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Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at J. Cole’s, The Off Season Album Roll Out.
The Off-Season, which is J. Cole’s sixth album, was released on May 14, 2021.
And as you’d expect, it has proven to be arguably one of J.Cole’s best projects to date.
In this breakdown, we’ll be paying attention to the ingenious rollout strategy of The Off Season album.
We will also identify some key takeaways that up and coming artists can learn from when it comes to releasing your own music.
If you would prefer to watch our video breakdown instead you can find that below:
Where it all began: Background on j. cole
J. Cole is a household name and is widely regarded as one of the most influential rappers of his generation. He first gained recognition in the industry following the release of his debut mixtape, The Come Up in 2007.
This was followed up by two more successful mixtapes; The Warm Up in 2009, and Friday Night Lights in 2010. By that time, he was already signed on to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation imprint.
He would later release his debut album in 2011 titled, Cole World: The Sideline Story, which debuted at the top of the US Billboard 200.
He has since gone on to release 4 more albums, all of which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart.
Every single one of his five albums has also been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (or RIAA). So it’s pretty clear, J Cole knows how to make successful albums, and evidently, The Off-Season is no different.
Like all his previous albums, it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and there is no doubt, the manner of the album’s rollout also added to the hype and excitement around the masterpiece before it dropped.
So what are the things we can learn from J Cole’s album rollout? Here are 3 of them:
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Start the tease early
Two years before the release of The Off-Season, J Cole fans already knew that an album was in the works. However, they had no idea that the album would be The Off-Season.
Back in August 2018, J. Cole released “Album of the Year (Freestyle)”, which was accompanied by a music video. In the description of the video, J. Cole revealed that “The Off-Season” would be released before what would’ve been his sixth album, “The Fall Off.”
Now keep in mind that the album didn’t drop until early 2021. Which is a long time to keep your fans waiting. The difference here is that Cole is a major artist with a die hard and loyal fanbase.
Heck the mere sighting of Cole wearing Crocs or riding a bike in public is enough to send Cole’s stans into a frenzy.
You probably don’t have this luxury but you can still tease your fans in many ways to let them know that music is on the way.
Some will argue that the build up to music releases is getting shorter as artists will sometimes hit fans with a surprise album out of the blue or give a couple weeks notice before releasing.
If you have a small fan base this might not be as effective. This is the whole, if a tree falls in the woods and no ones there to hear it, did it actually happen theory.
However, keep in mind that if you tease your release you can generate new fans before the music drops while keeping old fans excited.
It all comes down to proper planning and a short build up to your release can be very effective with the right resources and plan in place.
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As an artist, what that does to your fan base is wet their appetite and keep them yearning for the album, which is exactly what happened for Cole.
While there was a ton of speculation mystery about what would be next for Cole. He eventually, began to reveal little clues of his vision for the next few projects.
And the anticipation for the album grew exponentially from each tweet, instagram post, public sighting, etc.
Take your fans through the process
On May 4, 2021, J Cole finally announced the release date of his new album on social media. This came Three years after he first began teasing the release of the new album.
Now, if you’re a fan, no doubt, the announcement would’ve gotten you all giddy and excited, and that’s pretty normal. But this is where J Cole really kicked his album rollout clinic into full gear. He didn’t just stop at the announcement.
Six days later, and just three days away from the actually release of the album, Cole released a documentary on YouTube titled, Applying Pressure: The Off-Season Documentary.
The documentary was a marketing masterpiece. With it, J Cole took his fans behind the scenes, sharing private moments of the album’s creative process.
The doc also featured Atlanta-based rapper 21-Savage, who would feature on the album’s single, “My Life”, one of the hit songs of the album.
To kick off the doc, Savage asks Cole why he titled the album Off Season, to which Cole revealed that his goal for the upcoming album was to elevate his craft and to pursue that goal, Cole turned to an unlikely source in basketball.
Cole revealed that the way basketball players train tirelessly to improve their skills inspired his motivation to improve his art. He described putting himself through rigorous writing drills, just the same way basketball players have to endure gruelling training sessions.
Now looking at your situation as an artist, there is so much that goes into your creative process in order for you to get to the final product that we give to fans. You should embrace this process and share it with fans.
Whether that is through footage of your studio sessions, song writing process, you name it. Bring fans along for the journey and help bridge their gap of understanding. Why this song, why these lyrics, why now?
Cole does this incredibly well and has taken fans behind the scenes before with previous album rollouts and projects. This allowed fans to understand the creative process behind the album and see a more vulnerable side of Cole.
Taking your audience behind the scenes and through your creative process not only humanizes you and endears you to them even further, but it helps them to understand and connect with your music.
Be True to Yourself
J Cole wasn’t talking about basketball and music just because he felt like it. He really meant it, and on the same day when the documentary was revealed, Cole signed a deal to play for the Rwandan national team in the newly established Basketball Africa League.
By the way, Cole had always had a thing for basketball. The 36-year old rapper finally found a way to live a part of his dream by playing for the Rwandan national team. Why Rwanda? Well, it’s because his father hails from there.
By making this decision, Cole was not just drawing attention to himself to promote his album, he was also being true to himself, in that he actually did resort to basketball to help him elevate his rap talents and he had a strong passion for basketball growing up and he has stated that It was no bluff.
Being authentic in your marketing strategy is one of the keys to a successful career. It allows your fans to create a connection with you, building a strong loyal base in the process.
Granted, Cole already has a legion of die-hard fans who would’ve picked up his album regardless of its quality. But those people who may be on the outside looking in be it casual fans or those who know his name but don’t listen to the music or even haters had no choice but to be drawn into the buzz being created by Coles camp.
Opinions and biases aside this was pretty inspirational and one big cohesive story from start to finish. From the name and concept of the album to the documentary and vision behind it all, as well as the adventure to Rwanda to live out one of his dreams of playing professional basketball.
Whether some of this was a gimmick or not is for another day but all of this screams J. Cole. Even when it may seem forced or funny to some it still comes off as authentic and true to the J Cole brand.
So much of what artists have to do today to be heard is often so far removed from the music. This whole video has barely even touched on the content of the album which goes to show how important it is to put just as much time an effort into your marketing and promotion as you do your music.
And through all that, try to be true to yourself or at the vary least the brand you’ve created or are trying to develop.
Final Thoughts on J. Cole’s The Off Season Album Roll out
So, to recap, what are the three takeaways from the rollout of J Cole’s The Off Season Album?
The first is to tease your fans throughout the build up to your release however short or long that period is, give them a taste of what’s coming while still keeping them guessing too.
Secondly, take your fans through the creative process of your album, so that it means more to them than just another album. Finally, stay true to yourself through it all. Be original and let your fans see you for you.
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