DJ Apathy, anyone? DJs and audiences alike may have lost the plot of the DJ Mag Top 100 list – but technology could help the list get its groove back, says a former writer. Photo (CC-BY vmiramontes.

DJ Magazine’s Top 100 list of DJs is irrelevant and broken, based on a flawed methodology, prone to manipulation, and out of touch with what actually makes someone a top DJ.

That’s the conclusion you’d probably reach after reading the latest critique of the poll, and the conclusion is that the list needs to get out of its print past and embrace new tech. It hardly seems like a surprising opinion. But here’s where this becomes news: the analysis comes from London-based Terry Church, formerly a News & Web Editor at DJ Magazine as well as a PR guru and former Beatportal editor.

Terry doesn’t just rant about the top 100. Insetad, he offers a detailed history of how the list came to be, and how at its inception in 1997 no one really saw the potential problems (or had today’s more intelligent survey tech). He also goes, step by step, through the gradual downfall of the survey among artists and listeners. Some good signs: intelligent bookers and audiences are simply well-educated enough that a top list isn’t as necessary. But the bottom line for the top 100 just isn’t good; as Terry writes:

So DJ Magazine’s Top 100 will A) never be secure, and B) will always be plagued by unscrupulous marketing practices. As such, the poll’s popularity has fallen in recent years, even amongst trance fans, who traditionally were the most ardent supporters of the poll’s results due to the large numbers of high ranking DJs from their scene.

However, even among the aspiring candidates themselves there seems to be a general feeling of apathy.

Terry also has some suggestions for how technology might make the list more interesting. Google Trends doesn’t come up with much that’d be too surprising — though, really, a top five probably shouldn’t be surprising in the first place, or it wouldn’t be “top.”

Well worth a full read, particularly to see how an idea in journalism can evolve (or devolve) over time:
Opinion: Should technology replace DJ Magazine’s Top 100 DJs Poll? [terrychurch pr; not sure why that headline ends as a question mark given his thesis]

But for me, this all raises an interesting question. Google Trends is a fairly primitive metric. How might we get some more compelling data visualization and analytics on musical practice? Maybe the next top list will come out of a Music Hack Day, not a suspect print magazine survey. And that sounds very interesting, indeed.

Polling ends tonight. For their part:

  • Regend

    I am convinced Top DJ lists are irrelevant. It is similar to Rolling Stone's top artist list. RS picked The Beatles as #1. Why can't James Brown or MJ be #1? I see the Top DJ list as a response to the late 90's Gavin/NMS/DMC/ITF DJ competition scene and publishers tapping into niche DJ related music and equipment Ad revenue stream. In my opinion, mixing DJ's who could not compete with the technical aspects of the top competitions were snubbed. It is also important to note that the competitions changed because audiences liked the head to head and showcase battles more than watching DJ's mix. I do remember attending competitions where DJ’s just mixed and crowd response is how winners were picked however. The popularity of Electronica music genres leveled the playing field because entertainment outweighed the advances in placing a needle on a piece of vinyl and making sounds. Technology is the key component now. It is irrelevant what medium is used to deliver a DJ performances. What is relevant is getting the job done. However, what is the job? There are MANY jobs now. DJ’s have a plethora of skill sets and performance options that did not exist or had not yet been created. I still thnk Q-Bert and Kid Koala are the best DJ’s on the planet but that’s just my opinion, Google metrics is not going to change that both of these DJ’s have elevated Djing to a musical performance art.

  • Korn

    I've been listening to DJ's of all stripes for 20 years and I've never looked at a DJ list. The only list I care about is the tracklist of a DJ's mix. I still go out, still buy vinyl. Never paid much attention to fashion magazines disguised as music magazines. Much ado about nothing.

  • Oliver Chesler

    The best DJs are the ones you have no idea who they are and you don't even know how you got to the club your in. Just someone making the (SMALL) room go crazy. Since when everyone start thinking popular is better? Go underground people… it's better in the dark!

  • ALTZ

    It is like those charts in HMV.

  • JaimeTayag

    When .you please the widest range of people in a certain demographic you're bound to be a TOP DJ. You'll make much more money pleasing the quantity while putting your quality at risk. Happens all the time, unfortunately.

  • Frank

    The DJmag top 100 is fine as it is. Of course it's a popularity poll, it's a poll of favourite DJs, and doesn't claim to be anything more. There are other competitions and polls which rate technique etc. They do what they do and the DJmag top 100 does what it does.

  • Jim Aikin

    I could tell you stories about Keyboard's artist poll (conducted from 1975 up through the 1990s, IIRC) … but I won't, other than to say that ballot-box-stuffing was not unknown.

    Not sure about this statement of Peter's, though: "How might we get some more compelling data visualization and analytics on musical practice?" As a musician, I'm not sure musical practice is susceptible in any way to data visualization and analytics. If I play a C major chord on the piano, how are you going to input that into your analytics? I'm sorta kidding, but sorta not. I think we need to be careful about separating stuff that can be measured from stuff that can't.

  • YAWN

    DJs are a joke. Seriously, anyone with Traktor, Deckadance, etc can mix up a storm these days. The only DJs i take seriously are those that are producers, playing a majority of their own work with choice selections added for the journey. And even then there should still be a live element.

    "but he blending and layering and creating a vibe" – haha! yeah cool, my neice does that too on her iPad and shes 9.

    DJs? LOL – suck my deck!

  • Geoff

    Wow, you know you're in trouble when the first half-decent DJ on the list comes in at 31.

    @Yawn – what an appropriate name!

  • Vic

    No matter what you guys say, Armin is the #1 DJ of the world, best producer and owns the record label with the most awards in the electronic music industry.

  • Goonp

    hmm, this post reads like a press release.

  • Blob


    I know where you're coming from, but do bear in mind that something must be said about "creating a vibe" and keeping a dancefloor crowd happy – it's all down to your record/mp3 track collection and knowing how to adjust your playlist – relatively simple (when compared to composing and playing traditional instruments or advanced electronic controllers/interfaces) , but still a skill you must acquire and an honest job that someone must do properly.

    In any case – and I know I'll probably be flamed for this short rant, but I don't care – DJing is surely not art or musical performance, and the whole DJ-as-a-rock-star / DJs-are-musicians "culture" that bloomed in the 1990's always disgusted me. Therefore, as far as I'm concerned, the lists were always irrelevant to begin with. Sorry, but I'd rather read about – gasp! – real musicians.

  • Rachel Rixham

    In my opinion any voting poll that can be manipulated by "buying votes" needs scrapped. Regardless of how many supporters vote for a particular artist, it will always be out done by the cheaters. DJ Mag is sadly a fine example of how a cheat makes it to the top, not through any fault of their own of course, but those who manipulate such polls only ruin it for the rest, however anything that involves money is always the same. I am unsure how DJ Mag can ever clean up their poll system and correct people have lost respect therefore DJ Mag should pull the plug before it's too late. 

  • Rachel Rixham

    PS I have a lot of respect for DJ MAG but their polls sucks.

  • Joe Flanagan

    What to say about the "DJ List" half of the jokers arent even dj's. Guetta as number one? hahahahaha the guy is a muppet and as commercial as commercial gets. What happened to the greats Vince Watson, Frankie Bones, Mike Humphries , etc the guys who have lived and breathed techno and dance music into us all? The guys that started it all off and showed us all a differant scene?. Thats right i suppose if i ask everyone for your vote i could be up there soon. DJ Mag should be ashamed off its self.

  • Musec Danny

    2012 and here we go again. DJMag and
    Trackitdown have once again excluded literally billions of people around
    the world from voting in this years top 100 DJ’s poll. As with last
    years poll, you are required to sign up for/use Facebook to cast your
    vote. Facebook is banned/blocked in many countries around the world, in
    fact most of Asia, the most populated countries and where most of these
    “top 100” DJ’s end up earning their highest DJ fee’s. I know because I
    am a promoter and DJ myself and unfortunately, most clubs base booking
    and fee decisions solely on this yearly poll.

    By requiring
    Facebook signup and voting (and probably a few “like’s” in the process),
    clearly DJMag and Trackitdown have a vested monetary interest in
    certain DJ’s and corporate affiliations -we all know who they are) from
    certain regions and do not care about true fans (not to mention the DJ’s
    themselves) outside of the USA and UK/EU… if they did, they would
    offer an alternative form of vote casting which would give this poll an
    even playing field for every DJ in the world. I contacted both DJMag and
    Trackitdown last year and this week and have received no response
    whatsoever. So this year I am making it my mission to let people know
    what is going on and boycott this fake marketing ploy of a popularity

    If you care about this industry at all, you wont vote,
    you wont buy their magazines, music from their stores or visit their
    websites. These companies are a BIG part of the problem we as artists,
    producers, label owners, DJ’s etc. face today.

    Thank you for reading.

  • Daniel McClelland

    The Fact David Guetta was even allowed to compete was a joke, his music for a lack of a better term is not EDM, and what I can’t believe that Armin Van Buuren was defending this POS when he was being Booed

  • szl

    The biggest problem with this list is….

    Fans are allowed to vote!

    This should be called the Dj Teen Choice Awards. Its a freaking popularity contest, not a actual whos who in the world of DJing. Half the names up there are not even DJs, just producers or guys that stand over a laptop with their hands in the air.

    I would rather it be limited to DJ votes only, because I can think of about 100 djs off the top of my head that absolutely SMOKE any DJ on that list (skill and selection wise) however since they are “Top 10 beatport artists” or the crap you hear on the radio 24/7 people dont know them.

    Put it to the DJs, not the fans, get the REAL DJs on there, not these processed cheese, prepackaged gimmicks.