Beyonce’s Brave New World
A tiny bit more than 15 years ago Google did not exist. In it’s relatively short life it has helped revolutionized the world of advertising. Specifically, it has helped get people used to the idea that they could pay nothing for relatively high quality internet and software services if they were just willing to put up with a few ads on their screens. This had the significant side effect of shutting down thousands of newspapers and cutting print media advertisement in half between 2006 and 2011.
The internet is a disruptive technology. It has completely change the way we travel, wiping out most travel agencies. It has eliminated most video rental stores and is well on its way to closing most of the countries book stores. Music stores are shutting down and tremendous revenues have been lost by artists (but mostly record labels) due to people sharing music online.
Beyonce is joining the digital disruption revolution with her newest self titled album. Instead of buying a bunch of print advertising, lining up talk show presentations, pre-releasing a hit single on the radio, having a huge release party and partnering with big retail brands, she turned to the internet to promote her album which released on Dec 12. The totality of her promotion was a tweet which said “Surprise” and the release for the full album and 17 videos on iTunes. In the first week it sold 1 million copies on iTunes, where it debuted as number 1.
When asked why she had moved away from classical promotion formats, she replied “I am bored with that.” But what is also true, is that if you can get away with this type of release, with your fans doing the promotion over social media, you can save millions in conventional display advertising by crowd sourcing. And for the first week of sales for this album, you had to buy the entire album, rather than cherry picking songs you like. In a country which seems to have no patience, this also significantly increases revenues over the ala carte approach.
CNN and the NY Times believe that only an artist as big as Beyonce could pull this off. She has 7 million Instagram followers and 54 million likes on her new album. And what is true is that this unhyped album had significantly higher first day and first week sales than her previous album which used a more convention sales approach. And we can certainly expect to see other bands with loyal fans try to dodge conventional promotion strategies by trying this disruptive approach.