Do We Need An Alternative Top 100 DJs List?

Nov 5, 2021

Arielle LeJarde

3 min read

Every year, as the dance music community looks through DJ Mag’s Top 100 list, it’s never a surprise to see David Guetta at the top. Shoutout to his family. The whole industry relishes poking fun at the list, will the full understanding that we should take it with a grain of salt. But are these lists actually necessary to begin with?

Inspired by Twitter user TokenOfTheMonth, who posts pie charts breaking down the diversity (or lack of) of major festival lineups, I took the liberty of tallying up the racial demographics of this year’s list. Excluding the four anonymous artists (those whose identities are withheld from public knowledge), the racial breakdown is the following:

The “alternative” list, DJMag explains, is “a sister poll that uses Top 100 DJs voting data alongside insights from Beatport to recognize the achievements of DJs from genres recently underrepresented in the main poll including house, techno and drum & bass." It was started in 2018 as EDM artists began to dominate the once prestigious list of dance music’s best selectors. Yet after a year of civil unrest due to racial injustice, is this the alternative we really need?

In 2020 the industry promised to do better. Is this the response we need to each year’s practically unchanging white-washed list? Dance music is made up of so many uncharted territories. Full of diverse artists that don't get nearly the recognition they deserve. These lists could be a way to give a elevate musicians from all over the globe who have pioneered different genres as well as continue to innovate, expand, and trailblaze all facets of the scene.

This isn’t to say that those in either list don’t deserve the hype. They get millions of streams for a reason. But if the point of the alternative list is to acknowledge how male and white-dominated the industry is, why not utilize these high-traffic pages as a vehicle to dive deep into what makes dance music unique—jam-packed with heterogeneity and ingenuity—and push the scene forward?

DJ Mag is also one of the most powerful publications in dance music. One can argue that it does give agency to the people through voting. But when these superlative lists are created—with the knowledge that the industry is broken—the initiative should be taken to make a change that’s more inclusive.

Earlier this year, the GRAMMYs announced that it’ll be the first major award show to implement an inclusion rider. Similarly, the Recording Academy determines the nominations through peer-to-peer voting.

We can scream and shout about dance music being a scene created by Black, Latino, and Queer pioneers all we want, but if we don’t see some actual equity initiatives soon, it’ll just be words with no action.

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