DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJ List: Legitimate or a Joke?

The prestigious DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJ list results have finally dropped. Since its founding in 1991, this is a list that has been an intrinsic component of the electronic music industry. It is seen as a list that supposedly holds ranking for the world’s best DJs. In the early days, the top spots of this poll were dominated by the veteran or senior artists who have all held long-running and critically acclaimed careers. Reigning the top of this year’s list include Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike at #1, knocking down Martin Garrix to #2. There are also few artists taking brand new entries, as well as some who are highly questionable in their rankings. This list provides a large amount of exposure for artists worldwide, whether it’s seen as controversial or not. There are several goods, bads, and trends presented by this year’s list that deserve proper observation and analysis.

The Bads

Nowadays, if we were to say “this is the list we’ve been waiting for,” many of us are probably lying. The majority of the fans and artists who’ve spoken up about this list have all agreed, “It’s a joke.” Before we get too carried away in wanting to decimate the list’s legitimacy, let’s take a closer look at exactly why this ranking is appalling to most. Not only has Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike acquired rank #1 for this year’s list–the real question is, why? It’s not entirely fair that it seems the top 10 on this list is geared towards the big room and mainstream spectrum of electronic dance music. Artists like Martin Garrix have appeared and reappeared for the past three years remaining undefeated.

Albeit, there are some artists on this list who do not even need to campaign for votes. On the flip side, it is insanely questionable and comical how a long-running artist like Kaskade is not even on the list at all. How is it that a leading sound in techno such as Richie Hawtin appears lower in ranks than MATTN? Ranking in at #51, the number of prerecorded sets that MATTN has messed up is probably close to the number of tours that Richie Hawtin has embarked on. And yet, when the Top 100 list is a popularity contest, being the wife of the most popular DJ helps. Aside from that, We’ve got artists like Timmy Trumpet who rank higher than Eric Prydz. Is DJ Mag’s Top 100 list just a popularity contest at the end of the day? Top-ranking artists have repeatedly been the same, year after year. If this list should speak for the world’s “Best DJs,” why does it seem so incredibly biased towards only one spectrum of dance music?

The Goods

Speaking from the sole perspective of the big room EDM and mainstage audience, this is probably the perfect list for them. Given that this list provides DJs with worldwide exposure, campaigning strategy plays an instrumental role in rankings. We can look at it from the perspective of which artists have worked on their campaigning strategies the most. Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike have consistent outreach across all social media platforms that help adhere to their ranking outcomes. Meanwhile, there are also several artists like Above & Beyond who effortlessly rank in at #22 without trying at all.

There are numerous angles to observe in seeing the positives of this list. More importantly, there’s an increasing amount of female artists that we’re happy to see including Nina Kraviz, Charlotte de Witte, Peggy Gou, and Alison Wonderland. Artists like Boris Brejcha and Solardo have also entered the top 100 with brand new entries this year.

Incoming and Outgoing Trends

While DJ Mag’s Top 100 list may seem repetitive as a whole each year, there’s also an interesting statistical shift between genres that happens beneath the seams. When taking notice of the array of genres within this list, big room and mainstage music clearly takes the top. In preceding days, artists like Paul Oakenfold, Carl Cox, Sasha, Paul Van Dyk, and John Digweed reigned supreme. From the late 90s to now, trance and techno seem to be periodically drifting in and out. Now, Carl Cox ranks in at #35, Trance legend Ferry Corsten is down to #59, and Paul Van Dyk ranks down 32 spots this year to #87. Up until about 2014, trance has slowly been on its way out from the mainframe of popularity. At major festivals in America, stages geared towards trance have gotten smaller and smaller.

On the contrary, there’s a sure uprising of techno and house music brewing. According to this year’s list, Solardo, Boris Brejcha, and Charlotte De Witte hold brand new entries between ranks #74-#88. Running alongside other artists like Black Coffee, Marco Carola, and even Fisher at #63, this shows a palpable introduction and influx of four-on-the-floor artists. To house and techno heads, it may seem disappointing that these genres seem little to non-existent to this list. However, if we look at 2019’s festival lineups thus far, House and techno are definitely making a steady insurrection. Nocturnal Wonderland 2019 was held over two days worth of a lineup comprising of 90% house music. The upcoming Escape From Wonderland 2019’s lineup is catered to an increasing number of worthy techno acts as well.

Concluding Thoughts

Sparking controversy in DJ Mag’s Top 100 list seems like a given in this day and age. As the saying goes, to each their own. At the end of the day, a single list should never define a fan’s preferences or an artist’s skill level. Lists like these tend to be biased and may rely solely on an artist’s popularity. In a recent interview, Martin Garrix has openly spoken about not caring for the DJ Mag Top 100 rankings. Illenium has also asked his fans to lightheartedly vote for his dog instead. San Holo also recently released a parody video in response to the DJ Mag rankings. All in all, music is the one thing that holds no boundaries and no language barriers. Where big room may be big in one country or setting, it may not be big in another. With that being said, lists like this should be taken with a grain of salt and to each their own.


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