DJ Mag's 2015 Top 100 DJs poll has sparked a heated debate about what's considered ethical campaigning for DJ rankings. DJs and PR agencies are trying to beat the system by reducing the poll down to whoever has the biggest budget and best promotion tactics.
Why are DJs going to great - sometimes arguably unethical - lengths to promote themselves in the DJ Mag poll? The fact of the matter is, this poll DOES matter, whether we like it or not. It does have weight and power in the industry. The top ranking DJs in this year's poll are the very artists that will be topping the 2016 lineups of EDM's most prized events.
This means that fans taking the time to go online and vote for the DJ they believe truly deserves it is more important than ever. At the same time, we think fans need to be informed about what DJs are doing to "buy" votes so that they can make their own educated decisions.
Hardwell, ranked No. 1 DJ in 2013 and 2014, and his fellow Revealed Recordings artist, Dannic, recently responded on Twitter to a particular tactic being used by Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike's team, and several other artists, to earn votes in the current DJ Mag poll.
Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike have not only been making sure to remind fans to vote for them live during their performances, but they actually have a promo team - reportedly comprised of attractive, underclothed females - that has been hitting the streets at big EDM events with iPads so they could persuade passersby to cast votes for the Greek/Belgian duo.
In 2013, English DJ Gareth Emery also shed light on questionable DJ Mag campaign spending. In an official statement, Emery actually asked fans NOT to vote for him after a publicity company that tried to sell him a PR package and even disclosed how much money DJs were pouring into social media campaigns to improve their ranking in the poll.
“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."
He went on to say he'd rather his fans vote for him through buying tickets to his shows, supporting his music and sharing it with friends - these are the only votes that matter to Emery, he said. But he didn't stop there...
"If you did plan on voting for me, give that vote instead to the DJs you see spending their money on promoted tweets, sponsored stories, banner adverts, rebranded twitter pages, etc. If they care that much about their number, just let them have it.
In return for your non-votes, rather than spend an amount on a campaign that would probably buy a school in Africa, I am going to donate the same amount to charity, and maybe some good can come out of this."
Emery promised he would post his own poll the next day so fans could vote on which charity he would donate $15,000 to, and that's exactly what he did.
While we can't help but applaud Gareth for his philanthropy and courage to take a stance against an increasingly corrupt system, allowing DJs buy their votes and "let them have it" is not the answer.
While impressive DJ Mag rankings result in bigger, better bookings, prime time slots and higher booking fees, we can't assume that a DJ's intentions with running an expensive DJ Mag poll campaign are purely for the money and fame. Some DJs could simply be trying to reach a larger audience so they can impact more people with their music.
What can be done to ensure the DJ Mag poll is based on music and not how much money was spent on a campaign? Maybe DJ Mag could look into somehow regulating campaigns or at least requiring DJs to disclose what money is being spent and how, similar to the way corporations are required to do so in political elections. While lobbying group Citizens United defends the right of unrestricted independent political spending, we - the fans - can develop our own regulations for EDM's annual election.
Whether regulation is a possibility or not, we must remember that all hope is not lost. No matter how ridiculously corrupt a political election or DJ poll can become, constituents and fans still have a voice.
Voters need to take the time to make an informed decision, asking themselves "Why am I voting for this person?" Then, after the polls have closed, constituents and fans can continue to vote with their dollars - whether by avoiding certain corporations that back particular political views or buying records and tickets to shows.