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Beyoncé’s Stroke of Genius Pays Off

Self-titled surprise release breaks sales records

Last week, as you may recall, R&B star Beyoncé took a huge gamble by issuing a surprise, release of her self-titled album, effectively bypassing the media outlets completely by announcing no release dates and releasing no singles—no advance promotion or marketing whatsoever. She sweetened the pot further by including a complete music video package with the album—a music video for each track, plus three additional videos.

A year-and-a-half’s worth of work, kept mostly under wraps. In today’s Internet age, that’s a feat in itself.

Well, the gamble paid off. Not only has Beyoncé scored her fifth No. 1 album debut on the Billboard 200—becoming the first female artist to have her first five albums all bow at the No. 1 slot—but she did it all through one outlet, exclusively through iTunes. What’s more, as Billboard reports, the album sold a whopping 828,773 copies worldwide in its first three days, making it iTunes’ biggest and fastest-selling debut ever.

Comparing this to other numbers…so far, Beyoncé’s release is the fourth biggest release of 2013 sales-wise, behind Justin Timberlake, Eminem and Drake. The last time a release by a female artist sold this many copies in its first week was when Taylor Swift sold 1.2 million copies of Red in its debut week in October 2012. That said…remember that Beyoncé’s sales numbers represent only one retail outlet (iTunes), and only three days of sales, because she released the album late in the week (sales are calculated from Monday to Sunday). So to put it in down-to-earth terms, Beyoncé entered the record books with one hand figuratively tied behind her back. And her numbers are only set to go higher as Beyoncé hits brick-and-mortar outlets by Friday, Dec. 20.

In her press release accompanying the album’s surprise release, Beyoncé indicated that this was an attempt to connect more directly with the fans. “There’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans,” she said. “I felt like I didn’t want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and from me to my fans.”

However, looking at these sales numbers, we have to admit that this was more than just a tactic to bypass third-party media. This was a stroke of marketing genius. What’s more, it was done in such a way that anyone who tries to duplicate this release strategy will be seen as little more than a copycat.

Good on you, Bey.


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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

David Tillman is an independent composer/arranger whose primary work involves writing jingles for commercials for radio and television, with several film and television placements to his credit as well. David has a fascination for all things related to the music business and the music industry in general, an obsession which his wife finds to be mildly unhealthy at times. His personal tastes in music are in electronica and industrial rock, and include The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and Nine Inch Nails (he loves that Trent Reznor is writing soundtracks!). When not in his office or in his man-cave, David enjoys skiing, hiking, the occasional game of golf, and sometimes just lounging by the pool. David lives with his wife and three children in Los Angeles, CA.

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