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Beyoncé’s self-titled new album, Beyoncé (I feel like I didn’t really need to say that), has destroyed the internet this weekend in a pre-Christmas gamble which has seen the ex-Child of Destiny installed as the new monarch of pop.

Picking the penultimate weekend before Christmas goes against all traditional new album release logic. Mid-November to Mid-January is a barren wasteland of Susan Boyle, greatest hits compilations and swing albums by nice young men your mum likes. Nobody good releases new music at this time of year. Nobody.

But then the Carter family rarely have been ones to stick with traditional record release logic, just look at Jay-Z who released his last album Magna Carta Holy Grail through a mobile app earlier in the year. (Read more about that in six musicians embracing app technology)

Beyoncé’s fifth album was released last Friday exclusively on iTunes without any promotional marketing whatsoever. Here’s some stats from the weekend courtesy of Consequence of Sound:

  • Beyoncé is iTunes fastest selling album ever.
  • It sold 828,773 copies in three days. (The previous record was Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience which sold 580,000)
  • The album went to number one in the iTunes chart in 104 countries (out of a possible 119)
  • Beyoncé led to the largest full-priced digital album sales week ever. (Lady Gaga’s Born This Way was the previous holder with 662,000 and even that number was enhanced thanks to an Amazon promotion that sold the album for 99 cents)
  • There were 1.2 million tweets about the album within 24 hours of its release.
  • On Facebook, mentions of Beyoncé spiked more than 1,300% mere hours after the album’s release.

Here's a picture of Beyoncé riding a golden bicycle to celebrate.

How did Beyoncé achieve this?

For a start Beyoncé has mimicked the element of surprise that other, far less mainstream, artists have utilised to great notoriety. Radiohead, Death Grips and My Bloody Valentine have all released albums from seemingly out of nowhere. It’s generates a sudden rush of publicity, and the release can be controlled in the most agile way; exploiting any window of opportunity or not if a more news-worthy event suddenly gets in the way.

The surprise album release is not how mega pop superstars like Beyoncé are meant to do it though.

Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga each released a new album this year and each one had multiple single releases, music videos, fashion shoots, TV appearances, cross-promotional tie-ins and countless other expensive hype-builders months before their eventual album releases. Only, for those three artists, none of it really worked.

Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP cost $25m to promote and sold just over 250,000 copies in its first week, this is a considerable flop and may lead to a major rethink at label Interscope and possibly lay-offs. Perry and Cyrus, the other supposed queens of pop, didn’t sell much more, with 286,000 and 270,000 respectively.

Beyoncé has barely cost her label, Columbia, a single dollar to promote, and yet it has scored record-breaking figures.

She overstepped the exhausting hype machine and has done things on entirely her own terms and more importantly, in her own words:

I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it [before], I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans.

Beyoncé has taken a gamble on social engagement and has come out as the biggest selling pop star on the planet since the digital music revolution.

Thank goodness for that too, as I was getting pretty sick of hearing about Miley bleeding Cyrus.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 17 December, 2013 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (1)

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David Gerbino | @dmgerbino

This is a great digital music story for one artist. I am not a an owner of this artist's music yet hearing about the release and its success was unavoidable. The team who thought this up and executed the plan should be commended. As a non-fan, I went to iTunes and checked out the album.

RESEARCH

What I am most curious about and hope someone does some future research is, how could the sales been improved or worsened by using the other major digital music platforms, Google Play Music and Amazon MP3, on release day. Said a different way, does the exclusivity of releasing music on Apple's iTunes significantly hinder sales?

Another data point I would like to know was the exclusive release on Apple iTunes a choice or did they receive financial compensation from Apple?

over 2 years ago

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