Forbes reveals World’s Highest-Paid DJs list for 2013

“This genre has become the force to be reckoned with,” intones Forbes as it introduces its yearly round-up of the highest-earning acts in dance music, ‘The Electronic Cash Kings’. With a long history of number-crunching, the U.S. business magazine just can’t stop marvelling at the earning power of big-name DJs. Here’s how they make the list: “Our annual earnings estimates include income from live shows, endorsements, merchandise sales, recorded music sales, external business ventures and, in the case of DJ Pauly D, television.” (Yes, Pauly D, and we’ll get to that later.)

This year, the list is expanded from 10 names to 12, and there’s a new top-earner in the #1 spot – none other than pop powerhouse Calvin Harris. His new status was foreshadowed by the recent Forbes round-up of the richest ‘celebrities’ under 30, which put Harris in the company of chart giants like giants Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. His decision to abandon the live show and focus solely on DJing was clearly the right move, too.

This puts last year’s leader Tiesto into the runner-up spot for Forbes, followed by David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia – whose One Last Tour paid off in blockbuster returns – and Deadmau5, who traded a lucrative deal with Wynn/Encore in Las Vegas to join the powerhouse cast at MGM Grand’s Hakkasan. Mad Decent boss Diplo will no doubt be amused to find himself sharing the #12 spot with Pauly D, while Skrillex and Kaskade are similarly tied in the Forbes calculation.

In 2012, the man behind the ‘mau5, Joel Zimmerman, told Reuters the Forbes list isn’t to be trusted. “If I was making $11 million, do you think I’d be fucking sitting right here, right now? No fucking way,” he said. “You’re putting the whole industry on one article written by one dude, who does not have access to any of our accounts.” Well, welcome to the $21 million club this year, Joel…


Equal 12. DJ Pauly D and Diplo – $13 million

11. Steve Aoki – $14 million

9 & 10. Skrillex and Kaskade – $16 million

8. Armin van Buuren – $17 million

7. Afrojack – $18 million

6. Avicii – $20 million

5. Deadmau5 – $21 million

4. Swedish House Mafia – $25 million

3. David Guetta – $30 million

2. Tiësto – $32 million

1. Calvin Harris – $46 million