Grammy-winning DJ Afrojack says an email he sent almost 8 years ago was the biggest mistake of his career

DJ AfrojackHollis Johnson/Business InsiderDutch DJ Nick van de Wall is better known by his stage name Afrojack.Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

  • Afrojack is among the world's most popular DJs, and won a Grammy with David Guetta for a Madonna remix they worked on.
  • Afrojack said the biggest mistake he ever made was an email he sent declining a credit on David Guetta's 2011 song "Titanium," which he helped write, because he thought it would hurt his underground credibility.
  • He remembers that email to remind him to not let his ego lead to bad decisions.

Dutch DJ Nick van de Wall, better known by his stage name Afrojack, has built a career as one of the world's most successful DJs. But there's a song he worked on that went multiplatinum in 12 countries and has almost a billion views on YouTube that's missing his name - and it's because he wanted it that way.

In an interview for Business Insider's podcast "This Is Success," Afrojack called that decision "the biggest mistake of my career," an instance of letting ego hold him back.

David Guetta is a French DJ and an icon in the world of popular electronic dance music. For his 2011 album "Nothing but the Beat," Guetta recruited some of the world's biggest pop stars and DJs, including Afrojack, who had blown up the year prior - the two would also collaborate on a Madonna remix that would win them a Grammy.

For "Nothing but the Beat," Afrojack worked with Guetta and the singer Sia, along with the producer Giorgio Tuinfort, on the track "Titanium." It's an energetic, big song, and one that appeals to a mainstream pop audience.

As Guetta was putting together the final touches on the album, he sent Afrojack an email that Afrojack remembers as, "Hey, so the song is done. You want do 'David Guetta & Afrojack feat. Sia'?" That is, the song was always going to have Guetta, Afrojack, Sia, and Tuinfort as the songwriters in the album's liner notes. Guetta wanted to see if he wanted "Titanium" to be known as partially an Afrojack song.

Afrojack said his reply was silly, and something along the lines of, "Nah, it's too much of a song for me, you know? Like, I'm more cool, and underground." When the song came out, Afrojack then saw his response as naive and arrogant.

He said that after the song became a hit, interviewers who had checked the liner notes would ask him about the song. "And I was like, 'Yeah, it's kind of silly,'" he said, admitting he was being childish about the risk of looking like he was "selling out," making pop music solely for money. He had actually loved working on the song and was proud of his contribution, he said, and should have been confident enough in himself to embrace it.

Afrojack explained that it took him some more time even after that incident to gain that confidence and not link his ego's satisfaction to voices that would be hard on him. "But I think everyone makes that mistake sometimes, you know? Like, you just get pressured into doing something that everyone says is right," he said.

Now that almost eight years have passed, Afrojack can laugh about his decision, but he also wants to use it as a case study for the DJs on his record label that he mentors.

"I still want to print the email and put it in my studio so I can use it as a lesson for other artists," he said.

Subscribe to "This Is Success" on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you listen. You can find the full Afrojack episode below.

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