What Beyoncé Just Taught Every Single Artist In the World…

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No, Beyoncé didn’t tell Spotify to f*&k off.  Instead, she didn’t tell them anything.  Just like she didn’t tell YouTube, Amazon, Sirius XM, or any television station, blog, news outlet or traditional radio station anything prior to release.

And when an artist figures out how to sell 828,773 units of a bundled-only, audio+video surprise album in three days by only connecting directly with her fans, then every single artist – obscure, ‘middle class’ or mega-superstar – should be paying very close attention.

These are just some of the things that Beyoncé has just taught the music industry.


(1) You can compete with free.

Artists live in extremely hostile times, with unfriendly ‘partners’:

(a) Google, one of the richest and most powerful companies in the world, works aggressively to obliterate content protections while urging artists to simply adapt (‘Content devaluation is impossible!’ Google executive Tim Quirk recently declared.)

(b) Spotify whips up a complicated haze of smoke and declares itself a transparent partner and friend of content creators, all while shaving off little for artists.

(c) YouTube will throw micro-pennies at artists that actually claim their channels, don’t issue DMCA takedowns, and figure out YouTube’s byzantine copyright system.

(d) Pandora has been actively lobbying Congress and suing publishers for years to lower artist royalties.  At the same time, Pandora’s multi-millionaire founder, Tim Westergren, sends artists letters telling them that they will be getting more money.

So why did Beyoncé, one of the biggest artists alive, decide not to work with any of those companies?  Why did she not even contact them?

The reason is that selling 828,773 albums in a controlled, more content-friendly environment like iTunes with dedicated promotion and predictable payouts makes infinitely more sense.  Especially if it’s complicated for fans to get it someplace else.


(2) Windowing can be an extremely effective and potent sales strategy.

This isn’t just for superstars!  Because your most dedicated fans will put money on the table for your content (in fact, you could argue that this defines a dedicated fan).  Even smaller artists have been experimenting with pre-selling downloads (and albums and other content) prior to putting their music on Spotify.

Because ‘exposure’ only means something if it is actively (and measurably) helping an artist get paid (and survive).

If ‘exposure’ is driving traffic to shows, and leading to synch deals, then it’s working.  If it’s not having any impact and stealing iTunes sales, then the strategy needs to be re-examined.


(3) Beyoncé isn’t trying to make Spotify rich.  So why should you?

There’s no altruism in this business, at least not beyond your loving mother.  So stop streaming Kumbaya: Spotify has its own financial interests and goals that may be completely misaligned with yours.  Ask yourself: if Spotify goes public on Wall Street and mints billions, will you see any of that?

Which raises the question of why any artist would blindly accept the talking points of not only Spotify, but the entire streaming space (which of course also includes YouTube, Pandora, and Google).

(And that caution should also apply to Apple and iTunes, too, by the way).

(4) The album isn’t dead.

Albums still sell!  They are still recognized as important works! And it’s not just the village elders: a lot of artists still release albums that are recognized as distinct and important opuses by fans of all ages (Arcade Fire, Jay-Z, Atoms for Peace… Beyoncé).

Because the drip, drip , drip of smaller releases is critically important, but this isn’t mutually exclusive from proper album releases.

And if your audience cares about the album, you’ll probably figure it out (like Beyoncé did.)


(5) Streaming is a very tricky platform that must be treated strategically (not blindly).

There’s more data out there than ever before.  A few years back, deadmau5 realized that there was a positive correlation between his Facebook likes and the crowd volumes at this shows.  But there may not be a positive relationship between exposure on platforms like Pandora, Spotify, and YouTube and other revenue-generating platforms (like, shows).  In fact, deadmau5 opted to window his latest album release from Spotify.

Which means, every platform should be viewed strategically, not blindly.  And if doesn’t make sense, there shouldn’t be a relationship.


(6) Audio-only won’t be dead, but it will be different from now on.

Beyoncé isn’t the first to experiment with audio+video releases, but she is the biggest.  And the future is right now: we have the bandwidth and storage to handle multimedia album releases with ease.  Not only that, full-package audio+video releases are easier to protect and more likely to get mangled on channels like BitTorrent (and harder to stream on Spotify, creating a higher-end product).


(7) Well-cultivated, direct and dedicated fanbases will pay for stuff.

It’s not just Beyoncé.  It’s also Amanda Palmer, who used her diligently-cultivated legion of fans to power more than a million dollars in direct fan contributions on Kickstarter.  Not only that, but a tiny sliver of those fans contributed the greatest percentage of donations.


(8) If they’re not paying for your releases, are they really your fans?

That’s a question Beyoncé has obviously thought about.  And it’s the type of soul-searching every artist should be doing.


Our breaking Beyoncé coverage is here

Written while listening to Fuck Buttons.  Image by naosuke ii (@flickr), licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

80 Responses

  1. Dey martin

    Excellent observations Paul. I’ve been working behind the scenes on a service that is inspired by this. Live bundles delivered artist-direct to fans.

      • Maugarz

        Its different you all have been looking at the wrong place. Movies are NOT music. Pieces work way different.

    • Anonymous

      “Live bundles delivered artist-direct to fans”

      That obviously sounds like everybody’s wet dream. Unless you by Live actually mean… live.

      Removing all 3 key players — YouTube, iTunes and Google — from the equation would be freaking awesome.

      I just can’t see how it can be done. Each plays a crucial role: I still have to market my song (YouTube), I still have to sell it (iTunes), and fans still have to find it (Google).

      • sz-sm

        You do not need iTunes, Bandcamp works very very well and you have more control, greater $ back to you, can do pre-orders, 200 free downloads available a month for your own use (promo & whatever) and 1000 free downloads added for every 500$ or (i forget atm) in sales. Because of that, when one of our artists wants to give fans a free track now, we can do it and collect their email address in exchange for the download. Then we have 100% targeted fans of music on our label on our list…. Bandcamp guys. It’s really good.

        • Anonymous

          No, it doesn’t work because no one knows it. We need the infrastructure of at least one major player.

          The best we can hope for is that Apple

          1) Launches a better paying (70% for right holders) alternative to YouTube, or
          2) Buys YouTube — and preferably Google, which would solve a wide range of problems for the entertainment industry.

  2. If only..

    Well this post was a waste of time, Beyoncé is the exception not the rule here. 99.999999999999999% of artists can’t do anything with these ‘lessons’ except dream of how nice it must be to be so famous that you can actually pull of what she did with any success. Here’s a fun fact “Beyoncé” is competing with free just fine as the number two most downloaded album on the Pirate Bay this week. So everyone just quit the music industry and go spend time with your kids. Maybe learn how to code or something.

    • hippydog

      Except for the ‘Windowing’ part..
      Why cant they?
      everything she did can be duplicated on a smaller scale,
      1.) in essence she released direct to fans.. (which anyone with a fanbase can do)
      2.) She made a digital video album.. (which is a lot more work then just releasing a CD, but still do-able by everyone)

      • Minneapolis Musician

        99.999% of all musicians today who are putting their tracks up on the Internet HAVE NO FANS (in the true definition of the word. )

        They have friends and acquaintances who listen to 20 secs of a track now and then and click their mouse button once for an obligatory and polite “like”.

      • because

        windowing doesn’t have the same effect for emerging artists. If you are trying to go you need your music out there. Taking it off spotify only makes it less available to the world.

        • TuneHunter

          Agree, not much hope for new guys.
          In the meantime we are living in the times that generate the greatest amount of brilliant music!
          Just catch good DJ on XM’s Alt Nation and see a the tip of the goldmine.

          Let’s convert all Radio including Pandora into simple music stores. DJs will go wild with discovery and monetization. Mix of good old with brilliant new on every station (regardless of genre) will deliver effortlessly
          100 billion dollar industry by 2020.

          • Versus

            “In the meantime we are living in the times that generate the greatest amount of brilliant music!”

            …Really? I hear an endless stream of mostly derivative retro music. Quantity over quality. Occasional gems (Hammock, for example). However, I haven’t heard anything in this millennium on the level of the best works of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, the swing era, the baroque era. Where are the truly memorable albums as works of art?

          • TuneHunter

            There is a lot of brilliant staff – avg. US radio station, under label’s control, grinds just 100 tunes.
            Agree same in style and sound to big ones.

            Actually I do not understand under what psychology labels cook the Radio program and than demand royalties.

        • hippydog

          Thats an opinion, not a fact..
          We have no definite stats to really back up either assumption.

          Again, ..
          I asked why cant others do the same thing but on a much smaller scale..
          Smaller scale meaning that they HAVE some fans.. you cant release to fans first if you dont have any.. LOL

          • GGG

            They can, it just becomes an issue of what you’re giving up. Say you’re album gets a 7.5 on Pitchfork and you’re some not even midlevel band. That’s not high enough to make people think “I GOTTA hear this record.” but might spark a lot of curiosity. So do you window and grab those extra like maybe hundred sales, or let thousands of people check out your music and potentially grow your fanbase. It’s the tradeoff of now or later, and finding where those things can both best be taken advantage of.

      • Anonymous

        Making a video album esp. like the level of Beyonce requires a fuckton of money. I wouldn’t be surprised if the production budget was at least seven figures.

        • R.P.

          I had an engineer on this project. Budget was well into the 7 figures.

          • Anonymous

            “I had an engineer on this project. Budget was well into the 7 figures”

            Sometimes it takes 7 figures. Sometimes it takes a web cam — Charlie bit my finger, anyone? (615m views worth $500,000.)

            Don’t be so freaked about the money, creativity goes a long way.

    • Thieves

      Go learn to code?
      Why, you can just steal code!!!
      It is happening to you and you don’t even know.
      I am giving those companies 2 yrs.

      • uh

        ok buddy go short google’s stock for the next two years and then let us know how it works out

  3. GGG

    I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said here, but there’s two different ideas at work. The first is people just need to start thinking a little differently. Her and her team did that, and it obviously worked, which is great. But people really need to stop using Beyonce as some beacon of hope for anyone that’s not at Beyonce’s level.

    850K out of her millions upon millions of fans is still a tiny, tiny percent. You can’t forget the whole idea of the myth of the long tail, which you’ve harped on numerous times. She can succeed like this because she’s already in the head, and that tiny percent is still a massive number. Think some band with 100K fans would have sold a fraction of that? Or even gotten half the promotion from iTunes on this? Or the social media clusterfuck? No. This was driven by social media and it worked because it’s Beyonce, not even because of content. Nobody had even heard/seen it. In fact, I’ve heard so little about how good the music actually is it’s hilarious.

    Creative methods of distribution and release are certainly important, but it’s bigger than that, it’s a whole picture thing, not just focused purely on recorded music.

    • Versus

      Good points. The comparative question: How many albums would she have sold in the pre-streaming and pre-thievery era of music?

      • GGG

        Well, she would have sold a lot more, as would everyone. But I think it’s important to look at victories like this in the larger sense, not as a specific idea people can replicate.

  4. Chris H

    Beyonce “Competes with free” with 50 million dollars of Pepsi’s money. That’s why I learned today.

    Sent my proposal out to RC Cola…

  5. ben

    “The album isn’t dead.” … but her album is full of crap? so its dead.

  6. Anonymous

    Good story & thinking!

    There is indeed a lot to be learned for us all here. And the entire music world should thank Mrs. Carter for making this experiment.

    The only annoying part is that we can start all over again when YouTube launches its paid service. Odds are it will affect every step of the release process.

    Unless, of course, it’s a complete failure like Google Totally Music Play or whatever they call that thing.

  7. jw

    Let’s not forget that Beyonce is selling sex. Video is the perfect medium for her, but not for every artist.

    What she did is pretty awesome, & I’m glad she was successful, but it’s not fair at all to suggest that this type of success (relative, for instance, to an artist’s previous sales figures) can be achieved by other artists.

    What’s great about Beyonce & her team is that they were able to maximize the impact of the release based on her specific talents. Without her strong reputation for visuals (Put a Ring On It, the Super Bowl, etc), without Kanye interrupting T Swift on Beyonce’s behalf, without SNL’s viral parody of Put A Ring On It, this wouldn’t be possible. If you have different talents, your strategy might be completely different, & it may have nothing whatsoever to do with streaming or not streaming. For instance, if you’re a confessional songwriter, you might be able to make a bigger impact just doing house shows, & Spotify might be your biggest asset in setting something like that up.

    But let’s be clear here… aside from the payday, if this album is to live on, it’s going to have to be on Spotify. If she wants people to listen to it driving to work, on the way to the club, etc, it’s going to have to be on Spotify.

    And let’s not even get into the COST of recording 17 engaging videos…

    What’s great about this release isn’t that it’s simply not on Spotify, but that she created a product above & beyond a few tracks that’s worth paying for above & beyond a Spotify subscription.

    What’s most interesting to me is that RADIO played no part in this. Of course, an unknown artist still needs radio in many cases, but if you’re Jay Z’s wife & you have enough exposure, apparently Twitter & Facebook are better friends to have than radio. To me that’s illuminating.

    • Anonymous

      “Let’s not forget that Beyonce is selling sex”

      Ah, but of course — so unlike Gaga, Kerry and Cyrus!

      Seriously jw, you are way deeper in denial than that pirate guy — what was it he said again? Oh, yes: “it is just some silly arty-farty project, which very few will care about”

      • jw

        It’s exactly like Lady Gaga & Miley Cyrus. I’m not sure I’d lump Katy Perry into that category, although it’s not like she hasn’t been guilty of it before.

        If you think that all music should be like Beyonce, Lady Gaga, & Miley Cyrus, then I can see how you would be behind this strategy, but I think that type of lowest common denominator thinking is ultimately only going to further shrink the music buying population.

        Ultimately, I just don’t think this is very repeatable. If Beyonce were to release all of her records like this from here on out, there would be a diminishing return each time. She & Jay Z have both proven very adept at making the most out of the immediate situation, I don’t think either of them are really attempting to create a “new normal.”

        • Anonymous

          “I think that type of lowest common denominator thinking is ultimately only going to further shrink the music buying population”

          Beyoncé, Gaga and Cyrus = the lowest common denominator? Using their release strategies will shrink the music buying population?

          Like I said, jw: Denial.

          • mdti

            It is true that, with all the good will on earth, and even plastic surgery, I cannot compete with Beyoncé, and fans/audience will not be very interested by my body moves….

            Musicians: time to work out those arms and abdos….

            Reminds me when I said to a sportman that music was a bit like sport…. I proved myself right again…gee…. 😀

          • Anonymous

            “and fans/audience will not be very interested by my body moves”

            You never know! 🙂 And that’s the beautiful thing about it.

            Just think of a certain Korean gentleman…

        • Esol Esek

          Katy Perry is the only one out of that crowd I’d actually consider having sex with.

          divamom-Beyonce, no-butt Miley, shnozzola-Gaga are not attractive, though a conversation with Gaga would be the most interesting.

    • FarePlay

      “But let’s be clear here… aside from the payday, if this album is to live on, it’s going to have to be on Spotify. If she wants people to listen to it driving to work, on the way to the club, etc, it’s going to have to be on Spotify.”

      Paul, you need to start charging JW for advertorials, or just send the bills directly to Spotify.

    • Esol Esek

      I’m a man and her product isn’t selling to me. Why would some some bleached frankenstein with a pretty face and thunder thighs that’s married with a child to a predatory rapper in a genre I despise succeed at selling sex to me?

      Beyonce’s fans are uneducated women. You think any men are buying her schtick except to impress some low-rent girlfriend? The woman can barely sing, and has the most pedestrian voice of any female performer that’ famous currently. The other girl in Destiny’s Child was a 10 times better vocalist, but Beyonce’s bleached her hair, has a cutesy face and contacts apparently.

      When it comes to marketing, however, I have to agree with her approach. Even an ndie can put their music on a million radio stations and Vevo, or wherever, anywhere but Spotify. If the song is that good, then keep pushing it and will gain an audience, then you drive that audience to where it needs to go to to buy. If they won’t buy then ok, but I’m not supporting Spotify and Pandora, period, end of story.

  8. Anonymous

    “Not only that, full-package audio+video releases are easier to protect”

    I agree with almost everything in this story, but this is plain nonsense. There’s no way you can ‘protect’ content that users can see or hear, period.

    I never visit pirate sites so I can’t document this, but I know that all songs and all videos were instantly available where you would expect them to be available.

    Now, according to all the streaming philosophers out there, the majority of consumers should have robbed the place immediately after release because there weren’t any legal alternatives. That is, after all, the entire raison d’être for streaming, right?

    So exactly why didn’t they do that?

    Why did the tech industry and all the streaming apologetics completely fail in their analyses?

    The only logical explanation is that we’re witnessing the first tangible results of all the new anti-piracy laws and initiatives that have continued to pop up all over the world since the fall of MegaUpload. Ordinary people no longer wish to deal with the constantly increasing danger levels that are associated with piracy today.

    This means that the entire justification behind streaming fell apart this week.

    • Farley

      ” tangible results of all the new anti-piracy laws and initiatives that have continued to pop up all over the world.” How does this square with the great difficulty of using the DMCA to get a take-down from YouTube or other sites?

      • Anonymous

        You don’t use DMCA take-down notices to remove pirated files from YouTube.

        You use ContentID. Except you don’t, as it’s automatic. So it’s fair to say that Google not only solved the piracy problem on YouTube; they also did it in a way that works great for everybody; fans, right holders and YouTube.

        This is unfortunately somewhat overshadowed by the fact that Google still is the web’s biggest portal to piracy.

  9. FarePlay

    So many are missing the point here. Beyonce has created a major story about fans buying complete releases from artists. Like her? Like the record? Write it off because she’s a star? None of that matters.

    What happened here was a message has been sent out about the value of purchasing complete works by artists and not just single downloads. This “either / or crap” that permeates these discussions are not only counter-productive to music, but in many cases have an agenda behind them that has nothing to do with the future health of music. Frankly, I could care less if Pandora or Spotify survive.

    It is the music I care about. And those who care about music will find it, wherever it is. This idea that music would collapse and disappear without the internet is BS. The question is and the one musicians need to start understanding is; how well would the internet be doing if they didn’t have all this great content that they are constantly low balling or paying nothing for at all?

    Stop blaming the cost of content for your failures and figure out how to run a profitable business where both sides flourish. If you can’t, you deserve to go out of business like everybody else who can’t develop a successful business.

    I can’t even believe the conversations I endure in defense of artists. Or how many times I acknowledge that streaming ain’t going away, but in no way do I support it replacing the sale of recorded music, nor do I feel it is a great alternative, but hey I’m a Luddite.

    Great music has been here long before social media and will be here long after. Time to get the focus back on music and Beyonce did a nice job of getting the ball rolling.

    • GGG

      This was a very interesting post based on past discussions we’ve had. I agree with about 99% of this, but you have a very strange way of debating things. Nobody thinks music will collapse without the internet, just like nobody says people will disappear if they aren’t on Spotify. You make up these strange arguments in your head pretty often. If you leave your music off the internet, the place where everyone goes for everything nowadays, you are at an enormous disadvantage, but you can still have a career in theory.

      But anyway, this quote: “Stop blaming the cost of content for your failures and figure out how to run a profitable business where both sides flourish. If you can’t, you deserve to go out of business like everybody else who can’t develop a successful business” hits the nail on the head. You can’t blame failure on anything but yourself.

      As for the either/or discussion, I agree 100%. The problem is people are using this one instance to prove all sorts of points it doesn’t in any way, shape or form prove. Nobody below Beyonce’s level could have this success because anyone below her doesn’t have the numbers and would not have gotten the press, social media frenzy. UNLESS the art was so ridiculously good and/or at the very least engaging a la a Gangnam Style thing.

      • FarePlay

        GGG everyone could have this success, if their material merited it, albeit on a smaller scale. It has everything to do with perception. Music has value, now we need to tell the story, over and over and over.

    • vhprecords

      I doff my hat to you FarePlay because you hit the nail on the head.
      Beyonce used the same approach artists use when they want to sell live tickets. These often sell out in days and there is a huge excitement around it. Beyonce kept her album OUT of the media so when it dropped it was going to be a huge story. Remember Radiohead? I recall many saying exactly the same thing they are saying about Beyonce and of course missing the point.
      How would this apply to unsigned artists? Very simply

      1. Use Youtube/Spotify/advertising as portals to building your reputation.
      2. Gather your tribe on Twitter/Facebook/your own site.
      3. Interact with them.
      4. Release your album/book/film/whatever in a single bang!

      Job done!

  10. R.P.

    Dude, don’t be an idiot and sell people hype. Beyonce is nearly three decades in and has a firm fan base of millions of people. Michael Jackson could have pulled the same ploy and won equally, if not with greater numbers. FOMO and Social Media are the reason for this album’s success over her last album (4). Yes, I know, she didn’t use Social Media, but that’s only what you think.

    From House of Cards on Netflix:

    When Frank plants a story with Zoe suggesting a cabinet appointment, he tells her to “say that name… say it over and over. Tomorrow afternoon, write it down, then watch that name come out the mouth of the President of the United States. This is where we get to create.”

    Beyonce and her team “created”. The masses just never know when they have been manipulated.

    Kudos to them and an effective plan.

    Also, ask the artists that will foolishly believe the hype in this article this question:

    ‘as Beyonce has released over 30+ songs and 20 something + videos in the last two years, and has performed over 250+ shows in those last two years, how many songs, videos, and shows have you performed at in the same time? Now, ask yourself why you are where you are.’

    It’s unfair to gas these aspiring artists with the exception to the rule because you do know that there are always exceptions to rules, right?


    • MH

      Word! I’ve been “selling” my music on Bandcamp for a couple of years. I’ve made about 20$, because without a fanbase you are NOTHING in today’s market. What Beyoncé is doing has nothing to do with most artists out there. However, if you have managed to build a sizeable fanbase, you have LOTS of options, not just the ones mentioned in this simplistic article. Even Spotify is a win for big artists. For the rest of us exposure is more important than short-term revenue to build that fanbase. You reap what you sow, as always.

  11. What Bob Lefsetz says...

    It’s a stunt. No different from Radiohead’s “In Rainbows.” Unrepeatable by mere mortals, never mind wannabes and also-rans.

    That’s how desperate Apple is. It lets Beyonce circumvent its rules and release a “video album,” so the record industry can have its bundle and the Cupertino company can delude itself into believing that it’s got a solution to Spotify, when the Swedish streaming company is chasing YouTube, not iTunes.

    And the media is so impressed by numbers that it trumpets the story, believing its role is to amplify rather than analyze.

    Yes, it was a story. The same way a bomb or SpaceX or anything new gets people’s attention. Only in this case, there was something to buy. Whoo-hoo! We got lemmings and fans to lay down their credit cards to spend money for the work of a superstar, as if this is a new paradigm.

    And we’ve got Rob Stringer and the rest of the inane music business slapping its back, declaring victory.

    What a bunch of hogwash.

    The story of 2013 is cacophony. How it’s almost impossible to get your message out to anybody but those who truly care. Because we’re inundated with a tsunami of information and can’t be bothered by that which we are not interested in.

    Yes, in a world where Snapchat is burgeoning and Instagram allows private messages we’re trumpeting something that went viral.

    That’s so 2012, that’s so “Gangnam Style.”

    The bottom line is Beyonce is a superstar. And superstars get traction. And everybody else is close to ignored. And you become a superstar by having a bunch of money and power behind you.

    Name this year’s big viral music video.

    There isn’t one. That game is gone too. And anything that moves is supported by the big boys, it’s all about manipulation.

    So you do the same thing Beyonce does. You drop your album with no advance publicity. Will that be news?


    We’ve seen the trick!

    Beyonce has put in years of hard work and hit tracks to get to the point where people pay attention.

    If you’ve got a stiff album can you whip your audience into a frenzy and get them to buy it first day out by doing no advance publicity? In other words, would Gaga have been better off doing what Beyonce did?

    I’d say so.

    But that wouldn’t work for long. And the point here truly is longevity.

    Yes, at the heart of this Beyonce project is old school thinking. Which is let’s release an ALBUM!

    Are we gonna be talking about “Epic” a year from now? Three months from now?

    There’s a good chance we’re not. That’s what’s wrong with the album construct, it was built for a different time. When we were starved for information and people waited for radio to work a “new” single years after the album was released.

    But these days the entire album is available for free the day it comes out. Do you really expect those sitting on the fence to decide to purchase 18 months out? That was the old game, deliver enough hit singles to convert those who were unsure. The new game is to constantly release product so that the audience will continue to be enticed.

    PSY didn’t have a follow-up single. Oh, he released one, it got a bit of traction out of curiosity, then disappeared, I dare you to name it.

    Carly Rae Jepsen had the hit of the summer and had no follow-up and is now forgotten.

    Robin Thicke released an album, but all people wanted was the single, he’s a trivia question, do you think he’s going to be invited to sing “Blurred Lines” at the 2014 AMAs? Ha!

    What’s your plan Stan? Just because you’ve got ten tracks that does not mean anybody is interested.

    And that’s what you need, a plan. And the plan can’t be to sell people one collection at one time. That’s as if Google only updated its search engine once a month, instead of constantly. How often do you think you’d go back to Google if that was the case?

    It comes down to music. And careers. And today being an artist means constantly creating, building an audience and holding it.

    This surprise album changes none of that.

    If you think there are lessons to be learned here, you come home from Magic Castle and try to duplicate the tricks.

    It’s a novelty. A footnote. Near meaningless.

    Beyonce is a star. If she tried to do this a year from now, almost nobody would be talking about it.


    • Supa Rockin' EG

      Bob Lefsetz is a dick.

      An interesting question though, is this: most of the “free” albums Bobby refers to are illegal downloads. And Spotify, et al, streams are dirt cheap. How would we feel that his entire blog post has been copied on a different site without his permission? Would he be OK with that? Because, hey, that’s how people get their information now, right? And if you ask for permission, you might as well be Paul Simon in the ’70s, right? I really would like to hear his response to THAT.

      • GGG

        Seeing as how his newsletter is free he probably wouldn’t give a fuck.

  12. Dan

    What Beyonce Just taught the music industry: “If you’re as famous as Beyonce (who built her career off a model that no longer exists) you can do whatever you want, you can avoid streaming, you can sell albums out of the back of a damn van….and you’ll still sell hundreds of thousands of albums.
    IF YOU’RE ANY OTHER ARTIST, without a massive fan base, YOU CAN’T. You need to be on streaming, why? Because nobody cares about you. Nobody gives you the benefit of the doubt. If they see you released an album only on itunes, they’ll say I don’t care. And your career will never begin.

    Paul, give it up. Stop living in the past and start reporting of the future. It’s the only way this blog will survive.

    • Anonymous

      “You need to be on streaming”

      It’s kind of charming that a few people still believe that. 🙂

  13. Jae B.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Nine Inch Nails employ this release model 5 1/2 years ago? Didn’t Atoms For Peace follow suit. What, on God’s green Earth, has Carter’s wife done other than what she was told, i.e. follow?

    • Hi-Note

      And let’s not forget about the King of ‘platinum from my bedroom with no advance notice’…. or should I say the ‘Prince’ of multi-platinum sales from his bedroom with no publicity, no i-tunes…. and wait for it……..ALL FROM HIS WEBSITE specifically designed for this release and spread by media and word of mouth.

      He sold it for 30 days and put it in a vault!

      No… this is not new, but it is a good move for Mrs. Carter.

  14. Lynn S

    I’m sorry but this was a very bad development hopefully not to be repeated. Talk about total contempt for music fans! 1999 was a low for the music industry and this stunt repeats the worst aspects of it. There is no way to legitimately hear this album without plunking down $15. What a ripoff! All of this proves that the anti-Spotify contingent simply discounts what music lovers want, and that is a way to a) preview an album in full before purchasing, and b) be able to buy the songs we like, not be stuck with an entire album. Only a star of Beyonce’s stature can get away with this, but it’s disappointing to see someone so wealthy decide that only those who can afford to pay can hear her new album. What a shame.

    • Anonymous

      You can either be rich or really poor, there isn’t much of a middle ground. Wealth discrepancy in the music industry has always been a big problem.

      • Anonymous

        That’s not true. There’s rich and poor, and all nuances in between.

    • Anonymous

      If you can’t afford to pay 15.00 for 14 songs and 17 videos you don’t need it.

      • Lynn S

        It’s a matter of where to spend the $15 — a month and a half for Spotify Premium, 15 individual tracks from different artists, half a year of Pandora One, etc. What few acknowledge is that it’s often less rewarding to listen to an hour straight of one artist as opposed to a mix of different artists. So yeah, you get a lot of music and videos for that $15.99 , but what if I only want one song and spend my money elsewhere? Or what about people without any extra cash? I guess I disagree with Beyoncé that it’s only an immersive experience to listen to a whole album through, instead of, say, a carefully sequenced playlist. Her bundle doesn’t give me that choice.

    • Esol Esek

      Oh, what a shame you had to lower your donut and ice cream budget and fork over a whole $15 to hear the music you’re curious about…..That’s a cheap meal out. What a spoiled generation, but eating plenty that’s for sure.

      Tell me again why I didnt go into the food business.

  15. Ric Pierre

    You said it best explained broke it down for us indies. nice thanx for this great piece of knowledge.. we as indie creators has to apply by this we have to chnage n find different ways to get our music creations out to our fans the world without getting robbed by these corporate greed. we creat for them to steal our creations no no we gotta take make a stand, and Beyonce Jay z, nipsey Hussle, Dom kennedy proves that this can be done.

  16. zog

    Simple. Itunes has what Sony doesn’t fans that have Itunes accounts,123 buy.
    They know there audience. , they targeted loyal customers first would who pay premium for product making it profitable for all.
    Not every artist could do this you need a fan base first and a great team which was topped off by itunes. Large customer base.
    .This is what Apple TV will to the TV ,entertainment industry with the introduction of I harbor that’s Apple TV here’s the introduction

  17. John

    I see what you were going for with this article, and while it does touch upon a few pseudo useful facts, it has a rather large oversight.

    While it is true that Beyonce can “compete with free” to a degree, the underlying reason she has been able to do that is a direct result of the years of exposure, chart dominance, and popularity she’s had over the years; all of which was due to the heavy marketing and advertising dollars up to this point. Without of the traditional processes she went through, she is unlikely to have build as large of a fan base in the first place to leverage with this type of debut launch.

    Furthermore, what she did is definitely doable on a smaller scale, but the money and any other benfits are probably negligible without a critical mass of an actual fan base. A big benefit of lesser known artists using services such as spotify and pandora (as disadvantageous) as they may be to the artist, is a way to potentially build their exposure and fan base to a point were releasing to fans makes sense.

    If any lesson has been taught, it is that you do not need to rely on the industry the way is currently designed forever…as long as your fan base is large enough. The lesson is that one you achieve a critical mass of fans, you can sidestep the traditional middlemen and have more control over your work , its reception, and ideally your bottom line. This lesson is most actionable by other artists of her caliber and public reach.

  18. JaaDFire

    This was BRILLANT. Being a new artist http://jaadfire.com and starting to establish myself I am, of course, confronted with the issues surrounding Pandora, Spotify, Youtube and the rest.

    Is putting my music out for basically free going to give me a decent return on the investment I have made?

    Thank you for this excellent and informative article.



  20. Anonymous

    It’s SImple, she used the $$$ she got from pepsi. That pepsi deal wasn’t all money, They are paying for projects and supporting her tour.. Smart Woman, gotta luv Ms. Knowles. #bowdown

  21. Anonymous

    I think the points raised are valid and very interesting in light of the ever evolving music industry. I don’t think they hold as much weight coming from an already established multi million album selling artists. Would be interesting to see the results of this approach from a more obscure artist. Nonetheless some interesting things to consider for the modern musician/artist.

  22. @BobbyGiggz

    Most people on the forum are missing the wood from the trees.
    The most important variable in this equation is how the artist has by-passed the traditional ‘square-one’, which is RADIO, and gone straight to market with their product.
    The bureaucracy of radio stations, and the time-consuming and tiresome schedule of running around every station doing 15 minute interviews in return for a few spins of your record. The same applies to TV.
    Not to mention the added expense for an artist and management to organise and schedule the PR bandwagon.

    I suspect the artist can now take their time and pick the most lucrative shows to appear on.
    I would say this amounts to a 30% reduction in costs to an artists bottom Line. Meaning they can recoup must faster and enjoy the process a lot more.

    • Lynn S

      I don’t listen to FM radio, but it’s pretty clear that without it, you’re no longer going to be present to the masses. So are you saying it’s acceptable to Beyoncé to be the equivalent to a once big rock band whose new music no longer gets played, but can sell a lot of records with a new album without radio support? That “Halo” and “Single Ladies” will be her high point in terms of ubiquity? I still think true success comes from hits that stick around for years. As I get older I’m noticing which songs get remembered and which are forgotten. If all that matters is profit and loss, then you’re right, but I think it’s more important to leave behind songs that will be cherished for years to come.

      • Esol Esek

        That’s not an issue for Beyonce. None of her music will be cherished by the masses for eternity. There were be some dinosaurs listening to it for sure, but compared to the pantheon of great music, I doubt it. Think I’;m wrong? A lot of the music on the radio these days wasn’t top 40 when it was released (Iggy Pop, Pixies, Clash), and a lot of the top 40 isn’t even played anymore – Poison, Whiteshnake, New Kids on the Block, NSync, even a fair amount of Madonna doesn’t get played. Don Henley had huge hits in the 80s, but mostly his music with the Eagles is what’s on the radio, not his later schlock. You probably don’t even know who that is.

        Of course the entire concept of FM radio may be gone soon anyway. I know a lot of people under 35 who listen to SIrius not over the air FM. The way things are going, the NSA will probably decide what music we get to listen to anyway, through our control implants installed at birth, that’s if the warbots don’t kill us off.

  23. Chris

    Too bad it’s not about the music.
    Hey check out lauramvula.com
    Now here’s somebody who can write songs and sing.

  24. Will

    So come on let’s have it then… What is the best way for an unknown artist to get known when you need the internet, because your stuck in a country where the type of music you make is not what is appreciated in that country?

  25. JTVDigital

    What is interesting is that a similar approach can is already accessible to smaller artists (with the support of companies like ours).
    Instead of just sending your stuff to iTunes and magically wait for sales to appear, you can:
    – set-up a pre-order and start creating a buzz with your fans before the official release date
    – release a music video and send it to iTunes
    – create iTunes ringtones from your best songs and sell it on the store for iPhone’s users
    – bet on a higher audio quality and deliver your songs as “Mastered for iTunes”
    – add a pdf booklet to your release to make your “product” more interesting
    – create a ‘simple” iTunes artist profile to display your artist main pic and photos on the store
    – get a complete artist profile (iTunes LP) with full size banner and graphic design of your artist page
    It requires some (reasonable) investment but the result can be much more appealing, creative and professional than the “sitting and waiting” strategy some artists and labels unfortunately still have when it comes to digital music.


    It’s simply that the insensitive author of the article had the audactiy to add this line: “JUST TAUGHT EVERY SINGLE ARTIST IN THE WORLD”, to the title of a trivial piece. It is TRIVIAL because it DOES NOT contain any USEFUL INFORMATION that emerging artists (who do not have the same resources as Beyonce), can use to better their career.

    So what is she actually teaching? Nothing! It’s just another praise piece to remind us the already obvious fact that she’s the biggest female music superstar, who is privileged enough to get creative with her new releases. The queen cannot get enough SUPERLATIVES and LAUDING from her most loyal subjects.

    What’s even funnier, is that this tactic is NOT at at all NEW. RADIOHEAD DID IT FIRST!

    The title of this piece should be: “What The Music Industry Can Learn From Beyonce’s New Release” – Leave the f*cking artists of the world OUT OF THIS f*cking pretentious posturing and praise!!!!

  27. @mattadownes

    We’re getting closer to understanding all of this. Great post Paul, the dialog keeps getting more and more intense.

    High quality music, from super stars and garage bands alike, will prevail in the end.

  28. Maugarz

    All it takes is powerful artists like Beyonce united with Record Labels and this all Streaming thing its gonna be over. And its gonna happen very soon.