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How to Disrupt the Marketplace like Beyonce

“I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it. 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. 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.”
-Beyonce Knowles

Sometimes the best marketing is just let the product speak for itself. Just as the speculation for the albums of the year seemed to slow down, Beyonce dropped a bombshell. In this era of leaking albums way ahead their release dates, Beyonce actually was able to release her record “in a secret”. Last Friday morning without  advance single, marketing campaign, radio airplay or TV performances. That naturally was not a secret for long as every media jumped to cover that. What is also notable that the album is currently sold only as an album exclusively in iTunes. What can we learn from this approach?

1.    Reward your fans first
As the average life cycle of hit song is only weeks at best, who actually buys albums anymore? Who remembers that Harlem Shake happened this year? Beyonce is one of the few artists who still have a fan base big enough to move considerable amount . Why you should not treat your most loyal customers well and give them something they hold in high value? The approach has been successful: the album sold 430k units on one day. The rest can cherry-pick their songs later (see point 3)

2.    Good content is the best marketing
When you are superstar and you really believe in your music, it is only natural to believe that every song in that album is a potential single. The most-sold and most solid pop album ever Thriller was quite close to it: having seven of the nine songs as singles. Beyonce has done video out of every song of her new album (17). Actually some radio stations are currently having all the songs in rotation. Don´t be misunderstood though, this is not cheap way to do it. Although you save a little in media spend, having Hype Williams to produce your video is still costing you quite a much.

3.    You do not really need to disrupt everything, just one thing
What is really brilliant with Beyonce-approach is that it is rare instance when you can have the cake and actually eat it too. Beyonce just skipped the pre-launch PR & advertising bits. The download is album-exclusive only for a week. Then it is back to the usual: streaming services start, there will be singles from the album and I bet that Beyonce will not decline interview requests.

4.    Finding the right partner is crucial
Beyonce partnered with iTunes to make this happen, her husband Jay-Z partnered with Samsung to make other hyped album launch of the year. From the bigger artist perspective, the music business is increasingly more B2B than B2C:

5.    Understand what business you are in
So what is music business nowadays? It is not about selling albums or even singles. It is about creating experiences. This is obvious when analyzing how much the biggest artists get from touring. Experiences are not limited to real-life, but are happening more in digital. Before you made music video to promote the song. Now you do song to be able to do the YouTube-video.

To pull something like this out and with this effect, you need to be an artist of Beyonce-calibre (there is not that many) and also you have to be first to do it. Free publicity of the stunt is something you cannot duplicate. So this approach per se is not the future of music business. What is the future, that the money does not come from only music, it comes from the whole package.

Although for this week, we can try to believe that music album still matters like in 1980´s. The album is actually quite good, but naturally not the Thriller.

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