DJs are the modern day rock stars and the ones at the top of their game are earning a huge amount of money. But what about the normal DJs like you and me who are just starting out, or have already established themselves in the industry?
How much do DJs earn?
If we talk about an
Remember that there are many different types of DJ. Mobile DJs, resident DJs, opening DJs, headline DJs, closing DJs, the list goes on. Each different type of DJ has his own skill set, experience level and salary expectation.
How much should I charge?
I will try to cover as many individual areas of the DJ industry as possible, to give you an insight as to where you can earn the most money, and where you can have the most fun.
Open-format gigs are the backbone of the DJ industry and this is the area where I have earned the most over the course of my career. Being an open-format DJ means you need to have a really diverse music collection and be able to play multiple genres to keep even the most fickle of crowds happy.
As stated above, an average open-format gig will pay $250-$300. While this certainly isn’t the highest paid of any of the areas we will look at, it is arguably the area where you can pick up the most work.
Pubs, bars, nightclubs and even some restaurants will require the services of an open-format DJ. If you are good at what you do and you make the right connections, you could be working as many as 4 or 5 gigs per week. This means that over the course of a year, you could potentially earn in excess of $50,000.
While some DJs will start out with the intention of playing at birthdays, weddings, corporate parties etc, the majority of mobile DJs that I know tend to move into this area after giving up on the nightclub circuit.
With the average mobile DJ earning in the region of $600 per gig, it is certainly one of the better paid areas of the DJ industry.
However, in order to earn that kind of money, there also needs to be significant investment in speakers, lights and microphones, as well as a vehicle big enough to transport it and a secure place to store it
In addition to the financial investment, you will also invest more time in order to get these gigs.
For a lot of these parties, the event planner will want to meet with you beforehand. Add on the extra time you will spend setting the equipment up before the event and packing it away at the end of the night, you will see that the amount of hours has increased rapidly.
In my opinion, music producers who create a particular style of music tend to be the ones who focus solely on that genre. The DJ line-up for these gigs tends to be 1 or 2 headliners, with a number of local DJs in support.
If you are an upcoming producer trying to make a name for yourself as a DJ within a specific genre, then you will probably find yourself earning around $50 per set until you have become more established.
Although they don’t pay as much as others do, these gigs can be a lot of fun, as everyone tends to be there with a love for the same music. They are also great for networking and you will see a lot of future collaborations born from attending these events.
Once you have been doing gigs for a while in your city, you will start to build up a name for yourself and maybe even have a local following. At this stage, it could be beneficial to promote your own event.
You can book some of the other local talent to play at your event, which could lead to them returning the favour and booking you if they decide to follow in your footsteps and promote an event
The number of people attending the event will determine how much money you make, but with the promoter usually taking 100% of the door proceeds and even a percentage of the bar revenue in some cases, you can earn a lot of money if you are able to sell out an event.
How much do superstar DJs earn?
Calvin Harris has been the highest earning DJ for several years in a row now, regularly pocketing in excess of $50m for 12 months work.
While it may seem crazy that there are DJs earning $1m per week, not all of it comes from gigs. A large amount of “superstar” DJ earnings actually comes from music downloads, music streaming and product endorsements.
Gigs are still providing a steady income for the superstars though, with reports claiming that Calvin Harris is paid in the region of $400,000 each and every time he appears at any of his Las Vegas residencies.
Should I play for free?
When I started out DJing in the UK in 1998, I am not ashamed to admit that I played quite a few gigs for free. I approached some local nightclubs, became friendly with the resident DJ and offered to play the opening hour or 2.
Once I had proven myself to the owners and resident DJs, the clubs started to pay me $75 to play from 10pm-midnight.
While that didn’t even cover the amount of money I was spending on records each week, it gave me the opportunity to gain some invaluable experience and learn from some of the best DJs in my city.
However, times have changed since then.
Nowadays, the supply of DJs far exceeds the demand and this has led to an
While I would not say that you should never play for free, don’t let club owners and promoters take advantage of the situation and always expect you to play without payment.
Better DJing Top Tip
I would recommend to all DJs that are just starting out to follow their passion for the music style that made them want to become a DJ. It is a lot more fun playing music that you love to a crowd that also love it.
However, I would also suggest that you consider some of the other DJ opportunities that we looked at above.
If you don’t become a superstar within your chosen genre, there is also a lot of satisfaction to be taken from rocking a dancefloor in your local bar, nightclub or even at a wedding reception.
DJ Earnings Conclusion
When you consider how many DJs dream of becoming “the next big thing”, then consider how many have actually become superstars, you can see how many DJs have had their dreams shattered.
If you hope to become the next Martin Garrix, David Guetta or Marshmello but don’t quite make it, there is still a lot of money to be made in other areas of the DJ industry
I dreamed of becoming a big-name trance DJ early in my career. I absolutely didn’t make it, yet I have still gone on to play in many different countries around the world, headlined an 11,000 capacity festival in Dubai and made a full-time living from DJing for the last 15 years.
If you have a genuine love for music, you will make it happen in one way or another.
I hope that this article has helped you in some way. If you have any further questions or any suggestions about how much DJs earn, please feel free to leave a comment.