Avicii’s fortunes mirrored the money-spinning rise of electronic dance music

Avicii dazzled crowds during his short career as a pioneering dance music DJ.
Avicii dazzled crowds during his short career as a pioneering dance music DJ.
Image: EPA/Jason Szenes
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Dance music pioneer Tim Bergling, known by the stage name Avicii, was found dead yesterday (April 20) in Muscat, Oman. The Swedish superstar DJ was 28.

Avicii’s rapid rise to fame coincided with an explosion of interest in electronic dance music (EDM), fueled by streaming and live performances—revenue streams that the music industry increasingly relies on as album sales wane. Avicii’s 2011 hit “Levels” pushed the young DJ into the international spotlight, and 2013’s “Wake Me Up” earned the honor of the most-streamed song in Spotify’s history at the peak of EDM mania.

Dance-music industry revenue—including music sales, live shows, and related products—grew by nearly 40% in 2014, according to the International Music Summit. Growth has slowed since, but the EDM industry is worth some $7.4 billion at last count, undoubtedly a major force in the broader music world.

At the height of his popularity, in 2014, Avicii made $28 million, according to Forbes, making him the third-highest paid DJ in the world that year (behind Calvin Harris and David Guetta). He and other star EDM DJs regularly commanded six-digit sums to perform sets at clubs and festivals. In his most active period, between 2012 and 2016, Avicii made nearly $90 million from his music.

A punishing tour schedule, combined with health problems and struggles with alcohol, led Avicii to retire from live performance in 2016, at age 26. “I know I am blessed to be able to travel all around the world and perform, but I have too little left for the life of a real person behind the artist,” he wrote in an open letter to fans. Avicii departure from the lucrative festival circuit led to him dropping off Forbes’ latest list of top-grossing DJs.

In an interview with Billboard shortly after announcing the end of his touring days, Avicii said, “When I look back on my life, I think: whoa, did I do that? It was the best time of my life in a sense. It came with a price—a lot of stress a lot of anxiety for me—but it was the best journey of my life.”