Teacher explains why DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJ poll is an ineffective assessment

Every year, nearly one million votes are cast to determine who “makes the cut” for DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJ poll. For roughly three months, dance music fans from around the world, log-on through Facebook to vote and choose who they believe they think deserves to be the top five artists for that year.

For those who take part in the voting process, it becomes a fun form of entertainment to see how their chosen artists are placed each year,  but for the artists themselves, there has been an increase in the amount of pressure due to the fact that the poll has become the quintessential marker for “who’s hot” and “who’s not” in the dance music industry.

Not only is this poll used as an earmark to determine how successful they are in their careers, but it is further used by booking agents and talent buyers as a tool to gauge the artist’s booking fees.  Therefore, for the artists themselves, their careers are literally affected by it, while the reveal of the results turning into a worldwide spectacle at The Amsterdam Dance Event only further adds to the pressure as many watch on live streams and the news is picked up by practically every major music outlet in the world.

These artists work tirelessly throughout the year away from their families and friends, sometimes for months at a given time; therefore, in all fairness to them, one would think that the assessment system in place would be a fair one. However, DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJ poll is glaringly flawed.  For the purposes of explaining why, let’s look toward the laws which have been mandated by the United States Department of Eduction to determine if DJ Mag’s assessment is one that is effective.

What makes an effective assessment?

Under “The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965,” an effective assessment must be one that is: valid, reliable, fair, and align to specific standards in accordance to what is being assessed.

Is the assessment valid?

Valid assessments set criteria and clearly explain standards. DJMag’s Top 100 DJ poll is trying to determine who, “The World’s Top 100 DJs are.”

Because the term DJ is so “vague” and never clearly defined with any set standards by DJ Mag, when voting in the annual poll, there is no real evidence to say if whether or not we are all voting for the same thing.  My definition of “The World’s Best DJ” could potentially be very well different from someone else’s definition. There is a certain level of ambiguity to what one is effectively trying to measure.

While I might vote for Nervo for their profound songwriting and vocal ability, someone else may vote for Steve Aoki due to the showmanship he has with his audience live, while another person may vote for Fedde Le Grand due to his consistency of high caliber releases. In this example, clearly everyone is voting for separate things.

A-Trak says it best in an interview in 2014 when he stated, “I remember when my aunts and uncles found out I was a DJ they assumed I was the guy talking on the radio. So to define who we were, we called ourselves turntablists” (DJTechTools.com).

Using these as examples prove how one can easily misconstrue information if it is not adequately explained properly. Because the current poll in place lacks any set criteria to determine what its voters are trying to measure, those who are voting, are voting “blindly.” There are a myriad of different reasons why somebody might vote for a particular artist.

What standards are we then using to define “The Greatest DJs in the World?”

  • Is it based on record sales?
  • Stage presence?
  • Mixing ability?
  • Productions released over a given year?
  • Podcasts?

Because of this lack of information, the assessment is deemed invalid.

Is the assessment reliable?

When looking at the assessment in the terms of reliability, which is found when one achieves the same results when the assessment is duplicated amongst different groups of people. From a reliable stand-point, the poll’s reliability is up for speculation.

You see, one cannot even attempt to recreate the voting process even if one tried due to the lack of transparency in addressing how votes are even calculated in the first place, which further adds to the assessment’s faults.

The Importance of Transparency used in Assessments

Transparency adds to an assessment’s credibility, which is particularly why The Recording Academy’s voting process for the Grammy Awards is so revered.  Not only does The Recording Academy clearly state how it comes to its results, but it also has a strict procedure in order to gain the right to vote and limits the voting process to only those who make the music themselves. Therefore, those who know music, are those who vote, further adding to why it is held to such an esteemed regard, because those who are awarded were chosen by the music makers themselves.

No disrespect to those who vote every year in DJ Mag’s poll, but to play devil’s advocate, does everyone voting know enough about dance music to adequately judge or assess, “The World’s Best DJ?” and is it then fair for an artist’s career to be judged by those who might not even know dance music that well?

Is the assessment fair?

Transparency and clear objectives allow for everyone to know what is expected of them to succeed.  Because there is a lack of transparency and no clear objectives defined with the poll, even if an artist wanted to try to improve so that they are ranked higher the next year around, they don’t even know what they need to do in order to achieve these results.  There is no feedback given for them each year, which further adds to the unfairness of the current system in place.

If one can’t even discernibly tell them what they need to do to effectively improve, then how is it then fair to publicly slander them in saying that they “dropped down to a certain level” in their career?

And lastly, to make one final point, to think that documenting an IP address is going to stop anyone from creating multiple Facebook accounts and voting numerous times over and over again, then Darwin himself would laugh at you in your face. Their livelihood is affected by this system, which is why if there’s an assessment system in place, it needs to be a fair one.

For if we are not even allowing children to be subjected to unfair assessments in schools, then why are the careers of music professionals being critiqued by an assessment that is invalid, unreliable, and unfair?

Or perhaps as a society we have placed too much importance on measuring results that we have forgotten to just sit back and enjoy the music.


Freter, Matthew. “Are You Really DJing? A-Trak and the ‘Real DJing’ Debate.” DJ TechTools, 23 Oct. 2014, djtechtools.com/2014/10/23/are-you-really-djing-a-trak-and-the-real-djing-debate/.

“GRAMMY Awards Voting Process.” GRAMMY.com, 11 Oct. 2017, www.grammy.com/grammys/awards/voting-process.

“Title I – Improving The Academic Achievement Of The Disadvantaged.” Home, The United States Department of Education, 19 Dec. 2005, www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/pg2.html.