Calvin Harris, Steve Aoki and Tiesto are the World’s Highest Paid DJs, and Somehow This is Sexist

You might have heard, but “sexism” is a touchy subject these days on the Internet.  From the “Gamergate” scandal to Amy Schumer’s public drubbing of a teenage boy who made a joke about having sex with her, it doesn’t take much to set off an argument of “men vs women” online. And as much as gender equality is something we should be talking about, sometimes bringing it up is just for the sake of starting a fight.

NME recently reported on Forbes’ annual list of the highest paid DJs in the world.  Calvin Harris, Tiesto, David Guetta, Zedd, and Steve Aoki made the top 5, pulling in tens of millions for their appearances behind the gear as well as producing songs for pop stars (NME’s article incorrectly states that it’s based solely on their DJ income, Forbes says the numbers are calculated based on “live shows, merch, endorsements, recorded music and outside business ventures”). Neat, right? I mean, I guess someone wants to know this, but the part that grabbed my attention (the part that was intended to grab the reader’s attention, as it was NME’s only contribution to the story that may have well just been a link to was their secondary headline: “There are no women in the megabucks list”. The second paragraph of the story also ends with this sentence: “There are no female DJs in the list.”

NME post
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Now, maybe I’m just not very knowledgeable. I mean I only read Billboard and Mediabase charts as part of my day job (you don’t think this and YouTube sub-stardom pay my rent, do you?), but I can only name one female DJ: Paris Hilton, a woman who would be on this list if she DJed as often as these 12 fellas (she reportedly makes up to a million dollars per set, but at that price I imagine there are very few places with the scratch to hire her).

Is this because someone is not allowing women to be DJs?  Are women excluded from going to their local music store and buying a deck while the guy behind the counter making $8/hr mumbles to himself “oh, good, just what this city needs, another DJ” while dusting sandwich crumbs off his Joy Division t-shirt?  Last time I was in a music store I didn’t see a “no women” sign on the door.

Is it simply possible that women haven’t been that interested in DJing or producing, and so there aren’t any ladies that have built themselves up the way Calvin Harris has, or the other 11 dudes on the list who routinely work with female talent, like Diplo, Zedd, Kaskade and David Guetta have?  Nope, it must be that the industry is sexist, which is exactly what this article is trying to infer. Otherwise, why even say it?  It’s a writer being divisive for the sake of being divisive.

Great, there aren’t any women on a list of highest paid DJs. There also aren’t any prominent women DJs, and I don’t believe that’s the fault of the industry, or even some sort of systemic cultural problem where women aren’t encouraged at a young enough age to be DJs.  I get that this happens with sports, like a little girl watching football with her dad says “I want to do that when I grow up!” and Dad says “sorry honey, that’s for men,” and over time this attitude breeds an idea that sports are masculine.

But does anyone think DJing is “masculine”? It’s a man’s game?  Only guys can beatmatch songs and drag faders around on a mixing board, or if you’re certain DJs (who may or may not be on this list), premix a set at home and then press a button and spend the night Jesus posing, crowd surfing, and throwing food?

And if you believe that everyone is sexist, then wouldn’t you believe that we’d want to encourage more women to be DJs?  Since there’s a perception that DJs just stand there and pose (as joked about in the previous paragraph), why wouldn’t every club want a hot chick standing up front and center for men to gawk at, and women to say “yeah!  Someone on our side to play the music we want to hear instead of a bunch of bro shit all night!”  If only club owners weren’t so sexist that they only hired male DJs, and were a different kind of sexist and only hired female DJs, right?!

If there was a list of the highest paid celebrities in general with no women on it, that sounds like something to discuss (Forbes’ Global Celebrity 100 is topped this year by Taylor Swift, however the top 20 is only 25% women, with Adele, Madonna, Rihanna, and Ellen also appearing on the list, certainly a topic worth exploring), but bringing it up in this list is just petty and irresponsible journalism, trying to start more fights where one doesn’t need to be started.

Not everything is sexist. It just looks that way when you’re trying to spin a story for a few extra views.

NOTE: Buckley would make the list of lowest paid DJs, which would probably also be a list of dudes.

Top image by Trinh Canh, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0). 

27 Responses

  1. Polochon

    I think another (a more accurate?) question would be: why are there so few female musicians?

    Classical music, rock music, hip-hop, electro music, whichever: there are very few women. Is it because the society makes us feel it’s worthless trying? Is it because less girls are interested? Anything else? I have no idea.

    But it is not limited to DJs, at all. Once again, just look at a classical orchestra and count the proportion of ladies in there, compared to guys: it’s scary. And the more famous is the orchestra, the scarier it gets. As someone who does follow classical music a little bit, I could add that “ladies faces” in a classical orchestra seem to change far more and far more often than “guys faces”. But that could be a mere feeling and totally unjustified.

    • A someone

      I think that is partly perception and partly consequences of being human. The more famous the orchestra, the more time dedicated to practice, traveling etc. I’m not saying that females wouldn’t do it gladly, but the “fall in love, get pregnant, get stuck not being able to practice/travel for a few months” scenario is rather common, and in very known orchestras it’s notoriously highly competitive, missing out on a few months kicks you off the list rather quickly, even if you try to get in the game right away, because you’re lucky enough to have a supportive husband who doesn’t mind you practicing for 10 hours a day and leaving every weekend to go somewhere to perform. Which isn’t sexism per se, an Orchestra lives based on success and regular performances, it simply can’t afford to “wait” for someone, or many someones, the show must go on.

    • Bulubbo

      The reason there aren’t more female djs, ,musicians, artists in general is that women are preoccupied with other things, like chasing a man, having babies, and probably the most important, doing something PRACTICAL to make those things happen.

      Of course there are plenty of female examples of all of these things, but many women are just not into spending the time alone it takes to become a real master of the creative arts. Then, like others, they moan about how some other reason is responsible. If a woman spent the time to become the singer, writer, and guitar player that say Prince was, believe me, people would be more than happy to sign her up.

      Talent is rare. Deal with it ladies. You either get there or you don’t, but in 2016, nothing is in you way, so stop crying wolf.

  2. A Human Person

    So you mean to tell me that DJ’s getting paid more because more people prefer their music is sexist? Next you’re going to be telling me the world is flat!

    On another note, how ironic it is for an article to point out “sexism” while featuring a women with her ass to the door for everyone to glare at.

    Click bait anyone?

    I’ve never seen Steve Aoki or David Guetta half naked in a bed to sell music or make a point.

    • af

      At least read the article and not only the headline before you comment.

  3. James

    Its all about Machismo and how the man feels on the floor with Club Music
    while doncing. Lets face it, women prefer Shamoozey music
    and if you have a woman DJ ? well there ya have it!!

    There once was a Dj named Mary
    Some of her music quite scary…..

    Sexist is a bit over the top!
    Suitability is more like it.

    DJs, Button-Pushers and Jesus Posers
    are all over-rated and over-paid.

    Nothing like a guy with a
    good blues harmonica to reach your soul!

  4. Hurdur

    It probably is sexist, but mostly because emancipation is a slow, subconscious process. There will be plenty of stories of female DJs being dismissed by lugheads or badgered to take on a more sexy stage outfit even though it isn’t them. There probably are labels specifically designed to scoop up lady DJs to avoid this. DJ culture isn’t any more sexist than country, metal or rap culture. The likelihood of angry rebuttals to this article being written by men on outlets staffed mostly by men is also pretty high (as is the chance they won’t be able to name more up-and-coming lady DJs than the author). These outlets will then move on to the next outrage of the day, having done nothing constructive but shout into the void to a public that is already firmly in their filter bubble. In short, let them rage and keep writing about lady DJs.

  5. Versus

    There is also no one over 50 in the list!
    Age discrimination!

    • Alita

      Well I think that helps to show how male dominated DJ-ing is. The Forbes list is of popular and pretty well known Djs. That’s how their so rich and able to make the list. Him, not being avidly into Djs and only being able to name Paris Hilton further shows that there isn’t a female Dj that’s popular enough with the average person to be able to make a list like Forbes. Whereas someone like Calvin Harris is successful enough where even most people that don’t care about DJs will still know who he is. I’m not saying that I think any of this is because of sexism though, because I definitely don’t.

  6. ashlyn

    If you can’t name any female DJs other than Paris Hilton then you probably shouldn’t even be writing about this topic.

    • Variance

      Problem is, are they relevant enough?
      I can name 100 djs but the only female djs that I can name is only Krewella.
      Every year there are at least 1 dj show in a country/city, mine is no exception. We never had any female dj’s that is relevant enough to make it on the big stage.
      Talking about this article, buckley presents himself as strictly as a person who talks about the nature of an NME article that this is racist. He doesn’t need to know the female dj’s out there since he is only talking about the NME article, not the DJing world.

      • Variance

        Fixing comment,
        An article that presents the Megabucks list as sexist.

  7. SJ

    Another leaning-toward-Limbaugh DMN story that makes me a few percentage points less likely to bother looking at this site on any given day. Yes, the fact that the top 5 highest-paid DJs are male is indeed an indication of sexism, given that the male/female population of the world is, and has been for a very long time, a roughly even split. I don’t know how you could meet the technical definition of sexism any better, in fact. Maybe if the top 10 highest paid DJs were all male. Why is it so painful to call a spade a spade? The music industry is not necessarily any more to blame than any other segment of society for rampant male chauvinism, but [deep breath now] YES, IT EXISTS. Articles like this accusing people of “looking for a fight” just by saying so only perpetuate it.

    Not to mention the asinine logic of “I can’t think of any female DJs aside from Paris Hilton, so there probably aren’t any.” You probably can’t name any French New Wave bands, either. Does that mean it never existed? YOU ARE AN IDIOT. And also being divisive just for the sake of being divisive, come to think of it. The idea that a journalist shouldn’t point out what this one pointed out is beyond stupid. But you can’t see far enough past the end of your own nose to understand that, and I guess that’s why you won’t be writing for anything other than a low-rent clickbait publication like this one, oh, like…EVER.

    Keep fighting the good fight, DMN. I don’t suppose you should be expected to move beyond the circular logic and worldview of a 14-year-old boy. Nice picture too, very good taste.

    • Everyday i'm Triggered *Party Rock Anthem Plays*


      • SJ

        Then you should read it again, if your attention span allows for it. Because most of that stuff didn’t come up at all.

    • Anj

      Now this is the comment I came down here hoping to find ?

  8. Stephen Bolles

    Wow Buckley. This whole sexism conversation really has you on the defensive, huh? A simple fact (that no women appear on Forbes’ highest paid DJs list) is presented without comment, and you feel compelled to preemptively debunk the mere suggestion that any kind of gender-based inequality could be on display. Being that you can only name one female DJ, you definitely don’t come across as any kind of expert on the subject, yet it’s important to you to weigh in, lest anyone jump to the wrong conclusion. It’s as if you somehow feel personally implicated, despite the fact that you seem to have very little connection to the DJ world. I wonder why that might be?

    • Everyday i'm Triggered *Party Rock Anthem Plays*

      Wow Stephen, this whole sexism article really has you on the defensive, huh? The simple fact that Buckley pointed out that their article was asking a biased feminist agenda question, and you feel compelled to preemptively debunk the mere suggestion that maybe she was reaching for new viewers and trying to start controversy over nothing.

      Seriously though, you and your whole feminazi “OH THERE’S NO GIRLS IN THE LIST OF RICHEST PEOPLE OR PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES. SEXIST, I’M TRIGGERED” is nothing but a meme. Stop trying to insinuate Buckley is sexist (which is what you did with that last sentence, don’t try denying it), he just hates morons getting triggered over fucking everything and crying about it.

      • SJ

        What I read here: “Bias isn’t real and didn’t exist before it came into play as part of the ‘feminist agenda.’ Feminists, or people concerned about sexism more generally, invented bias and also are so biased.”

        Definitely makes sense.

  9. K

    Maybe women just don’t want to DJ? I hate when people assume just because there aren’t enough women in something it’s automatically sexiest.(not towards Buckley) There aren’t a lot of women in garbage pick up jobs. Sexism? No, women just aren’t interested in garbage pick up.

  10. Me

    Sexism doesn’t exist because Paul can’t name a female DJ.