DJs Raking in Millions as Electronic Dance Music Explodes

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DJs Raking in Millions as Electronic Dance Music Explodes

It's the ultimate power trip. Tens of thousands of people at your fingertips, moving in sync and waiting for the DJ to drop the beat.

These DJs are kings -- Tiesto, David Guetta and Calvin Harris are raking in tens of millions. Harris is out-earning pop stars like Katy Perry and even Jay-Z, pulling in $46 million over the last year.

In the past few years, Electronic Dance Music, EDM for short, has exploded into a full-blown movement.

“Every kid wants to be a DJ because it feels like ‘Wow, you're on stage, you're a star.’ It's like a crazy rock ‘n roll life and it's good money and it's the fame,” said Guetta.

And today, the mecca is an hour outside of Atlanta -- TomorrowWorld, one of the largest music festivals on the planet -- in the U.S. for the first time.

It’s a 72-hour rager, with 300 DJs from all over the world, performing on eight different stages. Tickets cost $350.

If you think this is just some fringe youth fest, think again. On Wednesday, the company that owns TomorrowWorld went public on Wall Street, valued at almost a billion dollars.

Tiesto is here to perform on the outrageous main stage. As one of the world's highest-paid DJs, he pulled in $32 million in the last 12 months.

“I think it's the pure energy that comes out of it, you know,” he said. “That music is so powerful and the beats never stop and keep people going.”

Tiesto has been performing for more than a decade, but says this doesn't get old. From motorcades to private jets, he's literally on top of the world. He’s got lucrative endorsements deals, selling everything from computers to clothes.

DJ kings are getting paid millions to perform at mega festivals like this and are single handedly reviving Las Vegas nightlife.

“I'm really happy I make so much money,” said Tiesto. “But I really do it for the pleasure of the music and my love for the DJ world.”

A decade ago, EDM was mostly an underground genre. Now DJs hold the keys to smash hit success -- everyone from Britney to Rihanna wants to collaborate with them.

But there is a dark side to this musical revolution, a drug culture that lends itself to music about being carefree and losing yourself.

“EDM is fueling that in the sense that the experience of being on the ecstasy I think becomes part of the mean, the part of the normalized behavioral culture of that experience,” said Bill Werde, editorial director of Billboard Magazine.

Last month, the Electric Zoo Festival in New York City was cancelled after two people overdosed on the ecstasy-like drug "Molly."

Armin van Buuren was supposed to be the closing act when it was abruptly cancelled.

“I'm also sad about the fact that EDM for some reason still has that stigma of drug misuse,” he said. “And I think it's a little bit unfair, because if you look at other festivals, stuff happens there too. And I hope people will be more aware of it and will be cautious. You don't need drugs to enjoy this music. You can just have a great time with your friends going to the festival, drinking water. I'm sure of it.”

While there were no deaths at TomorrowWorld, there were numerous medics on hand, and clear signs to curb any dangerous drug use.

But for the DJs, it all goes back to the addiction of being on stage.

“It's a love affair really,” said DJ Steve Aoki. “They are giving me their energy and I'm giving back as much of mine as possible. I don't wanna hold anything back. And when they see that, they do the same thing. It's like we are in love.”

The coveted final act at TomorrowWorld is van Buuren, who says he can never get used to the roar of the crowd.

“It's the most exciting thing still,” he said. “The thrill of coming on stage and seeing people being all excited just because you are there. It's surreal. It feels like we are all floating in the air, you know, we all connect. And that's what dance music is about. It's about connection. It's about this little positive moment in your life when everything's good for just an hour or two.”