How To Make $20 Million A Year As An Electronic Musician

DJ Tiesto

Want to make $20 million a year as an electronic musician?

Here’s the secret…..

Be Tiësto.

Though Tiësto, the stage name of the Dutch disc jockey, producer and composer Tijs Michiel Verwest, has never had a crossover radio hit and his solo albums sell modestly, his annual income apparently exceeds $20 million.

“Yeah. Could be that,” says Tiësto. “Before taxes and costs.”

How does that work? It’s not all hanging with scantilly clad babes and DJing with both hands in the air, is it?

Long version, via the Wall Street Journal:

On tour, Tiësto is relentless. In March he performed in El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru and Argentina on consecutive nights. The week prior to Ultra he was on stage in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and two nights later in Utrecht, the Netherlands, about an hour from Breda, his birthplace. After leaving Miami, he performed on Saturday at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J., and he’s booked at U.S. venues every night this week.

“When I tour, I tour hard,” he said. “On some airlines, I’m platinum for life. But now I use a private jet. It makes a big difference. Otherwise, I couldn’t do it.”

Now 42 years old, Tiësto has been performing since the mid 1980s, spinning prerecorded music and creating mixes in clubs. A classically trained pianist, he began releasing his own dance recordings in the early ’90s. “There was no money to be made back then,” he said. “It was to travel the world, to be relevant.” His philosophy is basic: “You must as well enjoy your life. If you can make your hobby a job, you’re in good shape.”

On the basis of his remix albums and his marathon shows—a six-hour solo set was a habit for Tiësto for a while—the British monthly dance publication DJ magazine named him the world’s top DJ for three consecutive years beginning in 2002. (DJ Magazine is now published in 11 languages, including Chinese.) In 2004, Tiësto provided the music for the Parade of Nations during the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, thus introducing his music to a world-wide television audience. Three years later, he played Coachella’s main stage, which is usually reserved for A-list rock stars.

There’s a lesson in there about persevering, working hard and dedicating your life to your music.

But we’re still not sure about the DJing with your hands in the air thing.

11 thoughts on “How To Make $20 Million A Year As An Electronic Musician

  1. I'd say it has less to do with perseverance and more with marketing and being willing to do things that others won't. It always annoys me to see artists who portray their successes as purely the result of hard work and talent, when luck and marketing are equally important. It's understandable thinking: none of us want to believe that our successes in life are the result of luck, rather than just being better than the rest. I don't say this to be cynical, but honest – there are many talented DJs and musicians who languish in obscurity because they can't (or won't) play the game like that.

    Tiësto markets himself as a rock star DJ, with arena shows, a catwalk, etc. People go to a Tiësto show for the spectacle. It's neither a good nor a bad thing, but it's the source of his success.

  2. Yeah but just as bad as the myth of "it's all hard work" about successful artists there's also a myth that "he's just a genius and it comes naturally to him" which the guys who sell that myth are also full of it and are worse in my opinion because they mislead kids. Young people hear that nonsense and think "well. i tried for 6 months and didn't become a god, i guess i don't have it" when in reality you need to spend years working.

  3. Perseverance, talent, marketing, and a willingness to whore oneself are all great! But even with scads of all 4, there is no guarantee of success in the music business. The best you can do is optimize your chances.

  4. Yeah, it's a lot like starting a business. You could come up with a new idea and then some other guy comes in and takes over your niche, or consumer tastes change you can't sell your product anymore, etc. or you could get lucky and start your business at the right time and it becomes huge. But I think the harder you work the luckier you get. Look at the social networking sites. Myspace was the first to get big but face it myspace was atrocious and really became unusable and they didn't do anything to clean it up till it was too late. Meanwhile niche blog sites like Xanga never put in the work or had a strategy to break out of their original demographic until it was too late. Facebook came in late but took over because it did a lot of things right.

    But anyways, I think anyone who develops professional level music skills will be able to make a living in music. They might not get rich but they won't have to flip burgers either. There are a lot of folks out there who like to make excuses like "it's not fair i never got my big break, it's all luck, etc." but you have to be honest to yourself and ask if you really were at a professional level and doing everything you could to be your best?

  5. the other thing that's needed is that you really have to SUCK. you could argue that i'm jealous, and you'd be partially correct. but on a broad level I think I make a point. i mean, have we really heard a lot of truly great music from higher paid, higher profile artists these days?

  6. Armin Van Buuren has some quote where he talks about a lot of his base being 'arm chair' ravers . . . Teisto prolly has a similar base.

  7. I bet being a good looking Dutch guy probably doesn't hurt. If he looked like Danny DeVito, he may have a harder go of it. Also what kind of economic background does he have? I've known more than a few success stories that started with a huge trust fund. Never really dug his music, but thats okay, he's in very popular company.

  8. Tiesto has worked hard creating his company and is still doing so. Underneath those fancy DJ t-shirts is a clever business-man working hard to build his empire. At some point he would have had to sacrifice his musical tastes because he cared more about his empire. Would you do this?

    It is hard to find artists who have such worldwide success and still have the underground croud behind them. They keep true to themselves, do not play the fame game and therefore always remain popular underground where they belong. Peace

  9. even though this story has past a couple of months…I would like to comment,………
    sponsorship and touring is where all the money comes from…..def not record sales….is it a sell out??everyone has to decide for themselves….gone R the days when someone like the KLF could put out a dance record and not tour and make money….
    over and out!

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