DJing is such a lucrative business these days that the likes of Calvin Harris, David Guetta and Tiesto can earn more in a year than Jay Z or Beyoncé. But what does this new generation of playboy DJs do with its cash?
This highest-paid DJ in the world was once a Dumfries shelf-stacker called Adam Wiles. Now Harris and his girlfriend, Taylor Swift, are the richest celebrity couple on the planet. His US breakthrough came with his 2011 Rihanna collaboration, ‘We Found Love’, although his most streamed song on Spotify – with more than 320 million plays – is one he sung himself: ‘Summer’.
Annual earnings: $66m a year
UK Number One hits: 5 (‘I’m Not Alone’, 2009; ‘Sweet Nothing’, 2012; ‘Under Control’, 2013; ‘Summer’ and ‘Blame’, 2014)
Collaborators: Rihanna, Ellie Goulding, Florence Welch
Endorsements: Billboard estimates that Harris received a seven-figure sum for endorsing Armani underwear, eyewear and watches. Armani has also reportedly offered $10m to Harris and Taylor Swift to model its underwear together.
Fee per gig: $350K-500K
Fee per remix: “You could not buy me to remix one of your records,” Harris told The Guardian. “But if it’s something I wanted to do, I honestly couldn’t care less if I got £5 or £50,000.” He must have genuinely loved the Mika song ‘We Are Golden’, then.
Property: Sunk $15m of his $110m net worth into a 2.66-acre LA compound with 10 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, two pools, and a guesthouse. Staff have their own elevator and three-car garage.
Cars: Owns a $230K McLaren 12C. The two-door supercar does 0-60 in 3.1 seconds, and can hit a whopping 207mph.
Planes: Chartered a flight from LA to Vegas for a second date with Taylor Swift. Presumably worth every penny, seeing as they’re a thing now.
Charity: After receiving a tweet, Harris stumped up £3,890 to buy a van for Making Winter Warmer Newcastle, a volunteer group supporting the homeless in northeast England.
Diva-ish behaviour: Nothing too crazy on his rider – just multivitamins, Red Bull and crisps, reflecting the fact that Harris doesn’t drink, do drugs or smoke. Probably in order to keep himself trim for those Armani underwear ads.
Frenchman David Guetta started DJing aged 16 at Paris’ Broad Club, and slowly worked his way to mainstream success via his ‘F**k Me I’m Famous’ Ibiza residencies in the noughties, breaking through with 2009 Black Eyed Peas collab ‘I Gotta Feeling’. He was married for 22 years to Cathy, a club promoter with whom he has two children, before divorcing in 2014.
Annual earnings: $37m
UK Number One hits: 5 (‘When Love Takes Over’ and ‘Sexy Bitch’, 2009; ‘Getting Over You’, 2010; ‘Titanium’, 2011; ‘Lovers On The Sun’, 2014)
Collaborators: Sia, Usher, The Black Eyed Peas
Endorsements: Has repped for brands including Coca-Cola, Hewlett-Packard, Tag Heuer, champagne producer GH Mumm and battery-powered car Renault Twizy – despite no longer holding a driving licence.
Fee per gig: $350K
Property: Guetta owns luxury properties in LA (estate with private lake, pool, four dining rooms, gym and staff house), Miami (penthouse in Paraiso Bay), London (former family home) and Ibiza (main home base with studio and pool).
Cars: “I’m not always the guy who has a garage full of expensive cars,” he told German newspaper Bild in 2011. But there’s a good reason for that: Guetta is banned from driving in his native France, having amassed one too many speeding tickets.
Planes: Guetta travels the world in a twin-engine Cessna CJ3, costing $20K for a single flight and $100K to hire for a week.
Business interests: Both Guetta and Tiesto are big investors in Shellanoo, the Israeli tech firm behind playlist-sharing service Music Messenger. They took part in a $30m funding round that also included will.i.am, Avicii, Nicki Minaj, Abba’s Benny Andersson and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
Charity: Has donated tracks to the United Nations Foundation, remixed Band Aid 30 to raise money for Ebola victims, and also donated to anti-bullying charity STOMP Out Bullying.
Diva-ish behaviour: Brought out a live horse during one of his Ibiza sets at Pacha in July. Fellow DJ Deadmau5 commented: “Horses belong on a farm, not in a shitty overpriced nightclub to be subjected to a shitty overpaid DJ.”
Floridan Thomas Wesley Pentz started DJing at college in Philadelphia and worked his way to ubiquity via collaborations with MIA, Snoop Dogg and Skrillex, while his Major Lazer and Jack Ü projects have featured everyone from Vybz Cartel to Justin Bieber. Diplo has dated MIA and Katy Perry and has two kids with his ex, Kathryn Lockhart.
Annual earnings: $15m
UK Number One hits: None
Collaborators: MIA, Snoop Dogg, Madonna
Endorsements: As the ‘cool’ face of Blackberry, he failed to save the company from tanking. Gets $400 worth of Uber rides per month, in exchange for tweeting about them – think of him as the world’s most famous freeloader.
Fee per gig: $100K-250K
Property: “I live in hotels,” he told Billboard. “I don’t even have a house.”
Cars: Thanks to his Uber deal, Diplo doesn’t really need to drive.
Planes: “I still fly cheap airlines like Southwest: $49 a flight,” he said to Shortlist. “I couldn’t say to my kids that I couldn’t pay for college because I had to buy a private jet.”
Business interests: Invested an undisclosed amount in GIF-taking app Phhhoto.
Clothes: “Most of my clothes I get for free,” he told Fast Company. “I like to invest in ideas. In people… Money, for me, is just to create bigger and better things. A lot of guys in the DJing world flaunt it, but I don’t see any use in that. I don’t need anything.”
Charity: Despite his bad-boy image – he was ordered to attend anger management classes after a NYC bar-fight at The Standard Hotel in 2011 – Diplo founded an Australian charity called Heaps Decent in 2007, which works with young people and emerging artists from marginalised and disadvantaged communities.
Diva-ish behaviour: His rider contains a long, sardonic list of “non-required, but greatly appreciated” items – which include, but aren’t limited to: one arranged marriage; one dart board “with Nicolas Cage’s face on it”; one violinist “to play while we eat our cheese plate”; and the third season of Lost on VHS. Plus 10 Magnum condoms. But is that one a joke, too?
Tijs Michiel Verwest AKA Tiësto is the godfather of EDM. The trance producer began his career in 1994, became the first DJ to play onstage at the Olympics in Athens in 2004 and finally cracked the pop charts with singles ‘Red Lights’ in 2013 and ‘Wasted’ in 2014. Has featured in the Top Five of the DJ Mag Top 100 chart every year since 2002.
Annual earnings: $36m
UK Number One hits: None
Collaborators: Nelly Furtado, Flo Rida, Busta Rhymes
Lucrative endorsements: Tiësto has reportedly been paid $30m for fronting 7UP’s DJ talent contest, Your Shot. He insists it’s a beneficial thing: “Last year I signed seven new DJs who, in one year, became a lot bigger because of [7UP’s] support.” He also gets free watches from Guess, probably so he can tell how many much money he’s making per minute (it’s $68.49).
Fee per gig: $350K
Property: Tiësto owns so many houses that he claims he can’t recall the exact number. “I should count them,” he told CNN.
Cars: Once owned an Aston Martin DB ($185K) a Rolls-Royce Wraith ($320K) and a customised Skoda Citigo which opened out into a portable mixing desk complete with 100,000-watt speakers. In July he posted that he no longer owns a car, but was eyeing up an Aston Martin One-77, worth a cool £1.15m.
Investments: As well as Shellanoo, Tiësto was one of the names who invested $4.5m in cloud-based music creation platform Splice, alongside Scooter Braun and Swedish House Mafia’s Steve Angello.
Planes: Tiësto tends to travel in a Cessna Citation Excel, slapped with his own branding. As for yachts… “I think yachts you always need to rent. I rent yachts.”
Charity: Curated a 2012 Aids-charity compilation album, ‘Dance (RED) Save Lives’ and has fronted campaigns for the World Childhood Foundation. Meanwhile, his own Club Life Fund is meant to “connect clubbers with the less fortunate” – although it’s not clear exactly how.
Diva-ish behaviour: Instagram posts frequently bemoan the harsh reality of DJ life: “When your luggage takes all the seats on your helicopter…#TiestoProblems”.
The former guitarist in hardcore band This Machine Kills, Steve Aoki released his debut electronic album in 2008, ascending to EDM’s big league after his 2011 collaboration with Tiësto, ‘Tornado’. Aoki’s father, a Japanese-born wrestler and founder of the restaurant chain Benihana, left Steve and his siblings with a $50m trust fund – although as he can’t access it until he’s 45, Aoki has chosen to make his own millions.
Annual earnings: $24m
UK Number One hits: None
Collaborators: Linkin Park, will.i.am, Kid Cudi
Lucrative endorsements: He created a song for Bud Light, while other endorsements include Olmeca Tequila, Trident Gum and Japanese sports car manufacturers Scion.
Fee per gig: $50K-75K
Property: Aoki sold his luxury five-bedroom LA crib for $1.5m in 2014 – maybe the acoustics of the 20-foot ceilings weren’t up to scratch. He’s now looking to buy in Ibiza, where he has a weekly residency at Pacha and lives for four months of the year.
Cars: Scion have given him a specially modified vehicle called the FR-S Steve Aoki Art Car. It has a blue outline of his face on it.
Planes: Aoki loves his rented jets, and likes to commemorate each flight by performing his trademark #aokijump – a kind of ninja leap – on top of the plane.
Investments: Aoki owns Dim Mak, a record label, events company and “lifestyle brand” which he started with $400 in 1996. Its signings have included Klaxons, Bloc Party, Mystery Jets, The Gossip and The Kills.
Charity: The Steve Aoki Charitable Fund recently raised $67,500 for brain research via a party at poker-player Dan Bilzerian’s house. Weirdness came in the form of a live giraffe.
Diva-ish behaviour: Always requests two medium-sized cakes on his rider, which he usually flings into the audience. He is also notorious for crowdsurfing in a rubber dinghy, although this tactic may be reviewed after he was sued earlier this year for allegedly breaking a fan’s neck.
Toronto native Joel Zimmerman called himself Deadmau5 after finding an actual dead mouse inside his computer. Known for wearing a giant, laser-firing mouse head onstage, he broke through in 2008 with massive Kaskade collaboration ‘I Remember’. He’s well-known for trolling his fellow EDM superstars, claiming that anyone could do what they do onstage with just an hour’s instruction.
Annual earnings: $15m
UK Number One hits: None
Collaborators: Kaskade, Rob Swire (Pendulum), Imogen Heap
Lucrative endorsements: Promoted Uber by taking passengers around Toronto in his McLaren 650S for one night last year. Also advertises Sonos speakers – their commercials were filmed in his house.
Fee per gig: $200K-250K
Property: After buying his $5m mansion in Ontario (four bedrooms, a landscaped salt-water pool and 14,000 square feet of space), he sniped at Calvin Harris and Avicii for their triply expensive properties: “Since the trend is ‘buying 15 million dollar homes’… find a cozy one, save 10 million, buy a [McLaren] P1, and still produce a tour. Win win.”
Cars: Owns a McLaren P1 ($1m), a McLaren 650S ($300K), a BAC Mono (£112K) and a Lamborghini Huracán ($240K) – the last of which has been defaced with a garish colour scheme based on briefly popular 2011 internet meme Nyan Cat. He calls it the Purracan.
Planes: Deadmau5 isn’t too fussy about the specifications of his private jet, as long as it has chewy sweets on boards. “Bout to hop on a private jet to Vegas…” he tweeted last year. “They better fuckin have Skittles on board or I’m gunna lose my fckn shit.”
Charity: Zimmerman auctioned off one of his mouse-heads for $60K and gave the money to the Gumball 3000 Foundation, which creates projects for underprivileged youth.
Diva-ish behaviour: Rider requests include “1 large inflatable animal, inflated and at least 5′ tall”. He doesn’t specify what it’s to be used for.