How did Adam Wiles become the richest DJ in the world as ‘Calvin Harris’?

100% pure grinding – and a true passion for the art.

Originally named Adam Wiles, he worked at a Scottish grocery store in 2004.  He lived with his parents and had dreams of being a musician. How did he get from there to making $63 million last year and dating Taylor Swift?   Results not typical, right?  But …  if you really get into this art of being a DJ…  I mean, even a fraction of that is more than a LOT of people make in a lifetime!

His marked entrance into mainstream popularity began about 10 years ago.  After producing a remix of All Saints’ single “Rock Steady”, his effort started to spread with popularity.

 

        

 

Enter the remix producer  <  Sample someone else’s hit, edit, enhance, back-beat, add personal flavor and release.  With some legal checks on copyright approvals of course.

Honestly, with enough time and practice you really only need a computer.  I’ve remixed several songs this way over the years, just for fun.  With sampling machines, keyboards, beat machines, and SO many options, this is a very realistic goal for nearly any DJ.

Dovetailing with remix producing, Calvin’s popularity began to trend up as a hired DJ.  To date, this is his regular job (paired with producing in his spare time) making up for a large portion of his $63 million earned in 2016.  Armed with a DJ Controller, USB stick and headphones..  this is the modern DJ’s lifestyle.

His fee is in the mid 6 figure (~$500k) range for playing night clubs.  To play a music festival, his fee rises to 7 figures.  Yes, that is at least 1 million dollars for a few days work.

Should you start learning a craft like this?  At the bare minimum, you’ll have a lot of fun.  You could start playing local parties.  You could start charging a fee.  Your name could explode if you do well and network a bit.

Step 1…   Be a couch DJ.

Step 2…   Invest in and learn a DJ Controller.

It won’t happen over night.  But if you get into it, you could have a lot of fun and start making extra cash on the weekends.  Meet a lot of people.  Networking.  The sky is the limit right?   You have to commit to it and cut your teeth in the art.  Develop your style.  Make sure it works for you and an audience.   Go get ’em, tiger.

Ever since I bought my first DJ controller (Numark MixTrack Pro 2), I’ve been hella hooked!  Well that, and using the DJAY app for fun on my iPAD…  which I actually used during a live gig a couple of times (line level input to my DJ Controller board from iPAD stereo output port) and it worked quite well.

 

DJ Controller Price Ranges

Budget $200

This style of DJ controller is an extension of whatever hardware you are going to run it with.  It will enable you to perform the core essentials of being a DJ:

–   Mixing a song into another with a smooth transition

–   Microphone plug-in to be able to communicate to your audience thru the speaker outputs

–   Headphones jack to be able to queue up additional songs and prepare a transition

The controller is typically USB powered and can usually connect to a smart phone, tablet or laptop.  It is really only an input device for software on the device you will be using it with.  Think of a computer keyboard in a similar way.  It sends signals and data to your computer, is interpreted by the software (keyboard driver) on your computer and then does something.

I personally had the Numark Mixtrack Pro 2 and found it to be a great starter kit to get going and see if I liked playing with DJ stuff.   The controller board typically needs a software license upgrade (you usually get a trial) if you are going to be using it on a laptop.   I’ve heard of people getting them to work on an iPad and will research that more if you want.   Leave a comment below if you are interested in using this with an iPad or other tablet and I’ll check into it and post a blog update.

       

 

Budget – $300

DJ controllers within this budget are geared towards laptop DJ’s.  The controller board is effectively a precision piece of hardware built to let you control your music collection on your laptop.   In general it allows for better inputs and outputs to the DJ board (headphones jack sizes, microphone inputs, phantom mic options, XLR outputs to jack into professional speakers, line level inputs, etc.).    The controller requires software on your laptop in order to function.  Normally the controller is bundled with intro software.  The two best versions of software I have seen are Serato DJ and Rekordbox.  It makes sense that rekordbox will reign supreme since Pioneer has some of the top DJ controllers on the market and this is their software, launched around 2015 and receiving several updates since then.

   

 

 

Budget $800

This price range of DJ Controller boards includes the best of the best for still being an input device for a laptop or other type of software interface.  The features are very rich, add travel convenience for overall needed gear and allow for excellent performance, control and timing.  One of my favorite features is the on-board track hot spots that I can mark ahead of time including marking a looping section.  If a looping section is marked, it is depicted by a yellow pad instead of other colors.  Additionally, the sampling features are nice to have and quickly accessible from the hardware.

   

I know what you’re thinking.  Why is the RR controller about $100 more?    The out-of-the-box licensed Rekordbox software package and the controller board have more features.  In the end, I upgraded to the DDJ-RR from my Numark MixTrack Pro 2.  It is a very solid piece of equipment.  One of the main benefits I like is having XLR outputs on the back of it so I don’t need to bring an audio interface with me to run my speakers with.  The DDJ-RR does it all for me and acts as the sound card for my laptop as well.

 

 

Budget Under $2000

All-in-One DJ Controllers.  This type of DJ controller does not require any laptop or other device in order to use.  However, you can if you want to.  Typically, you can use a computer to help configure the controller, playlists, scratch settings and various other tweaks to your planned events.   The music media is primarily loaded onto USB flash drives keeping your luggage very lightweight and easily manageable.

Either you are a rich kid, aspiring enthusiast or a pro that wants to make it big in the DJ world.  Professional DJs can make a TON of money playing gigs around the world and feeling like they live the life of a rock star.    The hardware in this price range is the best of the best in the industry.  It requires considerable time to master but in large part the functionality on these controllers can translate very well from lower price ranges.   To be clear, if you’re using another lower level controller board and want to upgrade to this level, several features will be similar.  Having said that, additional features on higher end models like LCD screens help you navigate your set list without needing a laptop.

 

   

 

 

Now lets get to that upper level.  Where the big boys play.  Where 100’s or 1000’s of people are commanded to feel music from one amazing controller.  The CDJ, which has a long history in the DJ world and the newer platform the DDJ-RZX.  The idea that you have everything you need on board of the DJ Controller and no need whatsoever of a laptop at the gig.   You can still utilize a laptop if you want.  There are actually several benefits to preparing your gig with a laptop on the CDJ.  You can export your entire playlist to a USB or CD disk.  You gain features here like being able to use or import CD’s, use SD cards, better (longer) throw slider controls for more precise beat mixing.

   

If you’re not convinced, I’ll be diving deep on these two in an upcoming blog post!

 

A world of difference with a laptop stand!

It’s such a simple purchase.  This purchase makes life so much better.  SO MUCH BETTER!  Personally, I really recommend the PYLE-PRO PLPTS25.

Here’s why!

It’s very sturdy!  I use this on my desk at home when I’m not playing a gig and it helps to dual screen my macbook pro right next to my apple thunderbolt display.  It places your laptop at a great angle in case you want to use the keyboard or trackpad while working on beats.  It holds up to 8 lbs, which far exceeds any laptop I’ve heard of.

It will also hold other items quite nicely like a MultiChannel mixer, EFX Machines, lighting controllers, etc.

SUPER easy to put together and it has rubber grips to help grab ahold of whatever you choose to display/support on it.

Highly recommend!

I have my audio interface sitting on the base of this stand with my 15″ MacBook Pro on top of it.