Home Jobs & Education How Much Does a DJ Make?

If you’ve ever attended a party or been to a club, chances are that you’ve also come across a DJ. DJs, also referred to as Deejays or Disk Jockeys are the main entertainment providers at a party. They’re the ones playing your favorite music and, most importantly, making sure that everyone is having an excellent time. Of course, being a DJ isn’t a breeze. It involves constant self-improvement, craft refining and a great sense of people. After all, how can you entertain your audience if you can’t connect to it?

The question, though, is whether their efforts are truly recognized. You may have already asked yourself: “ how much does a DJ make ”?

how much does a dj make

Though the fees of a DJ vary greatly, here’s what you should now:

There are multiple factors that are taken into consideration when setting a DJs booking fee. They include:

  • The market
  • Talent
  • Experience
  • Audience (the audience drawn by specific DJs)
  • Region and City
  • The shift
  • The deal itself
  • The type of DJ: club DJs and radio DJs are paid different fees

The Average Salary of a DJ in the US

Figures differ greatly when it comes to a DJs average salary. But excluding top-earning notorieties such as Calvin Harris, Tiesto or Avicii, the average salary of a club DJ is somewhere around $30,000. Radio DJs, by contrast, only average $28,000 in annual earnings, although they may bring in more money depending on audience and traction.

The starting salary of a radio DJ gravitated around $25,000. With time, radio disk jockeys could earn anywhere between $35,000 and $60,000 yearly, though actually obtaining a job as a radio DJ is particularly difficult.

Official statistics released by the Bureau of Labor revealed that the lowest 10 percent of DJs earned approximately $16,590 yearly. By contrast, the top 10 percent earned well over $72,000.

Of course, DJs rarely have a fixed salary, as their income mostly stems from gigs and individual events they are booked for. A club DJ can often find himself in the odd situation of being paid in drink tickets. The reverse is also true. They may find themselves earning millions of dollars yearly, though the average fee/gig gravitates around $300-$500.

The question is whether such fees are enough to reward the dedication and efforts that go into becoming a DJ. After all, you can’t become one overnight. You need a deep knowledge of music, a great ear as well as thousands of hours of practice. Not to mention the equipment. Club DJs normally use vinyl records, CDs or MP3s that are played on mixers, turntables, and complex sound systems. This is sensitive equipment and DJs also have a hard time transporting their equipment from gig to gig.

dj mixer and headphones

A DJ therefore has to invest a lot of money, not only in high-quality equipment but also mixer flight cases that ensure that this equipment isn’t damaged between gigs.

How Much do the Richest DJs Make?

The world’s highest paid DJs make average ones pale by comparison. Since electronic dance music has left the underground and pierced mainstream consciousness, DJs have become the poster kids of talent and innovation. Whether EDM (electronic dance music) is truly the next generation of music, as DJs believe, remains to be seen. Even so, today’s highest paid DJs receive staggering amounts of money for their performances.

Gawker published an article on DJ revenue that may surprise you, if you weren’t familiar with what such DJs generally make. Calvin Harris tops the list, having earned over $66 million in 2014. Both Harris and other DJs, including Avicii, deadmau5 and David Guetta earn over $150,000 per gig, though these aren’t firm figures.

David Guetta came in second in 2014 with $30 million in earnings, while Avicii tied for the third position with Tiesto, earning $28 million last year. Here are other world-famous DJs who earned millions in 2014:

  • Steve Aoki: $23 million
  • Afrojack: $22 million
  • Zedd: $21 million
  • Kaskade: $17 million
  • Skrillex: $16.5 million
  • Deadmau5: $16 million
  • Hardwell: $13 million
  • Armin van Buuren: $13 million
  • Steve Angello: $12 million

What Does it Take to Become a DJ

These figures will surely have you second-guessing your career choices, but before any rash decision, take a moment to consider what it takes to become a DJ. You may be fooled into thinking that it involves round-the-clock partying but think again. Being a DJ is a round-the-clock job, where employers will ask and expect you to come in early. You’ll most likely have to help with everything from setting up to promotional planning.

“It’s all about the music, the attitude, the style, going to different events…[…] You have to be part of the community, not just show up to do your shift and go home.”

Working Hours

Most club DJs work nights and weekends, especially Thursday through Saturday, so if you’re set on becoming a DJ prepare for sleep deprivation.

Skills and Requirements

dj mixer and turntable

Radio DJs also have a lot of “homework” to do. They’re expected to be abreast of current events, new movies and fresh albums and this means preparation. They also have to monitor their competition, follow popular TV shows and be capable of talking about all this things on the air.

Technical skills are also a prerequisite. Operating the sound systems, mixers and turntables isn’t as easy as it seems. Most DJs are self-taught, despite the fact that certain schools and classes exist. Aside from actually mixing, DJs are also expected to have production experience (especially if they hope to create original tracks).

Here are some of the essential skills that a DJ requires to succeed in his chosen field:

  • Technical know-how
  • Excellent communication
  • Networking and social media abilities (to grow their fan base)
  • Songwriting skills
  • Production experience
  • Easy-going personality
  • Flexibility

Most club DJs don’t have fixed salaries and they depend on gigs for their monthly and yearly income. Networking is therefore an essential factor. Competition is also fierce among DJs. When you’re just starting out, expect clubs and bars to ask you to play sets for free before offering to pay you for a gig. They argue that it’s the way they get to know new DJs and learn more about their audience, play style and work ethic.

But despite the hurdles, being a DJ is fulfilling. There’s nothing like the feeling of bringing joy to a room full of people.

“The best thing about being a DJ is making people happy. There is nothing like seeing people get up from a table to dance or the expression on their face when they hear a song they love,” Chelsea Leyland.

Photo credits: 1 , 2 , 3

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Georgette Movilé

Poetry lover and jazz addict, Georgette Movilé enjoys writing about art-related topics. With a background in Theatre and Literary Studies, once dreaming to be part of the ‘academia’, she now has a keen interest in cultural journalism and develops a great passion for arts management. Her style and taste are eclectic and she calls herself a hedonist open to, and ready to make the most of, the dazzling possibilities within the everyday. Want to meet the most starry-eyed-down-to-earth person you might ever encounter? Read her articles, get inspired and feel free to contact her.


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