ID&T founder Duncan Stutterheim discusses sky high booking fees: ‘DJs who ask for so much money are killing their own business’
It was only days ago that Hakkasan Group unveiled Omnia Nightclub — the latest addition to the less than two-year old Hakkasan Nightclub in Vegas — giving the Abu Dhabi-based brand a stronghold on much of the Strip’s most coveted performing talent, including Afrojack, Armin van Buuren, Tiësto, Hardwell, Nicky Romero, Martin Garrix, Krewella, Steve Aoki, Above & Beyond and more. Also included in Hakkasan Group’s beaming list of DJ residencies is Calvin Harris, who caused waves of shock when news of his freshly inked three-year deal reportedly showed that the Scottish producer will earn $400,000 per performance.
Discussion behind the rapidly soaring earnings of DJs is nothing new: Forbes named Harris, David Guetta, Avicii and Tiësto as the “Electronic Cash Kings” of 2013, citing millions of dollars worth in earnings for each in only one year.
According to ID&T founder Duncan Stutterheim, it’s exactly these steep prices that top-tier DJs are setting that are pushing the EDM bubble to burst. “The most popular 10% take 90% of the pie,” he explained in Dutch at the annual Noorderslag Seminar in Groningen in The Netherlands. “Of course, they make music and do it well. But it must remain in balance, and that is now gone. It’s now so much about money that everything has changed. It also comes at the expense of the festival experience. With these high wages, less remains for good sound [design], lighting, and decoration. It makes festivals less attractive.”
Just as Stutterheim explains, even the most renowned festivals have seen the effects of the spike in cost. In 2014, Ultra Music Festival — known to bring hundreds of the electronic music sphere’s hottest acts to Miami in late March — saw their general admission prices jump $100 from the previous year, making the tickets (with service charges and shipping) a total of $504.95. VIP ticket price tags sat at a lofty $849.95 — neither of which included budget for travel or lodging.
In 2000, UMF tickets barely grazed $50. The explanation, Stutterheim points out, is not only the explosion of dance music popularity, but specifically of EDM DJs. Without question, the highest wages go to DJs like Harris, Avicii, and Martin Garrix: producers that create music tailored to glitzy clubs and big room festivals. “It’s stupid of those DJs to ask for so much [because] they’ll lose a large part of their audience. You will see that organizers, especially new, look for alternatives.” However, Stutterheim foresees an impending dilemma as all subgenres of electronic music grow in popularity. “The bad thing is that genres like techno and tech house are now becoming more popular in the US. The best DJs playing now all ask [for] sums of twenty, thirty, or forty thousand euros.”
The problem, as Stutterheim seems to allude, arises mainly from demand in the US. “For festivals like Mysteryland in The Netherlands, we never pay a DJ tens of thousands of dollars. But SFX, our parent company in the US, does. Especially because the prices in EDC in Las Vegas have pushed us to do so.”
As a chilling parting sentiment, Stutterheim went on to forewarn what will inevitably happen when the bubble bursts: “Festivals are no longer given: Global Gathering in England has cancelled the edition for 2015 and announced a return in 2016 without EDM. DJs who ask for so much money are [killing] their own business.”
This article’s source is originally written in Dutch. Quotes have been transcribed to the closest possible English translation.