Columbia Records Launched This New Artist by Matching His Songs Exactly to Your Heartbeat

Living the music with Russ and BBDO

Headshot of Angela Natividad

Music is more of an affinity game now than it is about who gets radio time. So, what better way to debut a new artist than to tie his tracks directly to your heart?

That’s what Columbia Records did to launch Russ, a new rapper, in collaboration with BBDO New York. When you access via your mobile device, you’re prompted to hold the phone to your heart. The site then reads your beats per minute and kicks off a Russ song that matches it.

There’s literally a song to match every beat! (Or every BPM, anyway.)

We commend the agency for not opting to go for an app, because who has room for novelty apps anymore? (Anyway, we’re saving space for that DS easter egg.) The site—instantly accessible to anyone with a mobile browser and a network—draws from a custom algorithm that detects micro-fluctuations in your phone’s accelerometer.

The accelerometer is then passed through a “smoothing function” that records the time between peak values to accurately determine your BPM. In essence, it functions much the same way your Apple Watch is supposed to work once you’ve spent 20 minutes trying to figure out how to send somebody your “heartbeat.”

Russ himself has been on SoundCloud for just two years, and has already had 200 million hits. He’s released 250 songs so far in his career, which means there’s plenty of music to draw from.

If you’ve got a BPM of 68, “Russ Per Minute” will play one of his slow jams; if you’re doing some highly cathartic cardio and your heart rate hits 138, you’ll get one of his faster rap songs.

To get a sense of what he’s about, above is a music video for his single “What They Want.” The color-saturation feels almost like a direct appeal to members of the Instagram generation (I see you, Clarendon filter fans!).

Russ Per Minute—or RPM, the better to match your BPM—goes live today. Below, check out BBDO’s making-of.

@luckthelady Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.