Nobody likes to be looked in the wallet and DJs are no exception. Nevertheless, we think we can make a reasonable estimate of the wealth of the richest DJs in the world and in the Netherlands. We used various sources for this, such as the Quote 500 and Forbes.
Time needed for capital
Calvin Harris is the richest DJ in the world with an estimated net worth of 300 million euros. The richest Dutch DJ is Tiësto, who has collected about 170 million euros in the past twenty-five years.
“What is striking is that the top five is not automatically at the top of the DJ Mag Top 100”, says Marten van Garderen, chief economist at ING. The DJ Mag Top 100 is a ranking of DJs compiled by the audience. From 2002 to 2018, a Dutch person was very often at the top of the list. “You need time to accumulate capital. The DJs with a long successful career are the highest,” says Van Garderen.
Calvin Harris and Tiesto
Let’s start with the top five in the world. The number 1, Calvin Harris (Scotland, 1984), is the youngest of the bunch. He released his debut album in 2007 and things went fast after that. Harris became a popular DJ within the pop world and earned a lot of money from his regular performances in Las Vegas for a number of years.
Number 2, Gianlucha Vacchi (Italy, 1967), is a somewhat strange duck. Yes, he is a DJ and earns well worldwide, but he made most of his wealth as a businessman and in particular as a shareholder of IMA , an Italian packaging giant.
At number 3 we find our compatriot Tiësto (Breda, 1969), who has been prominently active in the dance scene since the mid-nineties. “Tiësto has earned a lot in Las Vegas in the last ten years, just like Calvin Harris”, Van Garderen explains Tiësto’s 170 million euros.
Performances are lucrative
David Guetta (France, 1967) has also been at the top for a long time. Like Calvin Harris, he is a much sought-after producer within the pop world; he produced the mega hit I Gotta Feeling by Black Eyed Peas. In addition, the number 1 DJ of 2020 and 2021 cashed in last year with the sale of his music catalog, reportedly for 100 million euros.
Last in the top 5 of richest DJs worldwide is Steve Aoki (United States, 1977), who, like Tiësto, founded his own record label in the 1990s. Aoki collaborated extensively with popular acts such as Backstreet Boys and Linkin Park. He amassed much of his fortune through lucrative tours of North America.
“There is a huge demand for top DJs, they can ask a lot for a performance,” says Van Garderen. “In dance, ninety percent of the turnover comes from performances. The years 2010 to 2020 in particular were golden years for performing DJs.”
This is also reflected in the Dutch figures. Up to and including 2014, the export value of Dutch dance grew by approximately twenty million euros to a value of 133 million euros, eventually stabilizing around 150 million euros in 2018 and 2019, the last pre-corona year.
And most of it comes from gigs, a whopping 94 percent of sales over the past decade were earned behind the turntable.
After the absolute Dutch number 1, Tiësto, we see another successful veteran: Armin van Buuren (Leiden, 1976). The five-time number 1 DJ in the world is co-owner of dance label Armada Music and also earned a lot with his A State Of Trance tours.
Number 3 Martin Garrix (Amstelveen, 1996) is by far the youngest among the high earners. He scored worldwide pop hits with In The Name Of Love and Scared To Be Lonely (with Dua Lipa). “And he takes a smart approach,” explains Van Garderen.
“Garrix has chosen to only do a hundred performances a year. If you make yourself scarce, you can ask for more.”
Numbers 4 Afrojack (Spijkenisse, 1987) and Ferry Corsten (Rotterdam, 1973) also have an estimated net worth of 26 and 25 million euros respectively. In addition to attractive fees for performances, Afrojack collected money as a much sought-after producer in America in the 2000s; Ferry Corsten made a lot of money in the pre-streaming era with hits in England.