Beyoncé's new album: Business coup?

Beyonce basking in the glory. She basically made the internet explode last night when she released a new album unexpectedly on iTunes.

Beyoncé’s eponymous album dropped at midnight, and one of the things that is remarkable about it is she didn’t give us a heads up.  All of a sudden, it appeared in the iTunes Store. There was no multimillion dollar ad campaign.  Top 40 stations didn’t get the chance to play a few singles to death before we could buy the album. And the thing is, none of that matters. Beyoncé is on top of the charts again.

“We wake up on Friday the Thirteenth, and we get a present,” says Stephanie Kellar, who teaches in the business and management program at the Berklee College of Music. “How fabulous is that?”

In this day and age, a surprise like this one is rare. Mikael Wood, who covers music for the Los Angeles Times, calls Queen B “a master of the nondisclosure agreement.”

“The one person you don’t want to cross is Beyoncé.”

You got that?

Wood says this album stands out when you compare it to releases by Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.

“These albums are the end point of a humungous multipronged campaign, with concerts and TV appearances., etc, etc.,” he explains.

Not so for “Beyoncé.” Wood says that, as great as this is for B, it is as great for iTunes – it is the only place to buy the album right now, and you can’t buy the songs a la carte. 

So, is this upending anything? Should we expect a surprise album from another artist? John Rose, with the Boston Consulting Group, is skeptical. He used to be the head of strategy at EMI. 

“To make something like that work, you have to have the kind of overarching followership and engagement that Beyoncé and only a handful of artists have,” he says.

Beyoncé announced this album on Instagram, where she has more than eight million followers. Beyoncé follows no one.

About the author

David Gura is a senior reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.


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