How Much Do DJs Get Paid?
How Much Do DJs Get Paid?
The million dollar question, or is it? How much are DJs paid? This is one of the main questions new DJs will ask when learning to DJ and when considering starting a DJ career. There is no simple answer to the question of how much DJs get paid for their work but we attempt to breakdown the variables in this guide on DJ fees and how much DJs get paid to perform.
DJ pay rates are a hot topic and many DJs want to know how their DJ salaries compare and how much they should be charging for their DJ gigs. While there is no average DJ pay or DJ fee, this guide we will help explain the different tiers of DJ income, pay rates and wages.
Firstly, we will break down the guide prices for DJs into types of DJ. There are lots of ways of DJing nowadays so it's an incredibly varied industry with some DJs playing for fun and others aiming for the top, and being paid accordingly.
We hope this DJ rates guide helps you understand how much money do DJs make and how to navigate DJ fees in general. Which type of DJ are you aiming to be and therefore how much money can you expect to earn as a DJ? Read on to find out!
Headline DJs are the big names at the top of the flyer or poster. They are the main DJ of an event, club night or festival and the ones making the most in terms of DJ earnings and income from DJing. They are the most successful DJs who are touring internationally and recognised by electronic music fans in multiple countries.
Headline DJs normally rise to fame by releasing popular music and hit records or by establishing their name over a long time.
Below you can see a flyer from Ministry of Sound where the headliner Nicky Romero is clearly seen at the top in the biggest font in the typical headliner position. Lower down the poster you can see many other DJs including our very own DJ course graduates DJing in the Babybox! Generally speaking, the bigger the font the more the DJ is being paid for their performance. The biggest name will be the top-earning DJ of the event.
In clubs like Ministry of Sound where there are multiple rooms of different sizes the money will often gravitate toward the bigger main room. At Ministry of Sound the main room is called The Box.
The second room is called the 103 and is often hosted by brands and record labels. Brands will often be given a budget by the club or club promoter and then pay the DJs. Typically, DJs in the second room will be DJs who are working toward establishing their names and are called up-and-coming DJs.
Some clubs like Ministry have even more rooms and these make the perfect launch pad for new DJs to gain experience and new brands to establish themselves. In many cases smaller gigs like these are pro bono or for experience sake but it totally depends on the event and the promoter booking the DJs. After all, it's an amazing opportunity to DJ in a famous club on the same flyer as an epic headliner like Nicky Romero!
How much do Headline DJs get paid?
Headline DJs can be paid huge sums of money for a single performance. The amount of money they are paid to DJ depends on many factors that are not just limited to their fame and notoriety.
Other factors that influence the amount headline DJs are paid include the size and capacity of the venue, the city and location, the ticket price, the date and if it's a live show with visuals or just a DJ show.
You can imagine that if you have a club of 5000 capacity and tickets are £20 to enter that means ticket revenue of £100,000, if the event is sold out. With huge amounts of money coming in the headline DJ can negotiate a fee that reflects the promoters projected profits. Often, headline DJs can be paid up to 50% of all expected ticket revenue. That being said, there is no clear-cut guide on how much headliners are paid and it is often a secret.
Who is and who isn't a headline DJ is subjective and relative to the particular ecosystem that exists within the scene that they are operating in. A headline EDM DJ could be raking in massive sums of money but a headline DJ playing a niche genre like Moombahton might still be getting relatively small sums.
The bigger the scene the bigger the headline DJs are being paid. If you're purely interested in being paid huge amounts for your DJ performance you'll want to play and produce relatively commercial music. Calvin Harris is a good example of this and he is one of the most highly paid DJs in the world with combined income from DJing, production, writing and touring.
Here are some of the highest paid DJs in the world at the moment who have net worths between 10 and 150 million dollars.
Up & Coming Headliners
It often takes many years to build a headline DJ career and many successful music releases. Of course, sometimes DJs get lucky and perhaps have a break-out hit single but those people are really exception, not the rule. Most DJs will climb the ladder over years, if not decades, to reach the top.
Naturally, not everyone will become a headline DJ but the joy is really in the journey! Climbing the ladder often starts with small gigs and releases but once you establish yourself and your brand you might break into the realm of an up-and-coming headliner.
At a big event, like those hosted by Ministry of Sound, the headliner will occupy the peak slot in the main room or on the main stage. The rest of the time the support acts will DJ. These are the up-and-coming acts that are working their way to the top.
Some DJs have worked hard to establish their name within a music scene and have gained some fame within that circle. They could be performing internationally and even touring but not quite at the level of the main headliner.
They are up-and-coming DJs and often DJ as a career, for their main job and income. They would still charge a reasonable fee for a performance but not quite as ostentatious amounts as the bigger headline acts.
They may also become headliners for smaller clubs and events or headliners for smaller stages at music festivals.
How much do Up & Coming Headliners get paid?
DJ fees for smaller headliners and up and coming support acts often follow an exponential curve. You can expect the headline act to be paid ten times more than the support act. Of course there is no certainty here but in general this is a good guide. If the headline act is getting 10K the support acts are most likely getting 1k or less. The warmup act and the closing act might be closer to £300-£500 in club venues but more at music festivals.
Often the kudos and exposure of supporting a famous act goes some way toward the payment of the gig but remember no one can pay their bills with exposure alone!
There is a grey area here because some DJs aren't just DJs. Some DJs actually run the event and play the part of the DJ and the promoter at the same time. If a DJ has a brand other than themselves, perhaps a record label, they can potentially make more money.
Clubs love outsourcing and they will regularly ask brands and record labels to take over the programming of their events or rooms within their events in exchange for a fee.
Notice on the flyer above that Nicky Romero's name is also accompanied by his record labels brand name, Protocol Records.
I assume that Ministry have paid Nicky Romero a fee not just to headline the event but also to bring his brand to the club and his own support acts. This means he might be paid more than he would for a simple headline DJ set. Full disclaimer... this is just my hunch based on my experience in the music industry and may not be factual.
Protocol Records is an established record label brand and thus has its own followers and mailing list. This additional marketing will help the club sell tickets for the event and thus create more business through ticket sale revenue. Nicky Romero can therefore demand a higher fee because he is playing the part of both the DJ and the promoter.
Have a look at other flyers and you will often see that some of the DJs are not just performing but also creating a showcase of artists for their brand. If you want to extend your ability to make money from your DJ performance you might want to consider this strategy.
How much are promoter DJs paid?
This really depends on the situation but you can say with confidence it will be more than they would be paid as a lone DJ. Being a promoter is a fantastic way to further establish yourself as a DJ and earn extra money.
Another potential grey area when it comes to the question about how much are DJs paid for their DJ gigs is the case of radio DJs.
Radio DJs, or radio presenters, are often booked to DJ in clubs and music festivals and in some cases become headline acts even without having released any music of their own. This exception to the general rule works well for some DJs and they can demand big DJ fees due to their large followings.
Essentially becoming a radio DJ or presenter gives you a certain level of fame, the same can be said for tv personalities. This extra fame will help you become a headline act and thus get paid more to DJ.
How much do radio DJs get paid?
Radio DJs often get paid very well considering they sometimes don't have music of their own. Of course, the fee would depend on the size of the radio station and the popularity of the show. If it's a national radio station and one of the biggest shows then you can imagine the DJ fee would reflect that.
However if it's a small station, like an internet radio station, it might not make much of a difference to the amount of money a radio DJ can negotiate for the gig. Don't expect to be able to ask for big amounts of cash when you're station is tiny!
As with all DJs, the bigger the audience the higher the fee. This means even influencer DJs who might not even possess proper DJ skills can still get paid very well if their audience is sizeable and engaged.
Local Club & Bar DJs
There are many DJs who make a good living DJing at local venues, clubs and bars and who rarely perform outside of their local area. These DJs might be famous locally but not be well known beyond that.
Local bars and clubs will often be smaller, and DJs will often play more commercial music genres that cater for a broad audience. Many DJs playing at smaller bars and clubs will have to leave their own music taste at home and play whatever the crowd or booker wants. In exchange for this compromise those DJs are often paid quite well but not as much as headline DJs who have international fame.
How much are local club and bar DJs paid?
The fee that local DJs can be paid for a DJ gig will often be limited by the size of the venue, if the venue is free entry or ticketed and how much competition there is locally. A well established guide price for local DJs over the years has been £50 an hour but we think that with inflation in mind, bookers should now be paying closer to £75 an hour. Bear in mind that the fee should cover the costs of insurance, music and in some cases DJ equipment.
Smaller venues often book plug-and-play DJs who actually bring their own DJ equipment. Remember it's good practice to have public liability and equipment insurance if you're going this route.
There could be fee concessions for longer sets and repeat bookings factored into the price. If it were a one-off gig the £50-£75 per hour rate is a good guide price but if the venue is offering you a six hour set they might want you to lower the hourly rate. The same would go for repeat bookings, if a venue offers you four nights of work a week you might give them a discount in order to secure the booking.
You should never accept less than £30 an hour for commercial DJ gigs unless you are a beginner looking for your first experience. Even then, it's better not to undersell yourself and the DJ industry in general. If the venue is making a good profit never accept a below-industry rate. Only accept a low or compromised rate if it truly benefits you in some other way, it's a charitable cause or you're doing it for a friend or just for the love of it.
You may wish to charge per performance rather than per hour, use whichever is the greatest. For example you don't want to shoot yourself in the foot by asking for £50 an hour when the booker only wants an hour performance. In this situation you should charge something higher, the bare minimum we recommend would be £150, however you should try and get more money if possible.
As always, DJs who have more experience, a bigger name or more accolades will be able to negotiate higher fees. Make sure you have a few things you can use as leverage when negotiating your fee with the booker.
Some DJs sign up to DJ agencies who will organise DJ gigs for them. There are two main types of DJ agency. You have agents who will look after headline acts and then you have agencies who book DJs for weddings, birthday partiers, PR events, restaurants, cruise ships, resorts and other events.
We have already covered headline DJs so in this paragraph we are talking about agency DJs who play at smaller events, meaning they are not famous enough to be headline acts.
How much do agency DJs get paid?
Most of the time DJs who get booked via an agency will get slightly less than they might if they handled their bookings independently. You might think, what's the point!?
The advantage of being on the roster of an established DJ agency will be that they will secure more gigs for you, meaning they take the hassle out of the process.
As a reward for finding you DJ work they will take a percentage of the money paid by the booker, typically 30%. This arrangement fee will then go toward the running costs of the agency, namely administration costs.
In many cases the DJ agency will be more experienced at negotiating DJ fees than an independent DJ and might actually help you get higher rates of pay overall. This is a great solution for many DJs who don't want the hassle or seeking out and organising DJ gigs themselves.
The amount they are paid depends on the connections of the agency. In big cities like London DJ agencies will often secure high-profile bookings from hotels and corporations meaning that they gigs can be paid very well compared to small clubs and bars.
Wedding & Party DJs
Some DJs are not interested in becoming the next big famous headline DJ and are happy making an honest living DJing at low-key events, weddings and birthday parties.
Wedding and party DJs will often operate in their local area and build up business through local advertising and word-of-mouth.
Wedding and party DJs often also provide the DJ equipment, lights and soundsystem along with their DJ set. This means they can charge more money and in certain scenes can make a lot of cash.
How much do wedding and party DJs get paid?
People spend big on weddings and the DJ often gets a high fee. There is a lot of work involved by bringing the soundsystem, lights and equipment but the pay off can be worth it. Wedding DJ fees with equipment often start at £500 and will go into the thousands. Specialist music wedding DJs might earn even more, Indian wedding DJs in particular demand high fees.
Typically wedding DJs will offer different tiers or options for the booker. Gold, silver and bronze packages are the most common format.
A gold package might include the DJ, soundsystem, lights, dancefloor, fog machine and DJ equipment and will be the most expensive option. You would expect to pay 1k-5k for this level of service.
A silver package might include some but not all of the options, like the DJ and the soundsystem. You would expect to pay £750-£2000 for this level of service.
A bronze package would be the most budget-friendly option and just be the DJ and their equipment but no sound system or extras. Instead the booker would have to provide those. You would expect to pay £350 minimum for this kind of service but some local DJs might go cheaper, especially for kids birthday parties.
If you've just started out, learnt how to DJ and you're looking for your first DJ gigs you'll more than likely be happy to play for free. DJing in your bedroom is fun but not the goal for most new DJs. DJs want the buzz of playing to a live audience or a packed dancefloor!
Some DJs never even get a gig and might give up. Getting your first DJ gig and DJ experience can be the hardest hurdle for a DJ to traverse. This is why we organise DJ gigs for our DJ course graduates so they can launch their DJ career the fast way with our support and supervision.
How much do Beginner DJs get paid?
If you're a new DJ wondering how much to charge for DJ gigs the general guide for a beginner is £50 an hour but you have to judge it based on the particulars of the opportunity. If you need the experience you might want to play for free just to get on the ladder.
If you're new to the game a promoter might realise that you have more to gain than them so might not offer any payment. Still, if you can haggle a fee try to do so! Failing this you might want to ask for payment in kind, like travel to the gig, beer money etc.
Just make sure you don't fall into the trap of always playing for free. In the long run this is not feasible because you do incur costs DJing. Other than your time, you have music costs to cover, equipment, training, studio time, insurance etc.
It's fine and normal too DJ for free to begin with but make sure you have a clear strategy of how to break away from freebies and into paid work. You don't always want to be the warm-up DJ!