How are DJs coping with Covid-19?

Lashonde Lavelle Christian
October 19, 2020
4 minutes
One of the biggest setbacks to the music industry and pretty much everything else this year, as we’re all pretty well informed by now, is Covid-19.
From musicians to everyone involved in it, it is clear that many have taken such a hit from this pandemic, especially, but not limited to, DJs. From having most clubs, bars and lounges closed because of the virus, DJs are finding it especially difficult to survive amidst this very trying time.

You see, DJs receive their hard-earned money by several methods:-


Undoubtedly one of the biggest percentages of their salary, gigs is the main avenue for DJs to procure some good money. Whether its corporate or private bookings, weddings, playing at bars, clubs, lounges, or tutorials and masterclasses, a DJ’s salary depends highly on their ability to go out there and make themselves be known.


Besides that, another portion of a DJ’s income also comes from streaming. It’s common knowledge, that as a musician, your top priority, should be to release music. A lot of DJs release their own music onto, first websites and then streaming services, so that their music reaches the masses.
With the rise in websites today, many DJs release tracks without a publishing deal, and 100% of that profit goes directly to them. However though, it isn't the same for DJs whose music reaches streaming platforms. Segregating profits to producers, aggregators and also third parties, DJs unfortunately get a very small portion of income from their own music.

Image via Unsplash


Licensing/Stock Music

Another way DJs make their dough, is by doing licensing. This basically just means people paying DJs to use their music. It could be films, TV or video games, but selling it to them, would inherently increase a DJ’s music sales and gigs. Sometimes, it can also be from using it for YouTube or podcasts.  DJs will be able to sell their music to anyone who would like to buy it. By releasing them onto the Internet, owners of YouTube or podcast channels, may also opt to purchase said music to use for their videos and sessions.

Image via Unsplash

Ghost Producing

Another means for selling music, ghost producing is done specifically for artists that are interested in the music released by DJs. Some DJs may request to be credited upon the release of the song, but most of the time, their identity remains a secret, and the rights to the track goes entirely to the artist.


DJs also get paid by getting a club/bar/lounge, where they can do a regular residency at. A more stable way to garner income, a lucky few are given the chance to play one place regularly, based on a set schedule. Calvin Harris for instance, signed a $385 million residency deal in 2018 in Vegas, to play only once a night!

Image via Unsplash

Shows, Videos & Podcasts

Many DJs also earn their money by doing radio shows, videos on YouTube and their own podcasts. By commandeering radio shows, doing video interviews and answering questions on YouTube as well as speaking on specific topics via podcasts, DJs are able to engage their audiences, as a means to widen their fanbase. Some famous podcasts include, Clublife (podcast by Tisto) and Identity Sander van Doorn from the Netherlands.

Branching Out

Last but not least, is branching out. Some DJs go the extra mile to get themselves noticed. Whether it’s by endorsing a certain product, partnering with major businesses and influencing people or selling their own merchandise, this method, has also been another avenue for DJs to get paid.

Image via Unsplash
Based on all those methods, it is beyond a doubt that DJs have many means to get their pay. However, the most prominent way is still going out into the world and doing sets, so that people not only hear, but get to experience it, which has unfortunately come to a sudden halt.
Of course, some of the most famous and richest DJs around, don’t have much to worry about, given the fact that they already have a fanbase who can very much show their support virtually/online. But, for those small time DJs, local or international, who earn their money going from event to event, it is quite evident that they’re probably taking the brunt of Covid-19.

Based on stats, the top 15 DJs in 2019 earned an average of USD $23.8 million dollars a year. Unfortunately, as numbers show, all the other DJs have only earned the most, about an average of USD $58,000, this year. With such a huge gap between the two, we’re probably not assuming when we say that it’s a tough climate for less popular DJs to be stuck in right now.  
So, how are they dealing with it?
Well, one of the main ways that DJs are improvising in 2020, to make ends meet, is by, turning online. Since Covid-19, many DJs, just like a lot of musical artists, have gotten creative and streamed their live sets online. From Facebook, to Instagram, YouTube and Twitch, these online set shows have certainly brought in a larger audience than expected. For instance, one live set for Easter in the UK, actually attracted up to 3.5 million views!
Image via BBC
"People want the community vibe. They can get dressed up and dance around with their self-isolating friends. It's just a chance to forget about this weird virus for now. Playing live is a great experience so I wouldn't want to be DJing to a camera for the rest of my life - but you can be a bit experimental.”, said one DJ.
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Although most of the shows are free, some DJs also sell tickets to their online sets as a means to fundraise.
In Malaysia, 124 DJs came together to do a non-stop livestream for 228 hours straight to break some records and keep things exciting for themselves and their audience. Showcasing their set seamlessly, the live challenge was done with no breaks whatsoever!
More here

Image via Borneo Post Online

Besides playing for an online audience, DJs are also tuning into the other various ways they can earn. Ghost producing, releasing music, whether it’s for themselves, or for others, vlogging, online DJ lessons, starting up a website or a writing blog on all things DJing, and basically anything their creative minds can conjure up, in order to survive the horrid nosedive the music industry, has taken today.