The concept of dividing creative works of art into a ranked, quantitative list is a complicated one. Done by any one person, it can only be looked at as a harmless, subjective ordering based on personal preference. Done by a large group of people with a wide array of tastes and criteria, it becomes a broader representation of the greater societal opinion. If this process is carried out without outside intervention, and is aimed strictly at creating an informative survey, there’s nothing to condemn. However, once the positions on these charts are something to be fought over using money and shameless pleas all in the name of plastering the brand of those hosting the competition itself, it becomes something worthy of conversation.
It’s that special time of year again. The stockings are hung on the mantle, children are dreaming of sugar plum fairies, and DJ Mag’s Top 100 List is stomping its way through crowded city streets, rearing its ugly head to howl at the blood moon before it lays waste to all that is holy. What began as a fun and semi-respected ranking has since transformed into a despicable misrepresentation of the electronic music scene. As of 2010, the year DJ Mag decided to open up voting to the public, the “top DJs” now consist almost entirely of those who can expose themselves the most. The competition does not bring in new fans, nor scales them based on production or mixing talent. Today, whoever can reach the largest audience through social media will earn the coveted spot.
(Columns represent 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places for the given year)
During the last ten years, there have been a total of eight DJs in the Top 3 spots. The popularity contest is dominated by the few, following cringeworthy campaigns for votes and attention. Some artists even pay exorbitant amounts of money to officially promote themselves on social media. Borrowing from the Huffington Post‘s conversation with Gareth Emery, we can see just how ridiculous this battle can get.
Just took a bizarre unsolicited phone call from a publicity company who help DJs promote themselves for the Top 100 poll, who told me I should be aware one of my ‘competitors’ (as she put it) was spending $15,000 on Twitter advertising alone, and unless I got on that sort of level, I would find it ‘hard to compete’. Obviously not going to say who the DJ was, but I was nearly sick in my mouth.
The artists themselves usually go about advertising the competition in one of two ways: 1) They grovel and plead to their wide follower bases with pictures, jokes, memes, links, and repost after retweet on all platforms, feeding DJ Mag’s brand and prevalence on the feeds, or 2) they portray themselves as “too cool” to reduce themselves to such a level while discussing the list’s flaws and irrelevance, despite having no chance of winning even if they wanted to. Regardless, whichever road they choose, the result is the same: more attention directed toward DJ Mag’s list.
So, how do we take the influence away from this list and stop the ongoing seagulls-from-Finding–Nemo-esque barrage of shameless self promotion? WE STOP TALKING ABOUT IT. This will take a complicated and coordinated effort from fans and artists alike. It’ll go like this: if you find yourself at your keyboard about to post a status asking for votes or voting yourself, just don’t.
In this circumstance, we, the people, hold the real power. We are the currency, the ones that feed the competition and take part in the battle. We are the ones who can end the whole thing simply by ignoring it. And, we are the ones who will undoubtedly secure Hardwell and Tiësto somewhere in the top 3 again this year, for the millionth time. It’s up to us to direct the attention away from the Top 100. If, next year, we cut it out with the retweets and the votes and the arguments and conversations, and just let the competition slide right over us, DJ Mag will be forced to change.