Chainsmokers Dethrone Calvin Harris as World’s Highest-Paid DJs

After a six-consecutive-year reign, Calvin Harris has been knocked from the top of Forbes’ Highest-Paid DJs/ Electronic Cash Kings list: The Chainsmokers — Drew Taggart and Alex Pall — are now the world’s top earners in the category, raking in some $46 million in pretax income over the past year. Harris is third on the 2019 list, following the duo and Marshmello.

Forbes singled out several drivers of the group’s income, including a residency with Wynn Nightlife that was recently extended into 2021, six-figure festival and private appearances, endorsements and income from streaming and recorded-music sales. The duo has not released an album since April 2017 but has dropped multiple singles — five so far this year.

The report also deemed Steve Aoki “perhaps the hardest-working name on the list.” He played over 200 shows within the eligibility period, averaging six figures per night, along with streaming, endorsement deals with brands from Diesel to Samsung, and outside business ventures including his Dim Mak record label and clothing brand.

However, this success takes place during a decline from the heyday of EDM: While the big names contine to draw top dollars — the top 15 acts tallied $358 million in pretax earnings over the past 12 months, with $272 million coming from the top 10 — the industry as a whole is falling back.

“The average gross guarantees had already plateaued and have decreased for electronic acts,” Wayne Kamemoto, senior partner at business management firm NKSFB, which handles the finances of artists including Skrillex and Zedd, told Forbes. “But the biggest acts are still commanding high guarantees.”

This trend has worked against female DJs, who have never appeared on the list since it was launched in 2012. It cited two almosts: duo Nervo in 2014, and Alison Wonderland got within a few million of making the list this year.

According to Forbes, the list ranks electronic acts around the globe using pretax earnings from June 1, 2018 through June 1, 2019; it does not deduct fees for lawyers, agents and managers.

Estimates are based on numbers from Nielsen, Pollstar, Bandsintown and Songkick, as well as interviews with industry experts and many of the stars themselves.

Electronic Cash Kings 2019: The Full List

  1. The Chainsmokers ($46 million)
  2. Marshmello ($40 million)
  3. Calvin Harris ($38.5 million)
  4. Steve Aoki ($30 million)
  5. Diplo ($25 million)
  6. Tiësto ($24 million)
  7. Martin Garrix ($19 million)
  8. David Guetta ($18 million)
  9. Zedd ($17 million)
  10. Armin van Buuren ($15 million)
  11. Kaskade ($14 million)
  12. Skrillex ($13 million)
  13. Alesso ($12.5 million)
  14. Afrojack ($12 million)
  15. DJ Snake ($11.5 million, tie)
  16. DJ Pauly D ($11.5 million, tie)
  17. Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike ($11.5 million, tie)


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