How Quarantine Made David Guetta Evaluate What He's Doing With His Life & Inspired His Livestream Fundraisers

David Guetta
Guerin Blask

David Guetta

"If I’m honest, I felt like maybe I hadn’t given back enough, so I did this."

The truth is that David Guetta doesn't really do anything on a small-scale. His hits are big. His shows are big. Even his charity efforts are big.

Indeed while the vast majority of DJs have been raising money for COVID-19 relief by playing sets from their bedrooms, this past April 18, Guetta instead mounted a building in Miami and played a full-on festival set for the people living in the surrounding skyscraper apartments. There was pyro, there were thousands of people joining along via Zoom and there was Guetta on the mic requesting viewers to his website to donate money. The event, United At Home, raised $750,000 for Feeding America and the World Health Organization's COVID-19 Response Fund, with Guetta getting out his checkbook to match every dollar donated.

Tomorrow, May 30, he'll do it all again. Guetta's second United At Home event will happen at 7 p.m. ET from, he says, "an iconic New York City rooftop." Here, the veteran French producer will break out old hits and new tracks -- including, he promises, a fresh remix of "Empire State of Mind" -- in an effort to do his part for COVID-19 relief and to create a sense of human connection in a moment when the fabric of society feels mind-numbingly frayed. The event will stream via Guetta's site and the Billboard Dance Facebook page.

"I don’t want to make it too over the top," the producer tells Billboard Dance of the event, "because I think it would be kind of indecent, because that money could be used for something more important, but I still want something that is entertaining."

Here, Guetta talks about these livestreams, being out of work for the rest of 2020 and doing his part to give back.

What inspired you to do these really ambitious live shows during a moment when most DJs are playing sets from their bedrooms?

The confinement was really, for everyone probably, a moment where you are facing yourself and thinking about what you’re doing with your life. If I’m honest, I felt like maybe I hadn’t given back enough, so I did this. The one we did in Miami was organized in ten days and was very successful. There were a lot of DJs doing shows from their bedroom, and I think the message was good, but we still need to show a real performance, because we are performers and artists.

So I wanted to do something with more production and better filming, and that’s what we did. Thanks to the success of the first event, we had the opportunity to do another one in New York. City, which is incredible. It’s a very iconic place too, so I’m super excited. The idea is for people to go to David and they can donate and pick an organization that they want to donate to. We’ve donated millions of meals thanks to Feeding America, and in New York that's also going to be the major charity, along with the World Health organization.

I’m just trying to do something good. I really feel like music is probably the most universal language and something that brings people together, and we’re in such need of unity in this moment.

You're accustomed to playing for tens of thousands of people at a time. What was it like in Miami, when you were playing essentially no one?

The foundation of the concept was that I wanted to have people in front of me, because I feed form the energy of the people. The Miami show was not so abstract; I could see people dancing on their balconies. I could see people dancing in their bedrooms with their children on my screen through Zoom.

I played a lot in my bedroom when I was 14 years old and practicing, trust me, but I prefer to have interaction with people. Of course, it’s not exactly the same as being in an arena, but at the same time I can tell you that the warmth of the people…people were so enthusiastic it was crazy. I left 15 minutes after the show and people were still cheering and making noise. We need human interaction as much as we need to eat. The fact that these shows are so unique doesn't make them less of a show, it makes them more. These shows will really stay in some of my best memories.

You matched donations during the first event. Are you going to be doing that again?

The first time I matched the donations and this time I have Heineken and Major League Soccer as sponsors that are going to match donations, because I’m also not working until 2021, and I intend to keep doing these events. Giving money every time, I was starting to sweat a bit.

We raised $750,000, but what people have to realize is that even if only a small amount is donated, it’s really a lot, because Feeding America can make up to ten meals with one dollar, so it’s millions of meals that we can give. It’s incredible. People shouldn’t feel like they shouldn’t give because they don’t have a hundred dollars to donate. You can give five dollars or three dollars, and it makes a difference.

Last year you said that you were working on a new sound meant to unite the dance mainstage and underground sounds. What's the status of that project, given everything that's happening?
Throughout this entire year we created a sound called Future Rave, and it became the biggest sound in EDM right now. I’m very proud of this, because a lot of DJs are copying this sound. I don’t say that in a bad way, because it’s my role to try and innovate. Sometimes I’m very creative and can come with a new sound, and sometimes I’m also influenced by other DJs, so I don’t say this in a negative way. It’s very nice to be ahead of the curve right now, and this is a big success and I’m going to keep doing it.

But at the same time I feel like what happened, because Future Rave is kind of cool and dark and festival-based, I also feel like now people need feel-good music that inspires them. In the last two months I’ve done nothing but make music and write songs, and this whole situation made me want to go back to pop music and write beautiful songs that make people feel good.

Your 2009 hit with The Black Eyes Peas, "I Gotta Feeling" came out in the wake of the U.S. financial crisis. 

It was just interesting to see that probably the biggest success of my life as a producer was this record. It was such a simple, feel-good record in a moment when everyone was feeling terrible. This shows that this is also the role of music, to make people feel better and help them go through difficult moments. I feel like it’s time for happy songs.

You’ve been quarantining at your place in Miami, right?

Yes, and honestly I’ve been a model citizen. I really didn’t go out at all, except for maybe three days. I’ve been staying home and I’ve dug deep inside of myself and I really made so much music. So, so much. I’m really happy about it. This is a very inspiring situation, and of course I’m very lucky that I don’t live check by check, so I don’t need to worry if I’m going to eat next month, so of course I’m a very lucky person. But when it comes to being inspired lyrically and musically, it’s been pretty incredible.