The Digital Deeds of a Born Sinner

It’s no secret that the entertainment industry has struggled in the post-Web 2.0 world, particularly in the music space. Artists and their record labels have tried everything, but it’s become increasingly difficult to monetize music. This is the environment Roc Nation rapper Jermaine “J. Cole” Cole worked in while preparing the release of his sophomore album Born Sinner last summer. 

The Challenge:

In addition to boosting album sales and downloads, J. Cole and his record label, Jay Z–owned Roc Nation, were looking at ways to optimize their mobile strategy beyond existing digital distribution channels such as iTunes or Spotify.  Abreast of the latest customer experience trends in marketing, Cole sought a way to deliver the intimacy and exclusivity of prerelease listening sessions—an event usually reserved for industry insiders—to his current and potential fans around the world.

To that end, Cole and Roc Nation commissioned the services of Cincinnati start-up LISNR, a mobile app that listens for inaudible audio tags across media to push users dynamic content.

The Strategy:

Through LISNR ambiance technology, Cole set about creating a synchronized, unified audio stream of his album.

Fans were directed to download the LISNR app on their Android or iOS devices, grab some headphones, and head to specific coordinates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cole’s hometown of Fayetteville, NC, Houston, L.A., London, New York, or Toronto. Upon reaching their respective coordinates, fans’ devices were activated 10 minutes before the session began. The listening party began simultaneously on June 6 at 8 p.m. EST. As fans listened to the album they were pushed content in synch with the music, including videos and commentary from Cole himself.

The Results:

About 3,200 fans listened to the stream at the designated coordinates, with around 1,000 tuning in from start to finish. Between June 3 and 10 the LISNR campaign drove 18,200 new J. Cole users to the app and 116,000 clicks through to J. Cole content. More than 7,000 users clicked a banner ad within the app, driving them to, Cole’s website. Additionally, the campaign drove 5,200 preorders of the album.

The campaign also generated significant increases in J. Cole–related social media traffic. From the last week of May until June 10, mentions of J. Cole on Twitter increased from 48,900 to 116,300, a 138% lift. Cole gained 46% more Twitter followers during the period and generated 37% more likes on his Facebook fan page. Cole also saw a 17% increase in views for his music videos on YouTube. From June 5 through 7 LISNR helped generate more than 15 million social media impressions total for Cole. Between fan interactions, earned media, and social media, Cole’s LISNR campaign generated more than 89 million impressions.

Born Sinner has been certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling in excess of 500,000 units.

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