How does social media determine your legacy in the music industry ft DJ Khaled

To understand what this blog is about, please click here before reading. Last week’s article, The Beatles, can be found here.

Who is DJ Khaled?

DJ Khaled has made some of the best #1 records  Clifford, 2018), but according to the BBC (2016), was only “mildly successful” by 2015. In 2018, there is no doubt that DJ Khaled is highly successful, being a prominent force in the music industry and rightfully earning his “superstar” title (BBC, 2016). Today he is “a bit of everything”, like being a CEO, producer, author and restauranteur (Clifford, 2018). So, what changed in those three years?

DJ Khaled’s journey until 2015

Khaled’s parents struggled financially after their arrival to the US in the ‘20s, working “every day, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day” (Clifford, 2018). After moving to Florida, Khaled started DJing and booked gigs, although he wasn’t making much.

After spending time in jail, Khaled wanted to change his life (Clifford, 2018), deciding to conquer Miami. He started at a radio station and slowly his career gained momentum.  Khaled claims 25 years of blood, sweat and tears have contributed to his career (Ellen Show).

DJ Khaled vs Snapchat

In October 2015, DJ Khaled joined social media app Snapchat (Plaugic, 2015), wherekey posts expire after 24 hours. Khaled’s approach was unique, sharing personal aspects that others might shy away from, like the birth of his son and being stranded on a jetski (Clifford, 2018). Additionally, he was philosophical, serving as everyone’s #morningmotivation, and spilling “keys to success” like cocoa butter, water and a gold sink.keyy

He constantly referred to the opposition – “they”, who are against us and don’t want us to eat breakfast or succeed (Plaugic, 2015). With these OTT and “did he really do that?” snaps, it’s no wonder some suspected his account was solely a promotional technique for his upcoming album. Although, Khaled says that he was home from tour (Clifford, 2018) and made the snaps organically, by just being himself (Ellen Show).


Does how musicians use social media determine their fate?

Fake or not, the snaps spread quickly across social media, being watched by millions, an audience larger than some TV shows (Dean, 2017). This is said to have taken Khaled from “a well-known name in the hip hop world to a staple influencer for the millennial set” (Clifford, 2018).

Unlike the discussions from here, DJ Khaled is feeling the benefits of going viral: working with several brands like Apple Music and Ciroc Vodka and being on TV and in movies (Dean, 2017). Khaled’s house is worth $9.9 million, with pretax earnings at $24 million last year (Clifford, 2018). His record label, We The Best Music, is signed to Sony’s Epic Records (Clifford, 2018) and industry legend Jay Z is Khaled’s manager.

Although Khaled believes “Snapchat changed [his] life” (Clifford, 2018) and it seems like it did, was it really this platform that propelled his career? And if so, is social media that powerful in determining the fate of those in the music industry?

I think it’s unfair to say that DJ Khaled’s career ‘began’ after Snapchat, which would discredit his previous achievements. But yes, he has achieved a lot since his entry to the social media app.

Music marketing today

In my Big Shaq article, I mentioned that many music industry workers believe a post on a popular social media guarantees record sales. I think it might guarantee visibility, but not necessarily sales, and that this mindset is damaging, as some might not put effort into their social media marketing.

Most non-music marketers know that you have to be innovative on social media as consumers don’t want to feel like they are being advertised at – just look at Vapiano, Chipotle, Fenty Beauty, who engage consumers well.

I think music hasn’t caught up despite there being a lot of material to work with, and the industry needs to champion this. In the future, I would love for the music industry’s marketing to introduce innovative, modern marketing which other industries will want to copy (which I would love to lead the way in).

What can the music industry learn from DJ Khaled’s social media?

Today, in Web 2.0, we have a “digital self” and tell a “public narrative” (Hicks, 2010), knowing that we are visible to anyone, at any time, and not just those that we physically meet. Therefore, “how you conduct yourself online is just as important as your behaviour offline” (DMI) and our digital self is an extended part of us (Belk, 2013).

To make yourself attractive, and access benefits a digital self can bring eg job opportunities, many try to craft a ‘perfect’ digital self. DJ Khaled’s digital self seems ideal, given he could motivate and be relatable, which is why many his Snapchats were fake. I think that genuine or not, DJ Khaled has a talent for creating and sustaining a strong digital presence, also known as a personal brand. He follows most of successful the requirements of a personal brand as stated by the DMI:

  • Having organic and engaging content. Even if he staged the Snaps, nobody was using the phrase ‘major key’ before, andnobody can deny that Khaled wasn’t entertaining.
  • Keeping content positive. Even when DJ Khaled was stranded on a jetski, he remained upbeat and enthusiastic.
  • Being personal. Who else films the birth of their child?

Social media vs musicians

Social media isn’t going anywhere soon, so musicians should embrace it’s power and reap the benefits. But they need to be innovative, as you would expect from any other brand. I think the only way for the music industry to thrive in the future is to more effectively use technology than at the minute. Technology is advancing so quickly that maybe the industry can’t keep up, but some have started to use AI in their work, and such a modern approach should be applied to social media.

But, things can turn sour if a musician isn’t careful with social media. It might be tempting to present a fake version of yourself to attract attention, but the truth will come out eventually. Social media is known to impact mental health, so musicians should consider the toll of creating a new online persona just to enter the music industry.

In fact, doing this again suggests that in the future, music quality might be neglected because of social media’s power when ‘making it’ in the music industry. This also fuels arguments and forecasts that the music industry is being killed by technology/social media and may collapse. I think the solution is to invest in your music first and remain genuine online.

Is DJ Khaled a Tweeter or Talent?

By definition, he would be both….DJ Khaled is talented producer, but he is also talented in having a social media brand. Anyone can use social media, but Khaled knew HOW to use it strategically to his advantage to create a long-lasting brand that propelled his music career. This is the first article where I think the artist is equally a Tweeter and a Talent, and this isn’t a bad thing.

SOURCES:, ,,,,,,, Poletti, A., & Rak, J. (Eds.). (2014). Identity technologies: Constructing the self online. University of Wisconsin Press, Belk, R. W. (2013). Extended Self in a Digital World.

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