Home » 5 Reasons Why the DJ Mag Rankings are So Controversial

5 Reasons Why the DJ Mag Rankings are So Controversial

Exploring one of the EDM world's most popular award series and its surrounding controversy.

by Andrea Simon
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If you’re a fan of EDM, surely you’ve heard of DJ Mag. It’s not only a monthly magazine publication, but also a globally recognized media brand covering all aspects of electronic music. Each year, DJ Mag hosts an award ceremony featuring the Top 100 DJs of the year. In 2023, they claimed to have received 1.3 million votes representing 237 territories around the world- making it the world’s ‘largest music poll’.

Over the years, fans and artists alike have shared their opinions on DJ Mag’s ranking system. This year in particular, there has been a widespread hatred across social media over their Top 100 awards, that were announced yesterday. Some of our favorite posts include:

The NYC-based artist and GRAMMY-winning produced CID announced on X (formerly Twitter) yesterday.

As one of the kings of controversy, Chicago-native and American DJ/producer John Summit had to share his opinion on the yesterday’s award ceremony as well.

The Italian electronic music group and ‘Lose Control’ producer trio known as Meduza joked about not making the Top 100 yesterday as well.

While we love to support all artists that have the opportunity to be named to the Top 100, we also have our own opinions. Let’s uncover some of the most popular reasons for the DJ Mag controversy:

1. Voting Process

The ranking is primarily based on fan votes, which can be influenced by popularity, marketing efforts, and social media presence rather than solely on the skill or talent of the DJ. This can lead to more commercially successful DJs ranking higher, regardless of their actual musical abilities or contributions to the genre. For example, David Guetta was ranked as No. 1 this year and DJ duo Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike were ranked as No. 2. While they are all talented DJs and some of the most recognizable names in the industry, both have consistently been ranked in the Top 10 for several years. They do have tremendous influence in the industry, but some believe their top spots should be given out to other artists, rather than the same few year after year.

2. Subjectivity

Music taste is subjective, and the list may not accurately represent the best DJs or the most talented artists in the industry, leading to debates about who should or shouldn’t be included. We consistently see many house music DJs at the top of the list, as well as in the Top 100 in general, and artists from other electronic music genres represented as heavily. For example, Armin van Buuren was ranked No. 5 overall this year, and was also awarded the honor of No. 1 trance DJ. To trance music fans, he may be the best artist in the world. However, its hard to compare this to artists that produce in the more mainstream genres.

3. Lack of Transparency & Arbitrary Criteria

The voting process and criteria for selection aren’t entirely transparent. This lack of clear guidelines can make the rankings seem arbitrary and unreliable. There have been allegations of vote manipulation or bloc voting in the past, although DJ Mag has taken steps to minimize this. There have even been occurrences over the years where various DJs admitted to paying massive sums of money to secure their prestigious spot on the list. Back in 2007, Tiesmi, a Chinese DJ, confessed to purchasing votes. He allegedly disclosed that he paid 4000 Yuan (£260) for 100,000 votes and also hired a software engineer to develop a script that bypassed security measures. This manipulation became evident as Tiesmi swiftly ascended to the top position within a few hours of the voting commencement. There have been a handful of other cheating accusations over the years as well.

4. Impact on New Talent

Emerging artists who are immensely talented might find it challenging to break into the list due to the dominance of established and popular names. This creates a barrier for newer talent trying to gain recognition and opportunities in the industry. For example, we saw earlier that John Summit was not named in the Top 100, but frankly- he didn’t even care. However, this is obviously not the case for all new DJs. Some dream of making the Top 100 of this list, and view it as a monumental accomplishment in their careers. On DJ Mag’s own website, they basically admit to not including much new talent. They state they they had 9 new entries for this year’s awards. From this data alone, we can conclude that the other 91 DJs have made the list before- meaning there was barely even room to include new talent in the first place. 

5. Commercialization Over Artistry & Erosion of Authenticity

The emphasis on chart positions and rankings may shift the focus away from the artistry and passion for music towards commercial success. This could potentially discourage DJs from experimenting or taking creative risks in their work. The competitive nature of the rankings themselves could encourage DJs to focus more on their position in the list rather than on creating meaningful and innovative music. This can lead to a decline in the authenticity and creativity of the music produced, as artists may prioritize creating tracks that are more likely to boost their rankings. I’m sure we can all think of an artist that has focused more on producing music that performs well and gets higher rankings, than focusing on diversifying their sound and releasing unique tracks.

The controversy surrounding the DJ Mag Top 100 often stems from these factors, leading to debates within the industry and among fans about the validity and relevance of the rankings. Despite the criticisms, it remains a widely followed list within the EDM community and continues to influence perceptions of DJ success within the industry.

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