Every October, DJ Magazine – one of the most notable online electronic music publications – has ranked the top 100 DJs on the planet.

The DJ Mag Top 100 is the list that every DJ aspires to see their name on.  Making it anywhere on this list means a lot, and solidifies a DJ’s reputation among the music world.

However, there’s been a lot of controversy about this list since the explosion of EDM. One of the biggest reasons for this is that the voting became integrated with Facebook a few years back.

Since then, the results of the list have merely become user-generated. The biggest concern is that people vote for DJs they know rather than the ones they believe are the most talented. For DJs who are actually talented musicians, social media frustratingly skews the already irrelevant results of this poll. 

If you’ve never voted in this poll, here’s how it works.

  1. You pick your top five favorite electronic artists.

  2. The data is mashed into an algorithm and presented to the world in the form of DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs.

There is no question that this list is merely a popularity contest. But when these results are provided by the best-known source for top DJs in the world, we have no choice but to take the information that is provided. And most importantly, we must take it for what it’s worth.

Since each listener’s taste is distinct, and the wingspan of EDM is so large, results can be difficult to analyze without more insight on the origin of these votes. With an ounce more of transparency, DJ Mag might be able to offer more insight into the actual context behind the voting’s outcome.

There’s a lot of information available to DJ Mag that they don’t share with the world. They can collect and release information based on the voter demographics, geography or even whether or not the voters have any real DJ experience themselves.

Remember, there are always two sides to every story. On one hand, there’s pissed off electronic music fans who want an explanation of the results. On the other, there are business implications to the artists and their management within this raw ranking.

Back in 2011, Dancing Astronaut put together an article about the Top 100 list after David Guetta shockingly snagged the top spot. The piece contained two interviews from well-known DJ’s (producers) Tiesto and Fedde Le Grand – both of whom had differing opinions of the relevance of the ranking.

According to Tiesto, “I think the DJ Mag thing is pretty much irrelevant nowadays… I haven’t looked at it in a couple of years and I can say that it hasn’t really affected my career.”

And according to Fedde Le Grand, “The Top 100 is still very relevant… But I think the far more important thing about the Top 100 is that it’s a poll that’s voted for by people on the ground.”

However, Le Grand goes on to admit, “it is—and always has been—a popularity contest, and I don’t think you can really argue with that in its essence.”

In the world we live in today, there is so much access to data that we can turn into information. Getting our hands on it is half the battle – a battle that’s becoming easier and easier by the hour.

So why isn’t this information ever compiled and presented in a constructive way?

Maybe some people don’t want the information to be public. Fedde also says in the interview with Dancing Astronaut that a lot of promoters in Asia use the raw information on the Top 100 DJs list to indicate the “value” of a DJ. This information can be used for concert promoters to create budgets for festivals and see which of the DJs they can afford to bring for a tour or string of shows.

If someone in Indonesia is going to spend about twice the money to bring an artist to their country, they want to make sure they’re making the right decision. However, this list is the only information they have when estimating both the popularity and cost of a performer.

If you look at some of the top ranked DJs on the list in years past, you can look at some of the venues and festival slots they’ve played as well. This makes it pretty easy to figure out that the spots they hold in this ranking correlate fairly accurately to the price tag on their live set.

In a time where less is more, we really do have to wade through a lot of shit to find the diamonds.

That is the beauty and drawback of the Internet – we have information overload. We can never tell when something is real or fake. This is the reason that authenticity and originality are so highly sought after.

DJ Mag’s infamous list has finally hit a crossroads, and needs to figure out where to go.

Here’s two directions they could go:

  1. Get rid of the ranking part of the list. 

When the list first started in 1993, it was compiled and released in alphabetical order without the 1-100 ranking. This is more of an impartial way to do it, leaving some speculation for the public and not assigning each artist to a spot on a list.

Not to mention, it would eliminate the controversy at the source.

  1. Publish a follow up article containing further demographic information about voters. 

This transparency will give less speculation to the results and give the public a real reason for the outcome. However, there have always been rumors about artists “buying” votes, as well as labels buying votes for certain artists of theirs. If geographic information is released, it may be able to disprove the credibility of some DJs and the list as a whole.

The massive growth of EDM has caused a lot of things to fall behind. Perhaps they are growing pains for the genre, which is moving so fast that we don’t even think of yesterday’s news anymore.

Transparency and authenticity is key. We crave it, we want it, but with all the hype around dance music, we never know if we actually find it.

If DJ Mag wants to truly deliver what they promise with these rankings, they need to first reconsider the way they’re going about it.