Why Born Sinner outsold Yeezus
June 18th marked a big day for all hip-hop fans as two of its biggest artists were set to release albums on the same day: Kanye West with his sixth studio album, Yeezus, and J. Cole with his second album, Born Sinner. Since Kanye is a well-established artist and J. Cole is a relative up-and-comer, it would be logical to predict that Kanye would sell more albums than Cole. However, predicting album sales is not that simple.
While critics lauded Yeezus with universal acclaim, by the third week after both albums released, Born Sinner surpassed sales of Yeezus, and was the first to go certified Gold (500,000+ records sold). Even though Born Sinner only received “generally favorable” reviews from critics, it was a major hit with hip-hop fans.
Using Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight platform, we examined the social media conversation surrounding both albums in the period before and after their release, in order to understand the way social word-of-mouth drives album sales and why Born Sinner resonated so well with consumers. In today’s environment of media consumption, events and the way they are discussed and handled on social media, including word-of-mouth marketing, can have a significant influence on album sales, which was the case with the simultaneous release of Yeezus and Born Sinner.
We analyzed 549,267 relevant posts about Born Sinner and Yeezus a month before the albums released to understand the buzz about each album. Immediately, it is clear to see that Kanye generated more hype for his album with 42% of the conversation focused on those who were excited for Yeezus, compared to 18% for Born Sinner. It also seems clear that more consumers express that they intend to purchase Yeezus, as conversation around purchase intent for Kanye’s album is 10% compared to only 3% for J. Cole’s album. However, analyzing the illegal download intent we can see that just as much of the discussion surrounds consumer’s intent to illegally download Yeezus (9%) as they do to buy it legally, while the disparity is greater for Born Sinner (3% vs.