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Afrojack: Top DJ turns spinning, live music into big bucks

Nick van de Wall, aka Afrojack
Photo: Michael Grech | Wikipedia
Nick van de Wall, aka Afrojack

Nick van de Wall, known to fans across the world as Afrojack, made history this week as the first DJ to ring the Nasdaq's closing bell, as SFX Entertainment announced a $260 million IPO that sent a clear message: Electronic dance music (EDM) is here to stay.

Joining Afrojack was New York City-based SFX Entertainment CEO Robert F.X. Sillerman. The media executive also founded Live Nation Entertainment, a Beverly Hills, Calif., company that produces and markets live events.

Sillerman said that just as Elvis Presley had ushered in a "true revolution," so a new music has arrived.

"Everything in the music business that we used to listen to is a derivation of that—until electronic music," Sillerman said. "It is a cultural phenomenon."

(Read more: Online music: Recording industry embraces streaming)

The Dutch-born Afrojack has been busy. He has begun releasing his five-part documentary, "March of the Afrojack," which chronicles his rise and features commentary from EDM legends such as David Guetta and Tiësto.

In the series, Afrojack says he wants to show the world he wasn't always flying around in his private jet—"Afrojet"—or in his $400,000-plus Lamborghini Aventador. He even takes viewers to his hometown near Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

"I wanted to show that normal people can do this and I am a normal person. I wasn't famous five years ago," he said.

Afrojack is also about to release a single, "The Spark," featuring Spree Wilson, on Island Records. The DJ has a deep music résumé and has spun tracks for musicians from Pitbull to Sting. He has earned just shy of $20 million, and was ranked No. 7 in Forbes' Top-Earning DJs of 2013.

Zack Greenburg, author of Forbes music column "The Beat Report," told CNBC that Afrojack's live-performance ventures are what is likely to bring in the biggest bucks.

"The bulk of the earnings by far always comes from the live shows," Greenburg said.

But beyond money and sales, Afrojack told CNBC he wants to stay true to his style.

"People always say like you're selling out once you start working with a major pop artists or you start trying something else, but it's actually the other way around," he said. "The other day I made something on SoundCloud, and that I just made for fun." (SoundCloud is a popular online audio distribution platform.)

Check out more of CNBC's coverage on monetizing music.

Follow Valerie Patriarca on Twitter

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