DJ Mag Top 100: The greatest campaigns

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Written by:

A controversial talking point within the dance music community, there can be no doubt that DJ Mag‘s Top 100 DJs poll is an enormously successful animal for the magazine. Year after year, with many corners of the EDM community denouncing the poll, with a few iffy positions questioned by critics, the poll returns, harder, better, faster, and stronger. Because the poll is based on a simple style public vote, DJs dump enormous amounts of money into marketing campaigns engineered to get them higher rankings, and a good deal of that money is channeled to the magazine itself.  With DJ Mag‘s sales team encouraging DJs to buy a competitive advantage through banner ads strategically plastered all over the voting page, many have questioned the morality of such packages, and the poll continues to face much hate going into ADE 2018, where the results of the vote, will once again, be revealed.

Introduced in the mid-90s, the poll started as a fun way for the magazine to organize the (then, relatively small) scene of DJs for its growing readership. Originally beginning via postcard vote, the system soon switched to online voting systems, with initial concerns over the fact there was no security, which meant people could submit multiple votes simply by pressing their browser’s back button and voting again.  DJ Mag introduced cookies to combat such fraud, but smart users just cleared their browsers’ caches, until email registration was introduced. A cottage industry has sprung up of companies offering to help DJs get higher rankings. Last year, Gareth Emery received a call from one such company, who warned that unless he took out his wallet, he would find it “hard to compete.”

“I was nearly sick in my mouth,” Gareth Emery wrote on his Facebook page in 2013, as referred to a call he received from a company who told him that unless he took out his wallet, he would find it tough to compete. As things turned out, Gareth still ended up at No. 51 on the 2013 poll.

The poll face further controversy in 2015, when Belgian duo Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike surged up to the Number #1 position after a series of rumors from Tomorrowland festival goers, who had told them that Tomorrowland staff had forced them to vote for the duo via an iPad which was being passed round the event. The fact that Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike happen to be managed by Tomorrowland’s promoters, ID&T, seemed like the fitting finale in the puzzle when the vote results were announced in October 2015.  Despite these controversies, the poll remains an integral part of the industry, with many festival promoters and booking agents basing the order of their headliners, or even the names they choose to book – on the rankings of the poll. USA based clubs, Las Vegas particularly, prioritize these numbers to advertise the act to potential clients.

Whatever you think of the vote, as an artist, the gap between voting opening in July and the announcement of the results in October, is a vital one to your career, and how to grow yourself as a brand, and truly kickstart your career in a way not seen before. From Tiësto’s promise to ‘make trance again’ in 2013, a year in which it was ironically his protege, Hardwell, who scooped the gong, to Nicky Romero’s ‘Call Nicky’ campaign, the past half decade have seen an array of inspiration campaigns that should influence your own ideas when it comes to marketing. For those who write the poll off as “irrelevant,” it’s important to note that its popularity and influence cannot be underestimated. Facebook comments alone on last year’s poll clocked in around the 23,000 mark. Artists spend thousands of dollars on publicity campaigns. In the same way that artists use “Grammy-winning” or “Mercury Prize-nominated” before their names in bios, rankings in the poll still impart an edge of legitimacy. (“No. 1 DJ in the world” does have a nice ring to it). Some campaigns can be a tad boring, but the ones that possess that creative spark will stay with you forever. Here we take a look at some of the greatest DJ Mag Top 100 campaigns of all time.

It is dizzying to think about the progression of DJ Hardwell‘s career. The Dutch star, known to his family as Robbert van de Corput, has dazzled global audiences from Australia to Argentina and London to Los Angeles with his high octane sets, achieving multiple chart rushing singles such as ‘Never Say Goodbye’ and ‘Dare You’. However, knowing Robbert’s dislike for daring extreme sports, childhood friend and instigator, Skiandre, made a bet that should Hardwell make #1 in the Top 100 DJ poll, he and a group of his closest friends would jump thousands of feet from an airplane to celebrate. When Hardwell was approached with this challenge, he was a little more than nervous. Offering a glimpse into the superstar’s world, speaking candidly about their relationship and the origins of the pact, the video shows Hardwell and his best friends Adithya (aka Kill the Buzz), Rick, Mattijs (his manager) and Skiandre as they turn a tough bet into a reality. “I foolishly made a bet with some friends that if I ever won the Top 100 DJ Poll, I’d jump out of a plane.” said Hardwell.

“At the time, I really didn’t think it would happen, but when it did—whilst I was truly blown away and so thankful—a small part of me knew that my friends would soon be calling me up to cash in that bet! I jumped out of that plane, and man, it was scary! I loved it afterward, but to begin with, I was so nervous.”

Facing his fears in such a manner was not only a highly amusing video for his fans, but also offered a personal insight into his life, his fears, and helped him form a closer personal connection with his fanbase. The video saw Hardwell’s popularity soar further, with the Dutch juggernaut winning the accolade once again in 2014.

Say what you will about their production ‘SELFIE’ and the track’s critique of modern-day culture, but there’s no doubting that it elevated the boys into the limelight in a manner that they could never have anticipated. Even their marketing campaign for this very poll reached six figures on YouTube — proof indeed that Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall are big business right now. Realising where their strengths lie, the duo told fans there was no DJ better than themselves, with a huge poster of Tiesto’s face behind them, before launching into Crimewatch-style videos of ‘witnesses’ who had not voted for them – and the consequences for their actions. From child actors to some CGI cloning, the whole video is worth a watch, but the simplest idea wins the prize. We could watch the duo pull that blind down on Tiësto’s gargantuan Vegas billboard all day long.

Creating a funny mockumentary series which tooks things one step further into the realms of realism, trance trio Above & Beyond created a special character named ‘Clive Rudloe’ who has previously ‘won the best DJ in the year award’. With Clive actually appearing on stage and gatecrashing the group’s set at London’s iconic Ministry of Sound club, the group released a follow-up video a year later profiling Rudloe’s demise since that night, roping in comedian Matt Lucas for a cameo. The video showed that the Anjuna bosses don’t take themselves too seriously but also managed to include quotes which paid tribute to their enormous year, such as ‘I know Above & Beyond played to 1 million people in Brazil last year but I’ve played to more than 1 million combined at weddings.’

In a campaign entitled #callnicky – fans were invited to interact with the star by entering their phone number at Moments later, Nicky Romero is seen via video – there are nine scenarios in total – dialing the number followed by what appears to be a live conversation with the caller. In what is a flawless process where voice and video are in total synchronicity, Protocol Management, Romero and with the help of Anglo/Dutch creative agency DARE TO DIFR created a truly engaging experience for fans. Explaining the concept, Jorik van de Pol, A&R and Digital Director at Protocol Management said: “We as a team tried to come up with an idea that would really set us apart from what anyone else does at this time of year, and over the next three months a much bigger story will unfold. For Nicky and for us, fan engagement at everything we do is our priority and so rather than repeatedly asking fans to vote for Nicky, it was about giving people the opportunity to play with something over a period of time.” Romero then followed up the campaign with the addictive 8-bit video game Play Nicky, endearing himself to his fans even further.

With the DJ Mag Top 100 voting now in full swing, you can take inspiration from these campaigns to further your own career ahead of the big results announcement in October.