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Alternative Top 100 DJs 2020, powered by Beatport

Using data from Top 100 DJs voters and house/techno Beatport purchases, we present the Alternative Top 100 DJs 2020

This is the third year we’ve presented the Alternative Top 100 DJs list in association with Beatport. The list is compiled by combining votes in the Top 100 DJs poll with house and techno sales data from Beatport, in order to give us a list of the top house/techno DJs in the world.

The main Top 100 DJs poll is still dominated by EDM and trance DJs, so the alternative poll gives us a chance to shine a light on the DJs playing sounds on the periphery of the global poll in recent years, despite commanding huge audiences worldwide.

The result, as we saw last year, is a vastly different chart. Last year, techno icon Carl Cox topped the list. Read below for 2020’s standings.

1.
Charlotte de Witte

From: Ghent, Belgium
DJ Style: “Techno.”
Best known for: Her KNTXT parties and label.
Fave tune 2020: “I've been playing ‘Trave’ by Jacidorex towards the end of my set. It's fast-paced acid psy-techno.”
Who is your number one rising DJ of 2020: “Alignment. He’s an Italian guy living in Germany, he makes very fast-paced techno with very strong trance influences.”

In September 2017, Charlotte de Witte featured on the front of DJ Mag’s flagship UK magazine with the tagline “techno’s next-gen superstar”. Just three years on, she has come out on top of the Alternative Top 100 DJs poll, as well as claiming the Highest Techno and Highest Climber awards in the original Top 100 DJs poll. The Belgian techno star shot up from the No.7 spot in the Alternative Top 100 DJs to dethrone Carl Cox, who has claimed the No.1 title each year since the poll launched in 2018.

“It’s probably the strangest year to become No.1 DJ since no one has really been DJing,” she says of her win. “But yeah, it does mean a lot. It’s a big, big, big milestone.”

De Witte’s built herself up over the past five years, after first appearing under her real name on Tiga’s Turbo label in 2015. She launched her own KNTXT clubnight, which ran at Brussels institution Fuse, and this January celebrated its fifth anniversary at Kompass club in her hometown of Ghent. Last year, KNTXT became a label; so far it’s put out seven releases, including two by de Witte this year: the stripped-back ‘Return To Nowhere’ EP in June and four- track thumper ‘Rave On Time’ in September. She’s also launched a new solo stream series on YouTube that saw her play at a medieval castle in Ghent and a fortress in Montenegro.

While much of the music she has released this year was produced at the tail end of 2019, de Witte has been using the extra time during lockdown to get back in the studio too. “I have some ideas for future [techno] EPs, but also besides that I’m leaning a bit more towards other electronic music, like more ambient or just something more experimental,” she says, “because we cannot go clubbing [so] I don’t fully experience this techno vibe anymore... It’s a nice experimental phase.”

These days, de Witte’s most pressing worry is the club scene getting the financial support it needs to make it through the COVID-19 crisis. She’s appalled in particular by the labelling of the sector as ‘unviable’ by the UK government. “So many clubs are gonna go bankrupt, and these are very difficult times for all of us, not only DJs and artists but stage builders, everyone involved,” she says.

For now, she finds hope where she can. With her Alternative Top 100 DJs win, de Witte is at least heading into 2021 on a relative high. “I hope going into spring 2021, times will change,” she tells DJ Mag. “And if they do, I’m sure that it will be crazy, people will be so happy.”

What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis?
“I think that we should be given a voice, we should be heard in general. We are way too important to be neglected like this. We should really talk about the importance of nightlife and about the fact that people need a place where they can be free to express themselves. It’s incredibly important and too easily forgotten.”

What steps need to be taken to address racism in the dance music scene?
“This entire scene, and music culture, should be a place where you should be free to express yourself, to be whoever you want to be no matter what your gender, your age, your sexual preference, your race, it really shouldn’t matter, and I think that’s something that we should continuously put out there and continuously repeat to everyone. It’s a thing that should not be forgotten. And we should keep on educating ourselves, and work on establishing a better scene for everyone. It’s important to not leave anyone out, everyone’s included.”   

What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive?
"Well, just repeating the fact that there should be more equality and everyone should feel more included. I think it’s also important to keep an open mind and to be able to have an open conversation and discussion about how to improve our scene. I would like to underline the importance of having the possibilities to talk about how this crisis has been affecting us and our mental health. We're all in this together. Everyone. Artists, stagehands, DJs, suppliers, managers, tourmanager, booking agents, VJs, club and festival owners... We're all struggling. It pains me to see how people so easily jump to conclusions and start judging others on incomplete information and prejudices. There's a serious lack of support, coming from the government but also coming from peers. Talk about it, keep your mind open and be understanding and respectful towards others or I'm afraid that the long-term mental effects of this crisis will be visible even after we've somehow restrained this virus.

What is the greatest dance music track of all time?
“Tough one, but Age Of Love ‘The Age Of Love (Jam & Spoon Watch Out For Stella Club Mix)’.

2.
Carl Cox

From: Horsham, UK (originally)
DJ style: “House, techno, funk, soul, and disco.”
Best known for: “Rocking the house.”
Fave tune of 2020: “Vikthor & Elio Riso ‘Soul & Trip’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2020: “Sicaria Sound, love these girls. They play the purest form of dub tech electronic music. The future, for sure.”

“Somewhere along the line we’re gonna have to start being self-sufficient. So I decided to start my own vegetable patch.” These aren’t the sort of words you’d normally associate with Carl Cox, but during this coronavirus period, we aren’t living in normal times. Normally, Coxy would be flying the world playing shows and bringing joy to thousands of music fans every weekend. Lockdown has put a stop to that: Coxy has been locked down in his Melbourne home in Australia with tens of thousands of records, and a bit of a garden. Who would’ve guessed that Carl would go all Techno Titchmarsh and be talking about topsoil and how he’s growing carrots, spring onions, broad beans and broccoli, and herbs like parsley, thyme and basil? He’s been cooking wholesome meals too — something that international DJs don’t normally get to do as often as they might like.

If there’s one DJ who feeds off the energy of a crowd, and vice versa, it’s Coxy. He radiates good vibes whenever he plays out, so being denied live shows while locked down at his home in Melbourne, this year presented a challenge initially. But not for long. Every late Sunday afternoon (GMT) for many months now, the friendly, familiar figure has provided some proper educational live-streamed shows. The depth of knowledge Coxy has about music from funk, soul and disco through to house, breakbeat hardcore, techno, early trance and drum & bass and onwards shines through during these shows — each individually themed Cabin Fever session has seen Carl dipping into his vast vinyl collection to bring a weekly dose of great music to online audiences worldwide. 

Carl has been rightly concerned about the UK government suggesting our culture is "not viable", speaking out about it at Brighton Music Conference in early October. “It’s not right that the government thinks that we’re unviable,” he said. “The government is 100% wrong. The people have spoken before, we fought for the right to party. Despite everything that the police and the politicians put us under, they had to give festivals and clubs the ability to give people what they wanted in their lives, in comfortable surroundings. “And that’s what happened, and it only happened because we all spoke,” Coxy continued. “We all have to speak out, based on what has been taken away from us… If you love the music, we have to make our voices heard on being viable. They’re basically saying we don’t exist.”

What three things have most helped you through Coronavirus Lockdown?

“Being able to play my vinyl record collection for my Cabin Fever show every week, having Zoom meetings and keeping in contact with my family and friends via social media, and cooking fresh meals again.”

What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis?
“There’s nothing to learn here, this industry is amazing if you choose to embrace it. All we have to do now is stick together in all forms of the industry and we will be back making people happy again.”

What steps need to be taken to address the racism in the dance music scene?
“All we have to do is treat everyone as equals, and understand that we are all different with different backgrounds, but the music always brings everyone together from all walks of life.”

What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive?
“I am pushing for really talented live electronic performing artists, there are so many of them out there not getting a shot at the dancefloor.”

What’s the greatest dance music track of all time?
“If I had to choose one, it would be Donna Summer ‘I Feel Love’.”

3.
Claptone

From: “Planet Earth.”
DJ style: “House.”
Best known for: “My music, I would hope.”
Fave tune of 2020: “Josh Wink & Lil Louis 'How’s Your Evening So Far (Chris Lake Remix)’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2020: “Chris Lake.”

Throughout the pandemic, Claptone has kept himself busy performing home streams and live sets in front of his impressive bank of some 18 or so thousand vinyl. “Doing home sets is fun when you are able to prepare something you’d usually not play out, digging deep through the rich history of music is super inspiring,” he says.

Keeping himself amused, as well as the rest of us, the masked DJ has also started up his own cooking show — Claptone's Quarantine Canteen — where he cooks his favourite dishes each week. And to keep his weekly DJ routine fresh he has crafted a live-stream experience — Claptone In The Circus and Claptone At Home, where he set special themes like House History and Love Songs, allowing him scope to play some of his all-time favourite tunes. 

Had Covid not happened, it's highly likely his take on 'Drop The Pressure' would have been the infectious earworm to our summer, having earned the No.1 spot on Beatport’s charts. The disguised DJ also worked on remixes for Dua Lipa and Austra, as well as a gloved hand-full of remixes that have been pushed back to be released in 2021. 

At the beginning of the year, his plans to host his spectacular The Masquerade events in Ibiza started to wilt, owing to Covid, but his sights are now fully activated and set on next year with a summer season booked in at the iconic Pacha. When it became clear what the year had in store, Claptone went deep into songwriting and production and now reveals the best news ever. “I am very happy to tell you that my third album is by far my best body of work and will drop in 2021,” he says. 

What three things have most helped you through coronavirus lockdown? 
“Music, my fans, love.”

What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis? 
“United we stand, divided we fall.”

What steps need to be taken to address the racism in the dance music scene? 
“Same as in everyday life: speak up, get involved, zero tolerance for racist behaviour or hate speech of any kind.”

What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive? 
“I launched my event‚ The Masquerade, based on the idea to create a positive environment free of any acts of discrimination, open to everyone who wants to join. All kinds of music lovers can come together and we encourage them to wear masks so they can play with their identity, and develop a new perspective on themselves and the world by becoming someone or something else.”

What’s the greatest dance music track of all time? 
“New Order 'Blue Monday'.”

4.
Adam Beyer

From: Stockholm, Sweden
DJ style: “Techno and beyond.”
Best known for: “Being a driving force in the techno scene since the ’90s, and founder of all things Drumcode.”

When Adam Beyer was on the cover of DJ Mag last summer, he spoke about taking time out from his hectic, decades-long touring schedule. He’d moved to Ibiza with his wife, fellow techno artist Ida Engberg, and their children. Living in the idyllic town of Santa Gertrudis, he found ways to relax and reflect on his career. “Going through what I’ve been through here... is part of me finding the final piece of myself to fully become the artist I want to be,” he said. 

Only months after his cover hit the shelves, the world was hit by a pandemic and the dance music industry, like so many others, ground to a halt. Countless artists will be reflecting now, too — on how best to get through the coming months, practically and creatively. For Beyer, his reflections will surely have become more weighted, taking stock of what he’s achieved within dance music. 

Growing up in Stockholm, Beyer experienced personal loss — his father passed away when he was just 13 years old, and he struggled to find a positive direction in his teens. Starting to DJ at home, his curiosity was piqued, but it was when he went to the 1993 Love Parade in Berlin, and bought Underground Resistance records in Hard Wax, that he found his path — steel, funky, bombastic techno music, with a positive message. 

Only three years later, he launched Drumcode Records, which has become arguably one of the biggest techno labels in the world. Drumcode has become a stylistic byword for steely functionalism and echoing power, a sound that draws from the dark, cavernous spaces that command the European club scene. And over the past 24 years, Drumcode has evolved from a record label into a mini empire. 

There’s his decade-long radio show, used to push the label’s growing roster; Drumcode Festival, focusing on hi-spec soundsystems and quality visual productions; and his long-running partnership with Junction 2, London’s premiere techno festival. Drumcode’s reputation makes Adam a kingmaker, pushing artists like Amelie Lens, Alan Fitzpatrick, Joseph Capriati and Enrico Sangiuliano into headliner careers.

Even with a year of no touring, Drumcode has released 18 records and counting, including Beyer’s ‘No Defeat No Retreat’, his first solo EP in five years. Written in lockdown, the EP reminds Drumcode fans that this year won’t make Beyer retreat from the techno scene he’s so profoundly influenced. “I have finally built myself a studio and workspace,” he says about 2020. “I have seen my family more than ever, and I’m well-rested after 25 years of intense touring.”

What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis?
“To help each other, rather than turning on each other.”

What steps need to be taken to address the racism in the dance music scene?
“Racism has no place in our scene, or indeed anywhere. It all begins with education.”

5.
Amelie Lens

From: Belgium
DJ style: “Techno.”
Fave tune of 2020: “Viper Diva ‘Born To Slytherin (Tbilisi Remix)’.” 
Rising star DJ/producer of 2020: “AIROD.”

Amelie Lens has risen rapidly through the European techno ranks over the past couple of years. She’s now consistently high up the bill (if not topping it) at events like Awakenings, DGTL and Ibiza staples DC-10 and Hï, and was recruited by London clubbing institution fabric to contribute to their ‘fabric presents’ mix series at the end of 2019. This year, Lens not only enters the top five in the Alternative Top 100 DJs poll, but also makes her debut in the original poll, landing straight in at number 59. 

As the Belgian’s DJ career has skyrocketed, her Lenske label has simultaneously gone from strength to strength, building its name around the five-person crew of AIROD, Farrago, Milo Spkyers, Ahl Iver and Lens herself. Granite-tough techno is the name of the game; suited to the cavernous hangars Lens fills on a regular basis. With its newest addition — Lens’ ‘Higher’ EP, an intense three-tracker featuring an acidic remix from FJAAK — the label has now dropped 13 releases in just two years.

2020 started off well for Lens, touring India in February before the world went into COVID-19 lockdown, ahead of what would have been another summer jam-packed with festivals like Primavera, Kappa FuturFestival and Lowlands. She did manage to play for a big fest still, scoring a slot at Tomorrowland’s groundbreaking virtual festival in July, alongside other techno bods like Adam Beyer, ANNA, and fellow Belgian, Charlotte de Witte. 

The following month was not so positive, however. Lens came under fire on social media for performing at a number of legal but non-socially distanced parties, which took place in countries that had begun to open up from coronavirus lockdown, only to see cases rise again — particularly among young people. A number of techno DJs were criticised for playing the gigs, but Lens became the primary target of the public outcry. 

At the start of October, Lens returned to DJing, this time back at home, where she streamed herself spinning a vinyl set for her YouTube followers (and her three cats, who spent the whole time wandering about in the background). “This year has mostly been about studio time,” she says, “although I’ve also started working out three times a week and watched a lot of documentaries!”

What three things have most helped you through coronavirus lockdown?
“Having so much time to make music, my cats and my rooftop!” 

6.
Boris Brejcha

From: Germany
DJ style: “High-tech minimal.”
Best known for: “Joker mask.”
Fave tune of 2020: “‘Blinding Lights’ by The Weeknd.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2020: “Ben Böhmer.”
 
Masked German DJ and creator of the “high-tech minimal” style, Boris Brejcha climbs a further three places up the Alternative Top 100 DJs poll, after jumping straight in at No.9 last year to claim Highest New Entry. Boris, as with everyone, has had a relatively quiet year, but he’s made the most of not being on the road. “That gave me the time to come down,” he tells us. “I was able to spend a lot of time on my upcoming album and dedicate the free time to my family and my girlfriend.” 

Speaking of albums, Boris dropped one earlier this year. ‘Space Diver’ holds 12 tracks of glistening, synth-led hypnotism that clearly shows his artistic development since his 2016 album ‘22’. Having grown as a headline act over that time, his sound has become bolder and big-room focused but also displays a much more involved interest in melodic, enrapturing elements. This is the high-tech minimal style he’s built from the ground up — a combination of techno, progressive house, trance and electro that’s made him a favourite on the White Isle in recent years.

‘Space Diver’ came out via Ultra Records; however, Boris also runs the FCKING SERIOUS label and events brand, which this year celebrated its fifth anniversary. To mark the occasion, the label dropped a 10-track compilation featuring tracks from Boris’ tight-knit crew: Ann Clue, Deniz Bul and Swiss duo Theydream. The VA included new hits, such as Clue’s strutting ‘Faith’ and Bul’s ‘Limitless', alongside golden oldies like Boris’ own cosmic cut ‘Moondancer’. Elsewhere the label saw huge success with Ann Clue’s propulsive ‘Analogic’ track and has another release from Theydream already lined up — the ethereal prog-trancer ‘Equilibrium’. 

FCKING SERIOUS was also supposed to hold a one-day festival in Velsen-Zuid, the Netherlands, in collaboration with Awakenings, but COVID-19 put a stop to that unfortunately. Instead, Boris explains his next big DJing project is a special live stream happening on 24th October. He is, of course, no stranger to visually arresting streams — his two performances for Cercle from Château de Fontainebleau (2017) and the Grand Palais (2019) in France collectively racking in over 41 million views.

“A Boris Brejcha in concert show for the whole world,” he says of the forthcoming project. “Our crew is playing three times, for three different time zones, to give our fans the best experience we can create.”

What three things have most helped you through coronavirus lockdown?
“Cooking, to produce music, being at home for the first time for so long and just relaxing, and to have much time for my family and girlfriend.”

What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis?
“I have learned for myself and also noticed how stressful the job can be. Therefore I think it is better to shift down a gear, and to focus more on quality, so that the fun does not get lost and always comes first.”

What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive?
“I have often noticed that visitors are often just fobbed off. But the guests should be the main focus. They are the engine of our culture. First and foremost, they should feel comfortable, and they should be given an experience that will remain in their memory.”

What’s the greatest dance music track of all time?
"‘Insomnia’ by Faithless.”

7.
Nina Kraviz

From: Russia
DJ style: Techno

Since surfacing in 2009 on acclaimed imprint Rekids, Nina Kraviz has grown to become one of the most recognisable DJs on the global circuit. Combining genres like trance, ambient, hardstyle and techno, she focuses on sonic textures rather than styles, flipping moods and moments from chaos to calm, dense to euphoric and unknown to classic. Her sets have gained her millions of fans, who pack tents and stages at festivals like Tomorrowland, EXIT, Primavera, Junction 2 and Awakenings. In fact, according to the website Festicket, she played more festivals than any other DJ in 2018. 

Her own imprint трип (Trip) has amassed its own dedicated following, with Kraviz tastemaking a selection of albums and releases that match her own sets’ diversity. Artists like Bjarki, PTU and Vladimir Dubyshkin – who Nina picked as her breakthrough producer in 2019 – have graced the label alongside more established names like Terrence Dixon, The Mover and Universal Indicator, Aphex Twin’s alter ego.

While Kraviz’s touring schedule may have significantly slowed during 2020, she’s still been busy not only working on трип releases but taking part in a wide range of virtual events and live streams. She’s played on top of Mount Olympus in Greece, inside a virtual Gashouder for Awakenings, in an empty Dance Arena at EXIT, as well as a series of club streams from her home country’s capital, Moscow. 

She’s been criticised by some in 2020 for appearing to play events that have become known as “plague raves”; undistanced and unmasked events that occurred during the pandemic. While she’s made no official comment, multiple videos have emerged of the parties across various social platforms. In each case, the parties themselves have been “legal” at the time, though the moral quandary behind the events has resulted in some condemning the DJ, while others have defended her and her peers who’ve played similar shows. 

During the summer, she also released a new ‘Hot Steel’ compilation through трип on June 19th, to coincide with Bandcamp donating 100% of fees to NAACP Legal Defense Fund, “a national organisation that has a long history of effectively enacting racial justice and change through litigation, advocacy, and public education.” Kraviz also donated 100% of profits from that day to NAACP, across all digital platforms. 

Despite everything, it’s been a busy year for Kraviz, who remains one of the most prominent techno DJs on the planet and who has amassed some of the most loyal fans in the game. 

8.
Jamie Jones

DJ style: “Groovy, quirky house and techno, sometimes deep, sometimes peak.”
Best known for: “Paradise events, Hot Creations label.”
Fave tune of 2020: “Tame Impala ‘Borderline (Blood Orange Remix)’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2020: “DJ Holographic and Mason Maynard.”

From his early years playing warehouse parties in London in the early 2000s, the last decade has seen Jamie Jones shoot to stardom, nowadays headlining some of the world’s most prolific clubs and festivals in Europe, Asia, Mexico, USA and further afield. His first residency in Ibiza was for the prolific Circoloco Mondays at DC-10 in 2010, and in 2012 he launched his very own headliner residency at the club, named Paradise, inviting some of the most respected names in house and techno to join him on the lineups. Paradise has since become a globally recognised party series, hosting events in Los Angeles, Miami, Mexico, and Paris. 

Back in 2010 he also co-founded the label Hot Creations with long-time friend Lee Foss, a springboard for their own releases — including the summer hit ‘Forward Motion’ under their Hot Natured alias in 2011 — as well as launching the careers of Infinity Ink, Richy Ahmed, Robert James, wAFF, and most recently Patrick Topping. A decade and still going strong, the next single to come on the imprint, entitled ‘Skate Dancer’ by Italian artist Adapter, will mark the label's 162nd release this November. 

As well as his impressive A&R ears for new talent, it’s Jamie’s own productions that have also caught the attention of many over the years. His early EPs date back to 2006 with releases on French label Freak n’ Chic, Crosstown Rebels, and Poker Flat to name a few. These days you can add releases on Defected, Drumcode, and Kerri Chandler’s Kaoz Theory to his impressive discography, plus last year’s highly anticipated collaboration with The Martinez Brothers. His Paradise parties at DC-10 and Warehouse Project in Manchester are usually a sellout, so we won’t be surprised if the same will happen for the next season he’s announced in Ibiza, this time taking over the terraces of Amnesia. Although this summer was cancelled, we’re sure Paradise will be making a comeback stronger than ever before. As well as working on exciting plans for 2021, this year Jamie has been focusing his time on writing new music, reading books, working on his health and a lot of research into healing sound frequencies. 

 
What three things have most helped you through coronavirus lockdown?
“Mediation, exercise, writing music.”

 What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis?
"That it’s more vulnerable than we think. After thriving through a few recessions, there is something that can stop it in its tracks, but we have to fight to keep it alive no matter what — people need it as much as we do.”

What steps need to be taken to address the racism in the dance music scene?
"Just zero tolerance, no matter who it is and no matter how casual, minor or jokey it may seem. We have to learn to erase the stereotypes and preconceptions that are so ingrained in us all. We have to break the cycles.”

What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive?
“Last year at Paradise in DC-10 Ibiza we worked with the Savage Crew performers as we wanted to bring a more LGBTQ element into the club, which we felt was lacking. It worked really well and we plan on continuing to have performers from this amazing side of the scene as much as we can when we move to Amnesia. Musically, we book people we believe in and have always had a healthy mix of artists from all backgrounds, race, gender and sexual preference on board."

What’s the greatest dance music track of all time?
“I think the two best house vocals of all time are Joe Smooth ‘Promised Land’ and Kings Of Tomorrow ‘Finally’. Both remind me of my early Ibiza days in the late ‘90s, and will forever hold a special place in my heart.”

9.
Peggy Gou

From: South Korea
Best known for: ‘It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)’ and her ‘DJ Kicks’ mix.

Peggy Gou first broke through with a release on Radio Slave’s Rekids label in 2016. Soon she was DJing everywhere, quickly establishing herself and becoming one of the most in-demand DJs on the planet.

Her 2018 release ‘It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)’ on Ninja Tune was crowned DJ Mag’s Single of the Year, and she soon followed it up by being inaugurated into the ‘DJ Kicks’ hall of fame, compiling a mix for !K7. Her own label Gudu has allowed her to be more in control of the release of her music and others, and to date has put out music by DMX Krew, Maurice Fulton and herself.

Even before the pandemic kicked in, Peggy had decided to take it a bit easier this year. In 2019 she’d played 200 shows all over the world. “I was destroyed physically and mentally,” she explains on one of her Instagram stories. “I have seen a doctor and they have told me, ‘Calm the f*** down! Your body needs a rest’.”

She spent time recharging her batteries at her parents’ house in Seoul; making mixes to work out to; and filming work out videos, with her parents involved too. She did bits of boxing, sorted a ‘Play Gou’ mix for Nike on Spotify, and readied future releases for her Gudu label and made more tracks of her own.

The South Korean DJ/producer, who’s been based in Berlin for a good few years now, also found time to get involved in the Jägermeister Save The Night initiative, which has donated a million Euro to ten nightlife communities around the world. “This means a lot to me, and it’s an honour to give back,” she says in a video promoting the project. “I can’t wait for the amazing moment when we all come back.” 

10.
Nora En Pure

From: South Africa/Switzerland
DJ style: Deep house

When Nora En Pure stepped up to the decks at Tomorrowland in 2019, the crowd were taken gently by the hand: rather than the buzzsaw Technicolor riffs of mainstream EDM, Nora En Pure opened her set with a lilting, simple piano track, building into a melodic deep house set full of woodwind hooks and warm, low-rumbling bass. The DJ and producer’s sound has made her stand out from the headliner festival crowd, and it’s paying off: she enters the Alternative Top 100 DJs poll for the first time in 2020, as the poll's highest new entry. 

Nora En Pure was born in Cape Town, South Africa, but grew up mostly in Zurich, Switzerland. A fan of classical and rock music as a teenager, she started producing electronic music after joining some friends in the studio, and being impressed with the possibilities within electronic music making. Her first official releases came in 2010 through the Enormous Tunes label family, who she has a long-running relationship with. 

After honing her skills with Helvetic Nerds, a group of Swiss-based dance music artists, her breakthrough moment came in 2013, with her track ‘Come With Me’. It’s an atmospheric, piano-led deep house track, with a longing vocal hook and tinkering steel melodies, that feels like being deep in the festival crowd, catching melodies and moments of joy. 

Along with this festival-ready sound, Nora en Pure is known for her emotive style of songwriting — and her videos reflect this, with stunning settings like mountains, rivers and woodlands. “I always like to have a strong nature focus, using sounds of wildlife or organic instruments that create a sense of wanderlust while keeping it crisp and tight,” she once said. “Back in South Africa, I grew up so close to the African wilderness and I do miss it very much. As kids, my brothers and I spent most of our time outdoors, playing and exploring.” 

Nora En Pure’s star has been rising steadily over the past few years. She’s played festivals like Ultra Music Festival Miami, Tomorrowland, Coachella and at the Woodstock grounds for Mysteryland USA, and held residencies at international superclubs like Privilege Ibiza and Marquee Dayclub in Las Vegas. But her fanbase has really grown organically through her weekly radio show, Purified Radio. Well past her 200th episode now, she plays a variety of deep house and indie-dance tracks that inform her own productions, including music from the Enormous Tunes crew.

11.
Fisher

From: “The Gold Coast of Australia.”
DJ style: “Having more fun than most.”
Fave tune of 2020: “Icarus ‘Joy’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2020: “DJ Dave and Little Fritter.”

Surfer-turned-selector FISHER blew up in 2018 with the massive ‘Losing It’, elevating his status from unknown to headliner in a crazily short space of time. After two years of almost constant touring and big Beatport-smashing releases, 2020 has forced the Aussie house superstar to take a step back and appreciate just how wild his trajectory has been. 

Ever the optimist, his consistent output of tongue-in-cheek videos and off-the-wall thoughts have kept him and his fans busy as he’s tried to keep smiles on their faces during the darkest of times, often with a tufty multicoloured lockdown hair-do. He’s also been busy with his own label Catch & Release. Having kicked off the year with his own ‘Freaks/Dance With Me’ double-header, he’s focused on championing the sounds of his peers and new artists with major league releases from the likes of Volkoder & Sam Supplier, Deeper Purpose and Andrea Oliva. Now looking forward to returning to whatever normality 2021 will bring, FISHER’s sights are set on Ibiza as he’s the first resident to be confirmed for the mighty Hï.


What three things have most helped you through coronavirus lockdown? 
“Music, family/friends and the beach.” 

What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis?
“Keep pushing on, we will always prevail.”

What’s the greatest dance music track of all time?
"There are too many to just name one but Daft Punk's ‘Around The World’ always seems to light up the joint and put a smile on your dial.”

12.
Green Velvet

From: Chicago
DJ style: Deep house, jacking leftfield house
Best known for: ‘Coffee Pot (It's Time For The Percolator)’, ‘Flash,’ ‘La La Land’
 
Green Velvet makes it look easy. No flashy tricks, no massive breakdowns, no superstar-DJ histrionics — with a grin on his face and a bob of his chartreuse-coiffed head, all he needs to do is mix one body-jacking stormer after another to transform a crowd into a mass of twitching limbs. But that’s just one of the reasons that Chicago’s Curtis Jones finds himself among 2020’s Top 100 DJs.

You could argue the fact that he founded two of the most beloved labels in all of US house-dom, Cajual and Relief, should be enough to land him on this list. You might posit that his sheer staying power — he’s been at the top of his game for nearly three decades — makes him deserving of the honour. And then, of course, there’s his own classic-filled discography, brimming with raw party tunes like the indelible ‘Flash’ and smoother deep house numbers such as ‘Brighter Days’, the latter produced under Jones’s Cajmere moniker. Add it all together, and you’ve got one of clubland’s revered treasures.

13.
Black Coffee

Style: “I guess it’s house music!”
Best known for: “‘Superman feat. Bucie’, which later became tied with ‘Get It Together feat. Drake and Jorja Smith’.”
Fave tune of 2020: “A song that comes to mind immediately would be TekniQ, ‘Amasiko’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2020: “A producer from South Africa called Da Africa Deep. He’s making amazing quality music.”
 
South African house music star Black Coffee (Nkosinathi Maphumulo) treated the lockdown as some much-needed downtime, recuperating after endless touring by making tunes and spending time with his family. The dynamic artist still found an opportunity to release the huge single ‘Ready For You’ on Ultra Music, featuring the vocals of Celeste, and live-streamed a DJ performance from the World Heritage Site, Sterkfontein Caves in South Africa, where human fossils millions of years old have been found. He also played for EXIT festival’s Life Stream, which asked viewers to donate to the UN World Food Programme.

Meanwhile, Black Coffee continued to develop his new streaming platform, which he says will launch soon. “It’s something I’ve been working on for years, and during lockdown, I had time to concentrate on getting it out there,” he says. “It’s basically a platform that I want to launch and help the music scene on the African continent. Our market is Africa first before we can concentrate on the world. Look out for GongBox!”

What three things have most helped you through coronavirus lockdown? 
“Music. I’ve had time to listen to a lot of it, and work on some new music as well. Also, I’ve had time to spend with family. And there’s been no travelling at all. I’d like to think I’m in my best form right now having spent time at home.”

What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis? 
“I feel like not just our industry, but everyone should have a plan B and plan C. We should have plans for if such a time comes again and one has bills to pay.”

What steps need to be taken to address the racism in the dance music scene?
“Us as DJs should be loud — we should be the loudest, because we are the ones that unify people.”

What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive? 
“There’s a big scene of dance music producers in South Africa that really don’t have a structure. Over the years, I’ve been one of the people trying to help these producers have a structure.” 

What’s the greatest dance music track of all time? 
“A song that comes to mind immediately would have to be ‘Show Me Love’, Robin S.”

14.
Deborah De Luca

From: Naples, Italy
DJ style: “Full of contamination, but mostly techno. My kind of techno.”
Best known for: “You tell me!”
Fave tune of 2020: “FBK ‘Headless (Len Faki Hardspace Mix)’.”

Introduced by Pete Tong as ‘The Techno Queen of Naples’ when she made her BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix debut in 2019, Italy’s Deborah de Luca now makes another debut — this time in the Top 100 DJs poll. Though it’s no surprise; Pete Tong is far from her only fan. Deborah has legions of them, who can be seen profusing their everlasting praise under anything she posts on social media. 

Though she’s plenty more than a social media darling: until Covid stopped touring in its tracks, Deborah’s eye-watering tour schedule took her from Lebanon to London to Valencia to Paris to Bucharest and Croatia in a matter of weeks. She could be spotted at Resistance Miami, Ostend Beach, Brunch in the Park, Verknipt ADE or Eden Ibiza, where she held a residency in 2019 alongside Tronic boss Christian Smith. 

But de Luca — who was born and raised in Scampia, the housing estate made famous through the Italian crime film and TV series Gomorrah — hasn’t slowed down since locking down, releasing her second album, ‘She Sleeps’, this August, to rave reviews. With a work ethic like this, and a spirit all her own, it’s no wonder she’s found so many fanatics.


What three things have most helped you through coronavirus lockdown? 
“My dog, my studio and my home in Naples. I spent a long time in the studio at home during the lockdown. It’s where I finished my second album ‘She Sleeps’, which was released back in August.”

What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis? 
“That everything can end in a second, without any preparation. Now I see my future differently. I make different choices, and my relationship with money has changed too.”

What steps need to be taken to address the racism in the dance music scene? 
“I actually believe that in the dance music scene there is not much racism. I find much more sexism!”

What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive? 
“I personally do not follow fashions — the music I make is the fruit of my imagination. It is from my bag of life experiences and from what I like — that excites me.”

What’s the greatest dance music track of all time? 
“That’s an impossible question. I can only say that if at the end of the set you play ‘Domino’ by Oxia, wherever you are, people get excited.”

15.
ANNA

From: Brazil
Best known for: Emotive techno

Known to her parents as Ana Miranda, she went from playing where she grew up in Brazil to a 1,500-strong crowd at the age of 14, to fronting DJ Mag North America in 2019. In the interview in that magazine, she talked about how she has had to overcome health problems and career setbacks to get to where she is today.

ANNA has spent lockdown building a new studio in Barcelona — where she has lived since 2015 — with fellow Brazilian techno DJ/producer, Wehbba. In recent weeks the pair have been working on an Anaweh Studio Masterclass online course, sharing production tips, tricks and techniques “from building your set up to finishing a complete track, through methods to put you in the right mindset.” With a sound that marries kinetic grooves with a wealth of emotion, ANNA has also managed to stay connected with her fans during the pandemic, through live streams including her Awakenings set in June and Movement Detroit’s Movement At Home event. 

16.
Marco Carola

From: Naples, Italy
DJ style: Techno
Best known for: Marathon sets 

Marco Carola has been one of Ibiza's biggest draws in the last decade thanks to his own Music On night, and is just as big in the festival game given that he hosts his own Music On weekender in Amsterdam each May. This year, of course, it was postponed, as was his full Ibiza season, leaving fans desperate for some of that stripped back, rolling minimal techno that is known as the Neapolitan sound. 

He first fomented it back in the south of Italy in the early ‘90s, a time when the likes of Luigi Madonna, David Squillace and Joseph Capriati were also cutting their teeth. Famous for playing seemingly endless sets, he has also produced on key labels like Minus, mixed it up for fabric, and put out acclaimed albums like ‘Play It Loud’. 

Fans have been treated to sets from Carola just a couple of times this year. The first was a few days after the world went into lockdown back in March, when the most famous Italian in techno played a live stream from Clubspace in Miami, and a couple of times since then he has played low-key beach parties in Italy. They were apparently enough to keep people on board and voting for Marco, who remains one of the scene's biggest global stars.

17.
Paul Kalkbrenner

From: Berlin
Best known for: Techno

In the 21 years since his first release on Ellen Allien’s BPitch Control label, Paul Kalkbrenner has solidified his status as a Berlin techno legend over and over again. This year, obviously enough, has been uncharacteristically quiet for the artist, whose live sets have taken him everywhere from dark techno clubs to festival main stages over the years. 

Kalkbrenner has kept busy in 2020 though, as evidenced in a number of recent studio session videos shared on his YouTube channel, which gave a nice insight into his home working process. He also released plenty of new music. The ‘Speak Up’ EP found him longing for the dancefloor, and channelling that energy into four propulsive, minimal techno jams. The single ‘Parachute’ came paired with appropriately cinematic visuals, directed by acclaimed Siberian film-maker, Taisia Deeva, and was a reminder of just how epic and emotional in scope Kalkbrenner’s music can be. Indeed, while you’re waiting for the chance to hear his music on the dancefloor again, you could do far worse than revisit the 2008 film Berlin Calling, in which he both starred and provided the soundtrack.

18.
The Martinez Brothers

From: NYC, USA

Raised on their father’s love for iconic club the Paradise Garage, the two brothers from the Bronx have travelled the world over the past decade, bringing with them their message of house and inclusivity as residents of Ibiza club DC-10.

While clubs have been shut, 2020 has still been a busy year for the brothers, announcing they’re moving to super-club Hï Ibiza for summer 2021, taking their place as Tuesday residents. They’ve also teamed up with NYC legend and Master At Work, Louie Vega, on new track ‘Let It Go’ on Defected Records. Like many of their peers, they’ve jumped on the live streaming trend, taking part in Defected’s Worldwide series as well as their own merch fundraisers for causes like the Center for Popular Democracy’s Make The Road New York.

They also raised over £13k as part of their “Community Solidarity Fund to support people and frontline organisations who are confronting the crisis” in New York City. Big up, The Martinez Brothers.  

19.
Solardo

From: Manchester
DJ style: Tech-house 
Best known for: “‘XTC’, ‘Bodyworks’, ‘Sola’.”
Fave tune of 2020: “Maur feat. Faber ‘Set You Free’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2020: “Maur.”

Solardo get such a buzz playing to crowds worldwide that the lockdown has been particularly hard on them. The loud-shirted duo did some live streams, including a set for DJ Mag’s Alternative Top 100 DJs Virtual Festival back in August, and the odd legal gig in Croatia, which — unlike some of their peers — they were totally upfront about doing. But mostly the year has been about transition for them — as it has with everybody else.

Mark now lives 40 minutes outside of Manchester with his young family, so building his own studio in his house has given him more time at home. New music, with singer Rowetta from Happy Mondays, Enzo Siragusa and others, is on the horizon. Meanwhile, if James’s Instagram is anything to go by, he’s been spending time with pals in a variety of locations.

The time away from touring — they were due to repeat their Hï Ibiza residency this summer, amongst a full schedule that had to be scrapped — has allowed them to concentrate on their Sola label, the imprint which has allowed them to bring through new talent like Mason Maynard, Eli Brown and now the Ibiza-based Miane. “We're really feeling Miane at the moment, we’ve got a release coming with her on our new label Sola Nauts,” Mark tells us.

What things have most helped you through coronavirus lockdown? 
“Having the extra family time we normally don't tend to get has been mint, as I [Mark] have two young kids, it's been quality getting to spend more time with them. Building my home studio has been a massive help as well — that’s increased my productivity big time.” 

What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis? 
“We shouldn't take it for granted. Having the freedom as DJs to travel worldwide, playing the music we love to the people we love — it doesn't get much better than that.”

What steps need to be taken to address the racism in the dance music scene?
“With more education, people need to take the time to understand and appreciate the roots of where our scene came from. Not just our scene, but the majority of genres.”

What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive?
“Gender equality 100%. It's something we firmly believe in ever since we started hosting our own events. It's mad to think it's still happening in this day and age, but there're so many good female DJs and producers out there.”

What’s the greatest dance music track of all time? 
“Tough one this, but it's gotta be The Prodigy 'Firestarter'. Game changer.”

20.
Solomun

From: Bosnia/Germany
DJ style: Deep, emotive house
Best known for: His Diynamic label and his passion for music

Over the past three or so years Solomun has been working on his second album, and he had originally planned to produce a music video to go with each single born from it. Due to the current climate, that plan of action changed slightly and now the first track to be given a full cut and blow-dry is 'Home' — an infectious, bouncy vibe that is the perfect appetiser for his eagerly awaited long-player that will now see release in 2021. 

Solomun posted up a long, articulate, heartfelt message to his fans through his social media in mid-summer, explaining his reasons for not getting involved in streams or live sets. “I don't believe that digital can replace analogue,” he said. “I am of course a friend of the digital possibilities if they complement or amplify the real, analogue world. But if they are supposed to replace the analogue world, I realise that I can't go along with that.” Going on to decide that maybe he is too old-fashioned or perhaps just a hopeless romantic, he also explained his belief that music loves and embraces all people.  

21.
Tale Of Us

Tale Of Us have been ever-present in the Alternative Top 100 since it launched two years ago. It’s an accurate reflection of the rising popularity of Carmine Conte and Matteo Milleri’s particular brand of mind-altering tech-house, and specifically the surging, arms-aloft nature of their DJ sets.

This year the Berlin-based duo responded to the fall-out from club closures and festival cancellations. Shocked by the way the pandemic swept through their country of birth, Italy, Conti and Milleri quickly compiled and released a 31-track compilation called ‘Unity’. Released on their Afterlife label, all revenue raised was donated to the Lombardia Coronavirus Relief Fund. On the back of this, they also launched Unity Live, a series of video streams of Afterlife-affiliated DJs performing two-hour sets.

Compilation aside, they’ve been relatively quiet release-wise this year, dropping just one single — ‘Be As One’, which hit digital stores and streaming platforms in June — but have released well-regarded EPs from countless other artists on Afterlife, a label that has become a must-check outlet for many tech-house DJs.

22.
Meduza

DJ style: House
Best known for: 'Piece of Your Heart'

Having smashed through global charts and on to dancefloors everywhere with their 'Piece of Your Heart' single last year, Italian trio Meduza haven't been able to capitalise as they might given the pandemic. “A lot of things have happened since before we released 'Lose Control’, including the pandemic,” says Mattia Vitale, “so we feel that the way we're writing music now is different from before. The last two years we've grown as people and as musicians.”

That said, they say their warm, heartfelt, melodic and vocal house signature will remain, with a new single on the way that has taken almost a year to finalise. As well as working on new music, lockdown has been a time for Luca de Gregorio, Mattia Vitale and Simone Giani to enjoy some downtime at home after a non-stop year on the road in 2019, and also for Mattia to “follow my other passion as a chef.”

Of the future, Mattia says: "We will collaborate with friends and producers we love and respect. This part will be really important for us as primarily we're DJs and producers coming from this world, and it will be like this forever.”


What three things have most helped you through coronavirus lockdown? 
“Family, having time to come back to the studio with the guys working on new music, and spending time hanging out with my girlfriend and my dog.”

What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis? 
“We love our job but time off at home is a really good thing.” 

What steps need to be taken to address the racism in the dance music scene? 
“Black culture has been crucial for the house music scene, anyone who is unaware of this needs to sit down and educate themselves.”

What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive? 
“A lot of artists have a platform and should be using it. House has always been inclusive, it doesn’t matter what colour or sexual persuasion you are, what your job is or how rich or poor you are, this music unites us all and anyone showing any form of prejudice should not be in this scene.”

What’s the greatest dance music track of all time? 
“Daft Punk, ‘Alive’.”

 

23.
Honey Dijon

DJ style: “House/techno/disco.”
Best known for: “Technical precision and music eclecticism.”
Fave tune of 2020: “Scan 7 ‘Chuuch’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2020: “Sippin' T.”

No one does it quite like Honey Dijon. A DJ, producer, fashion icon and activist for Black and trans rights, the Chicago-born star is constantly reaffirming her status as one of the most vital and best-loved house artists in the world. 

After winning the Best DJ title at DJ Mag’s 2019 Best of North America Awards, Honey Dijon spent a busy year on the road, bringing her radiant and energised house and disco sound to dancefloors all over the world. During the coronavirus pandemic, she has divided her time between cooking, working on her fashion brand honeyfuckingdijon, which she launched in 2019, and producing her new album, ‘Black Girl Magic’.

The album is set to land in 2021 via Classic Music Company, but we’ve already heard some very enticing teasers in the form of ‘Not About You’ featuring Hadiya George and ‘La Femme Fantastique’ featuring Josh Caffe. If her name wasn’t on your lips already, it’s time to get with the programme.

What three things have most helped you through coronavirus lockdown? 
“Cooking, working on my album ‘Black Girl Magic’ to be released in 2021, and creating clothing for my fashion brand honeyfuckingdijon.”

What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis? 
“That nothing is guaranteed, to not take things for granted and always put money aside for a rainy day. It's a fucking monsoon at the moment.”

What steps need to be taken to address the racism in the dance music scene? 
“For Black artists to not only be on more line-ups, but also as festival promoters and bookers. It's not enough to be on stage but also be in positions of power and influence and not just as entertainers.” 

What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive? 
“To support more women of colour and trans/non-binary/gender non-conforming artists as much as I can with the visibility and platform that I have.”

What’s the greatest dance music track of all time? 
“Yello ‘Bostich’.”

 

24.
Richie Hawtin

From: Canada
Best known for: Techno

Richie Hawtin is one of techno’s best known figures. Emerging from Ontario on the opposite side of the Detroit River in the early ’90s, his techno education came in the form of the Motor City’s iconic originators, who, in his words, “didn’t care if they just really fucked with the music.” 

That approach to DJing as sound exploration led him to become a master of crafting and blending tracks, creating unique sonic palettes often with six tracks playing simultaneously, with his MODEL1 mixer at the heart of his setup. After expanding his CLOSE live show to include modular kit, as well as extra synths and drum machines — and releasing a collaborative A/V project called ‘CLOSE COMBINED’ at the end of 2019 — like many artists, he had a packed summer planned, brining his rolling techno energy and stunning visuals to all four corners of the globe. While his tour is on pause, he’s been back in the studio in 2020, debuting new Plastikman material — a 12-minute track called 'Sin Thetik' — at Prada’s Milan Fashion Week show in September. Whatever 2021 holds for Hawtin, you can guarantee he'll always be moving forward. 

25.
Maya Jane Coles

From: London, UK

British-Japanese DJ/producer Maya Jane Coles is a superstar. Even after performing in 40 countries, at clubs and events from Detroit to Coachella to Glastonbury, and amassing over three million followers on SoundCloud, Coles has remained as active and dynamic as when her career began in the mid-’00s.

Aside from her solo projects on labels like Dogmatik, Hypercolour, and !K7, she’s remixed some of the world’s most prolific artists over the years, including Ella Fitzgerald, Sia, Little Dragon, Florence & The Machine, The xx and Bonobo. Coles has also released a mass of house records on her own I/AM/ME imprint, and also strives for inclusivity as one of the mainstays at the all-inclusive He.She.They, a globetrotting party bringing together ravers of all genders, sexualities and ethnicities.

In 2020, Coles has been releasing music under her given name, as well as via her Nocturnal Sunshine alias, which included a remix EP featuring Calibre and Jacques Greene. She’s also used the downtime this year to bring back her CAYAM moniker, for an EP on Dense & Pika’s Kneaded Pains.

26 - 100

26. Nicole Moudaber
27. Camelphat
28. Kölsch
29. Seth Troxler
30. Maceo Plex
31. Hot Since 82
32. Purple Disco Machine
33. Pan Pot
34. Ellen Allien
35. Kerri Chandler
36. Patrick Topping
37. Sasha
38. John Digweed
39. Guy Gerber
40. Artbat
41. Joris Voorn
42. Micheal Bibi
43. Disclosure
44. Fatboy Slim 
45. Sven Väth
46. Jeff Mills
47. Dubfire
48. Dennis Ferrer
49. Eats Everything
50. Nastia
51. Rebekah
52. Len Faki
53. Chris Liebing
54. Enrico Sanguiliano
55. Stephan Bodzin
56. Gorgon City
57. Jay Lumen
58. Hernan Cattaneo
59. Loco Dice
60. Skream
61. MK
62. Ricardo Villalobos
63. Sonny Fodera
64. Dax J
65. Claude VonStroke
66. Adriatique
67. Gui Boratto
68. Jack Back
69. The Blessed Madonna
70. Fjaak
71. Mark Knight
72. Monika Kruse
73. Joseph Capriati
74. Roger Sanchez
75. Guy J
76. Radio Slave
77. David Penn
78. Laurent Garnier
79. Bicep
80. Andrea Oliva
81. Dave Clarke
82. Sam Divine
83. James Zabiela
84. Sam Paganini
85. Andres Campo
86. Yotto
87. Paco Osuna
88. Denis Sulta
89. Dixon
90. La Fleur
91. Fatima Hajji
92. Jan Blomqvist
93. Nic Fancuilli
94. Ben Klock
95. Steffi
96. Mall Grab
97. Paula Temple
98. Cristoph
99. Helena Hauff
100. Armand Van Helden