is managed by Scooter Braun, the man behind Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande.

8-tie. Zedd ($17 million)

Born Anton Zaslavski, the Russian-German DJ got his stage moniker as a youngster in an attempt to distinguish himself from another student in his class who shared the same first name. There’s no confusion over Zedd’s identity now: last year his second album, True Colors, soared to No. 4 on the Billboard album charts with the help of a lead single recorded with Selena Gomez.

10. Afrojack ($16 million)

The Dutch-born DJ is without a doubt the biggest one on our list—in terms of height (he stands 6 feet 9 inches tall) if not earnings. The latter may soon catch up to the former, thanks to the six-figure fees Afrojack pulls in at clubs and festivals from Las Vegas to Europe. His music often includes cash kings of a different genre: his debut album Forget the World, released last year, featured Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa.

DJ Afrojack

DJ Afrojack

11-tie. Deadmau5 ($15 million)

For Joel Zimmerman, better known as Deadmau5, it’s about quality, not quantity. He only played about 30 shows in our scoring period, but he can afford to when he’s making upwards of $500,000 for many of them. Some large festival fees can breach the seven-figure mark. Always controversial, he was called an “a**hole” by listmate Skrillex, after the mouse-head-wearing DJ dissed one of his former protégés’ new tracks. Fun fact: Deadmau5’s agent is also named Joel Zimmerman.

11-tie. Diplo ($15 million)

Better known as the DJ/producer Diplo, Thomas Wesley Pentz has been one of the top names in electronic music for years, but this is highest total yet. His big payday comes courtesy of skyrocketing fees for live shows, of which he has played more than 100 in our scoring period, both alone and as part of electronic group Major Lazer. He also teamed with fellow electronic cash king Skrillex to release an album under the name Jack Ü; the record topped the dance charts in the U.S.

DJ Diplo

DJ Diplo

14 Near Misses

There were plenty of EDM acts who earned millions but didn’t make quite enough to land on our list. Among the closest: Alesso, Hardwell, Armin Van Buuren, Nervo, DJ Snake, Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso, Axwell and Krewella.


Our earnings estimates include income from live shows, endorsements, merchandise sales, recorded music sales and external business ventures. Sources include Nielsen, Songkick, Pollstar, RIAA, promoters, managers, lawyers and some of the artists themselves.

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