FORBES 30 UNDER 30 COVER STORY: HOW MARSHMELLO BECAME A $44 MILLION DJ

hree years ago a mysterious man arrived at Los Angeles International Airport with his head encased in a rigid 13.5-pound helmet shaped like a marshmallow. He reluctantly removed the fragile apparatus at the behest of a TSA agent và fed it through an x-ray machine. When he went khổng lồ retrieve it, his worst fears were confirmed.

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“It was cracked,” the headpiece’s owner, incognikhổng lồ DJ-producer Marshmello, told hallosehat.xyz in a rare interview.

Nowadays he can afford lớn fly private. Marshmello earned $44 million over the past two years, thanks to lớn six-figure nightly fees and crossover hits like “Happier” (with Bastille) và “Wolves” (with Selemãng cầu Gomez). Puffed up by his series “Cooking With Marshmello,” his YouTube channel is now the 50th largest on the planet—behind Bruno Mars and ahead of Maroon 5—averaging 250 million views & 1.4 million new subscribers every month.


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“What sets the world’s greathử nghiệm DJs apart is that they are also great producers and songwriters, creating songs that transckết thúc genre và appeal to a global pop audience,” says Robb McDaniels, CEO of Beatport, the electronic music hub. “Marshmello is one of the select few who have sầu defined this generation.”


Success has allowed Marshmello to lớn tăng cấp to a $55,000 helmet that has an internal air-conditioning system & programmable LED lights and weighs just eight pounds. More important, the headgear has turned into lớn a transcendent symbol that has placed Marshmello aý muốn the world’s five highest-earning DJs even as he refuses lớn obey the music industry’s rules: He still hasn’t signed a major label record giảm giá khuyến mãi, much less shown his face in public.


The November 30, 2018 issue of hallosehat.xyz featuring Marshmello.

“For us it was, how vì you create a brvà that is accessible khổng lồ everybody, that everyone can be and relate to?” says Marshmello’s manager, Moe Shalizi, who lands on our new 30 Under 30 list; his client graces the cover. “The concept we had in mind with Mello was, How vì you create a universal character?”

The story begins in năm ngoái, when the young DJ và Shalizi—who met Marshmello while he was still experimenting with different sounds và identities online—picked the name Marshmello in a nod lớn his music’s mellow feel (during the 30 Under 30 vetting process last year, hallosehat.xyz confirmed his age, 26, & full name, Chris Comstock).

To this day, the DJ has never publicly acknowledged any biographical information. And when Marshmello made his musical debut, releasing a không tính phí download every few days for three weeks via Soundcloud, the mystery helped supercharge his popularity. Electronic music fans on Reddit became obsessed with discovering his identity, as did some of the genre’s superstars—lượt thích Skrillex, the earliest high-protệp tin booster of his music.

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“I need to know who Marshmello is,” Shalizi remembers Skrillex demanding. “I"m going through some stuff in my life and I really need to know who he is because the music is helping me.”

But Shalizi’s client wanted khổng lồ remain anonymous & didn’t seem particularly interested in fame. Even after he started texting Skrillex, Marshmello was so shy that he initially refused lớn liên hệ his nhân vật about an in-person meeting. “Skrillex the guy who I"ve been looking up to lớn ever since I started doing electronic music,” Marshmello recalls telling Shalizi as they cruised through Los Angeles. “I"m not just going khổng lồ call hyên.” Shalizi stopped the oto. “I’m not going to lớn go until you gọi hlặng,” the manager replied.


Marshmello relented—& found a surprise on the other end of the line: Katie Couric, who happened to be interviewing Skrillex for Yahoo on camera. (“It’s Chris,” she noted as the caller ID flashed onscreen. “Oh, Marshmello,” Skrillex replied). A week later the đoạn phim interview went public—và Marshmello’s growing legion of fans got their first clue to lớn his identity. Internet conspiracy theorists posited that he was actually a rotating cast of famous DJs including Skrillex, Martin Garrix & Tiëskhổng lồ (the latter trolled electronic music enthusiasts by showing up lớn a gig in a Marshmello mask).

Shalizi insists Marshmello will earn around $50 million in 2019, which would put him on par with this year’s top earner, Calvin Harris.


The buzz only helped drive sầu Marshmello’s earning power: In late năm ngoái, he took trang chủ $30,000 for his first major gig, a Halloween show in Thành Phố New York. Then Shalizi planned a tour, focusing on small clubs that would sell out and drive sầu demand. Marshmello earned scores of new fans—& grew his social truyền thông presence (he now boasts 7 million followers between Twitter & Facebook)—by spending hours posing for selfies after shows.

Marshmello got a boost from Coachella in 2016 even though he didn’t play the festival. Shalizi rented a nearby highway billboard and splashed an image of the DJ across it. Then he hired two bodyguards & a photographer lớn follow Marshmello around the festival, where he posed with celebrities lượt thích Zedd và DJ Khaled. “A year in, we already had over a million followers on Instagram,” says Shalizi (today’s count: 13.7 million). Marshmello returned to lớn Coachella in 2017 và headlined the Sahara Tent, the festival"s premier electronic stage.


His năm 2016 breakout hit, “Alone,” racked up 1 billion views on YouTube; his first album, Joytime (2016), reached No. 5 on the U.S. Dance charts. Major labels came calling with multimillion-dollar record deals, but Marshmello & Shalizi weren’t convinced that giving up their independence was worth it. “They wanted khổng lồ sign us just to sign us,” says the DJ.

To be sure, Marshmello isn’t the first DJ khổng lồ cash in on a mysterious image—he follows in the helmet-steps of electronic acts lượt thích Deadmau5 và Daft Punk—but his earnings total over the past year ranks as the best annual haul for an incognilớn DJ ever measured by hallosehat.xyz.

“It’s less about the masks and more about the actual talent,” Beatport’s McDaniels says of Marshmello. “He’s certainly got a long career in music ahead of hyên.”

Sure enough, his lademo album, Joytime II, claimed the top spot on the dance charts this year. Shalizi insists Marshmello will earn around $50 million in 2019, which would put him on par with this year’s top earner, Calvin Harris. The young manager entertains even wilder dreams. “We always talk about taking Marshmello public one day,” says Shalizi, referring lớn turning the DJ’s business inkhổng lồ a publicly traded company. “He can do anything.”

“What sets the world’s greachạy thử DJs apart is that they are also great producers and songwriters, creating songs that transckết thúc genre và appeal khổng lồ a global pop audience,” says Robb McDaniels.


Though that may be a bit far-fetched, Marshmello has certainly built a DJ business with room to lớn grow. Like Marvel’s stable of superheroes, his image is one onlớn which anyone anywhere can project their hopes và dreams—Shalizi says his biggest markets range from Brazil khổng lồ Singapore. Marshmello connects by nodding to lớn local favorites, playing Bollywood theme songs at New Delhi gigs or posting Indonesian fried rice recipes on “Cooking With Marshmello” for his Jakarta fans.

And, in theory, Marshmello is infinitely scalable. Imagine an army of confectionary clones fanning out across the globe, paying Marshmello a cut of their nightly fees. Just don’t bet on that last part happening.

“Sometimes we talk to people and they’re surprised we aren’t doing that,” explains Marshmello. “And I’m like, That’s not why I did this.”

Reach Zaông chồng O"Malley Greenburg at zgreenburg
hallosehat.xyz. Cover image by Jamel Toppin for hallosehat.xyz. Marshmello pictured wearing Ermenegilvị Zegna Couture.


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Zack O"Malley Greenburg is senior editor of truyền thông và entertainment at hallosehat.xyz and author of four books, includingA-List Angels: How a B& of Actors, Artists and Athletes Hacked Silicon Valley& the Jay-Z biographyEmpire State of Mind. Zack"s work has also appeared in the New York Times,Washington Post, Billboard, Sports Illustrated, Vibe, McSweeney"s & the Library of Congress. In over a decade at hallosehat.xyz, he has investigated topics from Wu-Tang Clan"s secret album in Morocco khổng lồ the return of tourism in post-conflict Sierra Leone khổng lồ the earning power of Hip-Hop"s Cash Kings, writing cover stories on subjects ranging from Richard Branson to Ashton Kutcher to Katy Perry. A former child actor, Zaông chồng played the title role in the film Lorenzo"s Oil (1992) & arrived at hallosehat.xyz in 2007 after graduating from Yale with an American Studies degree. For more, follow hlặng on Twitter, Facebook, newsletter and via www.zogreenburg.com. Got a tip on a music, truyền thông & entertainment story? Sover it over via SecureDrop. Instructions here: www.hallosehat.xyz/tips