For the launch of the album currently at the top of the Billboard 200 – A$AP Rocky's debut, Long.Live.A$AP – Chicago-based digital production firm Eyes & Ears Entertainment orchestrated a creative digital campaign. Powered by a mix of web-based services, fans are able to call A$AP Rocky and leave him a voicemail, "chop and screw" that voicemail to make it sound like it might on an A$AP Rocky track, and unlock exclusive content in the process.
Through friends, or A$AP himself, fans who discovered the campaign's landing page are prompted to simply pick up the phone and leave a voicemail at 786-501-ASAP. Only by leaving a voicemail does the caller's phone number become the key to unlock a video of Rocky himself giving praise to his fans for purchasing the album.
The voicemails, along with other submissions, are then collected and displayed anonymously on the site's page, where users can listen or 'chop & screw' the actual recordings of others' voices in a manner similar to the production technique A$AP Rocky himself uses on the album. An Instagram roll grabbing pictures that include #longliveasap, the hashtag promoted along with the album, and direct links to purchase and to A$AP Rocky's main website, complete the experience.
Brian Schopfel, co-founder at Eyes and Ears entertainment (E&E), explains that the idea for the campaign was built from the ground up with Rocky's fan's demographic in mind. "Mobile is very important," he says. "Over 30% of A$AP Rocky's website traffic is through mobile and it accounts for a significant portion of users' time on the site. After we built A$AP Rocky's main site, RCA came to us with a blank slate and asked for us to come up with an idea, so we thought it would be cool for fans to just call him and then to collect mobile numbers, which was one of the label's goals. Rocky is an off-the-cuff guy, and ultimately we wanted to recreate that."
To make the idea work, Eyes and Ears utilized cloud communications service Twilio, SoundCloud, and an experimental web protocol known as Web Audio API in order to seamlessly record caller's voicemails and upload them to the web. Keith Hoffmann of E&E explained:
"We use Twilio to accept incoming calls and manage the phone numbers. From there, Twilio sends the call data to our servers where we respond with voicemail actions (menus, messages, and recording voicemails) with Twilio's own XML spec - TwiML. Twilio and our servers talk back and forth in that way until users leave a voicemail. Twilio captures the call and records it into a WAV file on the fly."
Web Audio API, an experimental web technology spec proposed by Google, allows major WebKit browsers (Chrome, Safari) to understand and manipulate raw audio data on the fly. E&E used this in order to slow the playback speed and increase the gain on the recorded voicemails from Twilio, giving the recorded calls a chopped-and-screwed sound. Both WAV files are then saved to E&E's servers and immediately uploaded to a private application-enabled Soundcloud account, then posted on the site. (Soundcloud breaks down a method very similar but not identical to what E&E did in this blog post.)
Since its launch just over a week ago, thousands of fans have called and left voicemails for A$AP Rocky, some of them minutes long. Schopfel considers the campaign a success, which he attributes to the buy-in from the label, Rocky's willingness to participate, and a consistent messaging strategy.
"Monee Perry, the digital director at RCA, has a tight relationship with Rocky and his management. He [Rocky] was super responsive and able to get stuff done. Consistent messaging was also key; the campaign was announced four times overall on his Twitter and Facebook which was key to driving traffic to the site and really gave it a chance to stick."
As Rocky continues his success on the charts and begins touring in the coming months, stay tuned, because some lucky fans just might get a call back.