At the beginning of 2020, Lecrae’s small but nimble marketing team at Reach Records had big plans for the release of the successful Christian rapper’s ninth studio album, Restoration. That wasn’t just the name of the album, but a unifying concept behind the project that would drive all of their creative marketing plans. “One of the things Lecrae was passionate about was that Restoration would feel like an entire ecosystem,” says Katie Alberts, SVP of Operations at Reach. “He’s like, I want Restoration to be the theme of what I’m doing in prisons, for it to be the theme of what I’m doing in music, with the podcast, and his book, ‘I Am Restored’”
To cover all the bases for such an expansive marketing concept, Lecrae’s team at Reach made plans for out-of-home ads and experiential marketing that included delivering Lecrae’s music and message to church congregations and to incarcerated people through the lenses of faith and restorative justice. But the COVID-19 crisis struck in March just as he was releasing the first single from the album, upending those plans: “‘Set Me Free’ came out the week everything shut down and we had to pivot all of our marketing strategies to digital” explains Dee Diaz, Reach’s Director of Digital Strategy & Distribution. All of a sudden, their plans to start his tour supporting the album with performances and appearances at prisons were impossible. “We had to flip that [aspect of the campaign] to digital and also ask ourselves how can we support them? And that’s when we started the campaign for compassionate release around COVID-19 and started collecting masks and hand sanitizer for the prisons and delivering them throughout the Restoration [campaign] — a total pivot from the original plan,” adds Alberts.
Diaz and Alberts knew they had to maximize the album’s release moment and that they had to strategically tap into Lecrae’s core audience on Spotify. To do this, they turned to Marquee, Spotify’s latest tool to promote new music. Through Marquee’s audience segments targeting, they aimed to reactivate Lecrae’s lapsed listeners who had not listened to his music in six months. With their original fan initiatives in flux, they needed a way to bring Lecrae’s audience back into his work.
“We loved the specific targeting,” says Diaz. “It’s not just going to a cohort of listeners who we’re not sure who they are. With [audience segments] we can actually be strategic about when we release the Marquee and then make sure it’s going out to a lesser involved segment [lapsed listeners] — a ‘colder’ audience.” Their targeting paid off —35% of lapsed listeners who streamed the album saved a track to their library or added a track to a personal playlist, for a total of just under 80,000 saves and playlist adds. Each listener who saw the Marquee streamed an average of 18 tracks from Restoration — far more tracks than were included in the August 21 release of the album. (The 20-track deluxe version of Restoration dropped in November.) Using Marquee helped them connect with these listeners who were primed to dive back into Lecrae’s music.
To extend the life of the release moment, Lecrae’s team at Reach chose to start the Marquee on the Monday following Restoration’s debut. Since Marquees are not shown to people who have already actively streamed a track from the album, the campaign reached a fresh audience who hadn’t sought out Restoration over the weekend. Their results speak to this: “We typically see a rise in streams from Sunday to Monday after an album release,” Alberts explains. “But with Restoration, we saw a notably higher rise in streams than his previous two releases. We believe that lift is attributable to the Marquee campaign starting on Monday.” Restoration went on to land No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Christian Albums chart and the album’s track, “Sunday Morning” has since received a 2021 Grammy Awards nomination for Best Christian Contemporary Music Performance / Song.
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