Forbes' 'World's Highest Paid DJs' List is All Men... Again
    • THURSDAY, AUGUST 10, 2017

    • Posted by: Olivia Lewis

    Forbes recently posted their annual list of the "World's Highest Paid DJs," a.k.a. the "Electronic Cash Kings" list, and the thing most people seem to be noticing and commenting about is the lack of diversity on this year's list; the list is comprised completely of males from the U.S. or northern Europe, and they're almost all white. Forbes began publishing this list just 5 years ago in 2012, so I figured I'd go back and look at all the other lists throughout the years. What I found was that none of them actually listed any women; since EDM became mainstream enough to have an annual Forbes list, the genre has been completely dominated by men.

    Part of the issue lies in the old adage about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Beside the fact that the list has been consistently dominated by men, certain artists have maintained spots on the list since the beginning. This year marks Calvin Harris' fifth year in a row topping the list, and Tiësto has been in the top three for every year the list has been published. Artists like Skrillex, Steve Aoki, Diplo and David Guetta have made the list for multiple years, trading off spots. In 2012, the world's ten highest paid DJs made a total of $125 million, and this year that number has more than doubled to $298 million. The genre gets bigger, and so do the incomes of the top ten artists.

    Still, though, it's pretty telling that even in the first year, the list was completely void of women. If there had been equality in the genre from the start, it would make sense that as EDM started to explode commercially, skilled DJs would have similar opportunities to rise to the top, regardless of gender. Obviously, this was not and is not the case. The question recently seems to be, "why aren't more women becoming music producers?" The issue, like any that addresses overarching inequalities in society, is definitely a complex one. At this point, it's kind of a vicious cycle that most people contribute to without really thinking about it.

    EDM as a mainstream, insanely profitable genre was my first real introduction to electronic music. Before that, I had no knowledge of the whole underground scene that had come before - I was just a 15-year-old living in a small town. Those top ten DJs were all I knew about electronic music, and as a result, I thought electronic music in general was a "guy" thing. I actually liked some of the music, but the whole culture and image surrounding it was pretty synonymous with bro culture, which I was very not about.

    It wasn't until this year that I consciously recognized that I had made that assumption for all those years, and that I actually really like and can relate to electronic music. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who made that assumption - there are probably plenty of people out there who don't subscribe to the whole "bro culture" thing, and won't even realize that most of electronic music's history can be found in gay and black communities, far removed from the commercialized club and festival crowds that most people think of today when the think "EDM."

    Aside from the fact that there are a lot of women who are turned off from even producing in the first place, there actually are a good amount of women out there now who are producing and DJing and struggling to find the success of their male peers. Women are less likely to get booked for gigs, and the lack of visibility compounds the issue. People take women less seriously as DJs because it's rare to see female DJs, which leads people to take women less seriously… and so on.

    If the trend is going to change, it's going to have to be a group effort. The biggest changes will have to come from those with the power, those at the top - those who book the club, sign new artists, and even those artists on the Forbes top ten list. Until women are given the opportunities to really prove themselves and make it to that top 10, the vicious cycle will continue.

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