What does DJ Mag's top 100 poll tell us about UK dance music? Not much

The annual rundown of global beatmakers is out, and dubstep is conspicuous by its absence

There's no denying that DJ Mag's top 100 poll is dance music's most recognised indicator of public taste. That position has only advanced in the last year after the magazine took steps to assure voters that it was impossible to rig the poll. This follows the controversy over Chinese DJ Tiesmi's admission last year that he paid a software engineer to circumvent DJ Mag's system, handing over 4,000 Yuan (£260) for 100,000 votes. Unfortunately for him, it became pretty obvious something funny was going on when he raced to the No 1 spot within hours of the poll opening.

Dutch trance icon Armin van Buuren ended up taking the top spot in 2009, and it's no surprise to see him back in the hotseat once again – for the fourth year in a row – after the results of the 2010 poll were announced this week at a gala evening at London's Ministry of Sound. Trance, even in a year in which DJs such as fellow Dutchman Tiesto (No 3 this year) have turned their back on the sound, remains spectacularly big business, especially in Russia, whose influence on the poll has expanded dramatically in recent years as the country's club scene has grown.

The US has also seen something of a revival of interest in electronic dance music, with a large part of that upsweep brought about by the success of Frenchman David Guetta, who has worked with the likes of the Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna , Kelis, Akon, Kid Cudi, Madonna and Flo Rida. This year, he won a Grammy, sold a spectacular 20m records and became the first ever DJ to appear on the front page of Billboard magazine, so it's no surprise that he's up one spot to No 2 in the poll.

Canadian electro house main man Deadmau5 is at No 4, up two spots, despite the ebbing popularity of the sub-genre. The enigmatic DJ has had a mixed year, embarking on a gruelling tour schedule and being named best house artist at the MTV Video Music awards, but also suffering the effects of the aforementioned gig marathon when he collapsed on stage in Washington in July. The No 5 spot goes to trance trio Above & Beyond, not a name that will be spectacularly well known to the casual dance music listener, but certainly an indicator of the style's burgeoning popularity.

What's surprising, at least to those of us who don't enjoy the more mainstream genres, is the paucity of artists from outside the house and trance scenes in the top 100. This has pretty much always been the case, with the odd drum'n'bass or breakbeat act occasionally making it into the lower reaches in years gone by, but this year's situation is particularly extreme. There is just one artist whose music is not based on the standard four-to-the-floor beat pattern adopted by mainstream dance music in the top 100 - and he has been around for more than a decade and a half.

Drum'n'bass icon Andy C, up a spectacular 39 places at No 61, certainly deserves his position after a career which has seen him stamp his innovative individuality firmly on the genre and scene while refusing to flirt with other styles (as many other former d'n'b icons have done in recent years). But there is no place for anyone from the dubstep scene, which in the last few years has grown from minor diversion to genuine phenomenon. At least in the UK, where its popularity has skyrocketed spectacularly, it is now the style of choice for most people of a certain (younger) generation. Yet there is no place in the top 100 for the likes of Skream, Benga or Rusko. Perhaps in future years the music's popularity with the kids will slowly see it coming through as older fans stop voting, but I doubt we'll ever see any of these DJs in the top 10.

The DJ poll's strength has been its ability to harness votes from across the globe, in ever-increasing numbers. But the larger the pot grows, the less room it seems there is for the weird and the wonderful to poke their heads above the parapet. Not that dubstep fans will be all that bothered. If – say – Skream were to get to No 1, it would indicate one of two things: either that the style had become so formulaic and commercial that it might as well be subsumed into the bulging, prosaic mass of mainstream dance music ... or that someone in Croydon is very very good indeed with computers.


Ben Child

The GuardianTramp

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