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The 25 DJs That Rule the Earth

From stadium fillers to crossover kings and beat scientists

Skrillex Tiesto Kaskade

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Samsung /Albert Chau/FilmMagic/Chelsea Lauren/WireImage

It's a rave new world out there! Meet the 25 party-starters, beat-droppers, headliners and underground kings who rock the dance floor from Miami to Ibiza.

This list is from the November 22, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.

Avicii

Andrew Rauner

3

Avicii

Based In: Stockholm
Age: 23

If one song sums up the current moment in commercial EDM – a world where DJs earn six-figures-plus for an hourlong set and Madonna shows up in the booth to make clumsy jokes about Ecstasy – it's the young Swedish spinner's Etta James-sampling "Levels." The 2011 tune, which seems to magically trigger a huge, instant serotonin surge, is such total ear candy that Diplo admiringly tweeted, "i h8 how much i love levels makes me feel gay inside." But beyond the music, the baby-face DJ sums up the scene in all kinds of other ways, from marketing opportunities (he's the face of Ralph Lauren's Denim & Supply label) to bringing dance music to grand old venues (he rocked Radio City Music Hall this fall).

Swedish House Mafia

Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic

2

Swedish House Mafia

Based In: Stockholm
Ages: 29 (Sebastian Ingrosso), 29 (Steve Angello), 34 (Axwell)

Why is the Scandinavian supertrio at Number Two on this list? Because they're bigger than Ikea and Abba combined! And now that Steve Angello, Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso announced they're retiring from touring together next year, things have gotten ridiculous – including a Grateful Dead-like four-night arena run in New York next March. Since forming in 2008, the Swedes have conquered the planet with their super-high-gloss brand of progressive house – combining widescreen, heartbreakingly earnest pop hooks with devastating four-on-the-floor beats that stomp everything in their path, Godzilla-style. "We're just enjoying it at the moment," says Ingrosso. "People go, like, 'Your job must be exhausting.' I saw Deadliest Catch on Discovery Channel. My job is fucking nothing."

Tiesto

Albert Chau/FilmMagic

1

Tiësto

Based In: Breda, Netherlands
Age: 43

Before DJs were superstars in the USA, the Dutch trance legend (born Tijs Michiel Verwest – try pronouncing that with a pacifier in your mouth!) was a U2-size draw in Europe – dropping more-epic-than-Avatar synth bombs everywhere from Ibiza to the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Now he rules just as large here – rocking festival mainstages with a sound that's evolved from shiver-inducing trance spirals toward chunkier electro-based grooves. And even though he makes a reported $20 million a year, he's not settling for the bajillion fans he already has. "Skrillex has a completely different fan base than I have," says Tiësto. "So I can win fans from him or other DJs. They know the name Tiësto, but they don't know what I spin!"

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