Forbes released its annual list of highest paid DJs today – now that DJs are making millions of dollars a year, the list has become more and more important – and it contained two new names. At #3, making their debut on the list, are The Chainsmokers with $38 million. At #8, perhaps more impressively as there is no major label push behind the artist, is Marshmello with $21 million.

Marshmello wasn’t even a name until 2015 and he quickly rose the ranks to become not only a headlining DJ, but one of the highest paid DJs in the whole world.

“We were like, ‘How do we create something that’s not driven by who it is, or what it’s about?'” said Moe Shalizi, Marshmello’s manager at Red Light Management, who helped form the act. “We’re creating more of a faceless brand.”

Of course, the face of the brand is a large white helmet with a smiley face. Shalizi further explained that with traditional DJs, you know, with a human face, you might not pick them out in the crowd. But for the DJ with a large marshmallow on his head, it’s instantly recognizable and that kind of instant recognition translates into a rabid fandom.

Marshmello has more than 4 million followers on Facebook and more than half a million on Twitter, with Instagram not far behind. But more than his digital following, go to any of his sets and you’ll see hundreds of fans in the crowd with their own homemade helmets, of varying complexity.

Probably the most impressive aspect of Marshmello’s placement on the Forbes list this year is that he’s done it without any major label push. Marshmello is an OWSLA-associated act, and he’s also released on Monstercat, but the artist himself isn’t tied down by any label.

“We have deals from pretty much every label on the table right now that we just haven’t taken,” said Shalizi. “There hasn’t been a real need for us.”

And that’s certainly true. In the span of two years, Marshmello has gone from mid-tier artist to a headliner – the fact that he was never even a bottom-tier artist, even in his come up, proves just how strategically his management played the brand.

“There’s a percentage of people that think it’s a gimmick and it’s cheesy,” said Shalizi. “But if it was a gimmick, it wouldn’t have lasted this long.”

Whatever people think of Marshmello, his success speaks for itself.


Photo by Monish Bhatt Photography | Quotes via Forbes