Every year the annual popularity contest that is the DJ Mag Top 100 comes around and every major DJ vies for your attention and your votes. Now that EDM has gotten as big as it has and taken a huge chunk of the music industry, a lot of people are beginning to criticize the contest. This poll has quickly become the litmus in which DJs are paid regardless of talent and that is where the problem lies.
Back in 2011, Armin Van Buuren, the reigning king of electronic music, passed the baton to David Guetta (although he promptly took it back in 2012). When it was announced on stage, the crowd erupted in complete displeasure and booed the French “DJ.” They had just cause in doing so. David Guetta has notoriously been caught having a playlist on during his sets with all of the levels down on his mixer or completely turned off. As if that wasn’t enough to upset the people who value this music, it came out recently that he also has a ghost producer creating all the music he puts out under his name. Armin Van Buuren has one as well, but their relationship is described as a partnership with the both of them collaborating on the singles. So why was a person like Guetta who doesn’t actually produce much of his own music at the top of this sacred poll?
The fact is that every year marketing agencies make a large sum of money advertising for these DJs to get your votes. Most marketing agencies don’t care about the actual talent of the DJ. They’re just there to make some money. They will approach certain DJs promising them a top spot in the DJ Mag Top 100 poll, or to at least bump them up a few spots. The DJs will pay because the investment is worth the reward. The higher you are on the poll, the more money you will get paid.
There are some DJs out there that have taken a stance against the poll publically. Gareth Emery announced on his Facebook some time ago that a marketing agency had approached him to advertise for his position in the poll for an easy price of $15,000. Emery was completely put off by this and started his own poll in which he asked his fans to not vote for him in the poll and rather vote for their favorite charities to receive a share of that $15,000. Gareth Emery still ranks almost every year rightfully based solely on the merit of his talent, so there is some integrity in the music industry after all.
Some artists take a different approach by not even asking for the votes at all. Maybe a blurb here and there, but for the most part they’ll stay away from it. We’re sure that there are DJs on that list who feel the same way we do. But they understand that they need this poll as much as they dislike it. Mat Zo recently tweeted that he had previously made the DJ Mag top 100 poll because his management made the decision to advertise for him without his consent and oftentimes that is the case. Management has a vested interest in keeping their DJs and artists at the top because it leads to more bookings, better record sales, and higher fees, all of which they have a cut in.
There has been speculation that DJs and artists are actually buying votes, much in the same way many of them buy their Facebook likes. The likes aren’t the cause of the discrepancy per say, it’s where all those likes are actually coming from. The problem with hiring click farms to increase your supposed popularity or following is that it also degrades your integrity as an artist and a person. You can learn more about click farms here.
Moving into the future if we do continue to accept the status quo, we are going to be flooded with pop DJs who have absolutely no talent and are more or less making extremely expensive celebrity appearances. If that continues than we are going to lose credibility as a real musical genre. The people who criticize the music and say “they just press play” will be completely affirmed of their beliefs.
So where can we go from here? How can we change the status quo? The truth is that this is our best option right now. What we really need is a better way of gauging the talent of DJs and producers in all categories. We need to find a way for the artists on this poll to earn their way on based on talent, their presence in the scene, and their contributions to the greater dance music world. Furthermore, we need to consider disqualifying artists who are actually paying for their votes in any way, shape, or form. Think of it as taking the corporate power away from government and taking back our top 100 poll to the days when artists like Carl Cox and Paul Oakenfold occupied the top 10.
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