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Who Run the World? Beyoncé Just Changed the Whole Motherf*cking Game

By Courtney Enlow | Think Pieces | December 13, 2013 | Comments ()


Beyonce-IASF-beyonce-32700249-1280-960.jpg

In the entertainment industry, everything is calculated. Even the most authentic act has at least one major element of a strategic plan, either by the artist and his or team, or from the studio or label behind them. Everything is a move, be it a smiling photo at the park with the kids or an easily papped buttcheek. And, in the age of Twitter, you can see every feed littered with Please and Try and Beg. Buy my album. See my movie. Only four days until this and that. Spread the word. Vote for me.

And that’s why what Beyonce has done is more than just an interesting move in terms of selling an album. It’s a revolution. The anti-promotion promotion. By eschewing publicity, she earned more publicity than any other album this year. Where Lady Gaga and Britney Spears failed, despite an inordinate amount of effort on both sides, Beyonce has succeeded in business without really trying.

And it’s incredible.

In the wee hours of last night, Beyonce’s latest album, her first since the birth of daughter Blue Ivy, gave new meaning to the word “dropped” as it literally just dropped on fans, appearing without so much as a hint, putting to rest any other artist’s faux-tragic “leak” sob story for the rest of time.

“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,” 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.”

In a world where Jen Garner and her daughters can be seen at the park every day leading up to the Oscars, when I’m not sure what we’ve seen more of—Miley Cyrus’s tongue or her labia, when even the flawless Jennifer Lawrence can be questioned for taking her “aw shucks” act on the road to promote her latest, Beyonce just dominated every headline on every website without so much as a second appearance from Pizza Pants.

Well played, Sasha Fierce. Well played.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Amina Manina

    2 words. David Bowie.
    Ithankyou.

  • Awoooga

    Beyonce = artifice
    Artifice = art
    (at least in this case)

    I think of her sort of like a pre-pop showbiz lifer. She's not a tortured visionary like Kanye, but she's a damn professional. She and her people are in control, and they've used that control to do some beautiful things.

  • I like Bey, but come on. All over the web for two days, it's been "OMG BEYONCE REVOLUTIONARY GENIUS INNOVATION BEYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!" Wherever there is intelligent life in the universe, I'm sure they are now aware that Beyonce's new album dropped. Factor in this woman's existing wealth and fame, and she made a zero-risk bet that she could get the rest of the world to carry the water AND foot the bill on her launch publicity. Clever, yes. Props, sure. Let's not put her face on the pyramids just yet.

  • SaBrinaStillHatesDisqus

    In the wee hours of last night, Beyonce’s latest album, her first since the birth of daughter Blue Ivy, gave new meaning to the word “dropped” as it literally just dropped on fans, appearing without so much as a hint

    Shit, and here I thought my headache and wooziness yesterday were from a holiday work party hangover, but nope, it was a concussion.

  • getinthecarchris

    Not trying to be a hater or anything, but Radiohead released In Rainbows in 2007 with only 10 days notice and no publicity (and offered a pay-what-you-want model) and Nine Inch Nails took it even a step further in 2008 by releasing their album The Slip with NO notice and no publicity, completely 100% free of charge.

    I still respect the move from Beyonce who, commercially at least, is bigger than either of them. But this is still nothing that any smaller artist could ever do and get away with.

  • I've never liked her music very much (it's just not my kind of thing) but damn, she's a badass and she knows how to get herself talked about. Go kick some more asses, Beyonce. Do some angry gyrating while you're at it.

  • dr_zayaz

    I was much more excited when David Bowie and My Bloody Valentine both did the same thing this year, but they're not gossip page/paparazzi fodder, so...

  • thatstrangewoman

    The success speaks more to the power and popularity of Beyoncé. How many other artists could pull this off? Only a handful. Certainly no new artist could. So whose game has been changed?

  • Kate

    It's really not a game changer. She hasn't made a mainstream album, she couldn't do the usual roll out because there are no big singles. It's a good album, but it's not the kind of thing you can successfully promote by putting out a few singles and teasers, if she'd done it that way it would have just faded away. The 'Queen's' ego couldn't handle that, she needed to come back with a bang, and if the music wouldn't do it for her the way it was released would.

    If she'd had a couple of Single Ladies up her sleeve, she'd be as insufferable as the Gaga's and Miley's of the world right now, but she doesn't, so she's had to take a different approach to save face in a saturated market. It's a smart decision, but it's not the revolutionary approach some people think it is.

  • kammm

    Gee, I think David Bowie did it first, like, 9 months ago.

  • dr_zayaz

    And My Bloody Valentine

  • Cowtools

    If only an actual musician with some unique talent and genuine artistic vision and integrity had done this, it would be a real game changer.

  • dr_zayaz

    David Bowie and My Bloody Valentine both did this year.

  • Cowtools

    Of course! How quick we forget.
    And lets not forget Radiohead and The Raconteurs before them.

  • Kristen Mc

    Not exactly groundbreaking. Louis CK did this 2 years ago with one of his specials. Made it available directly on his website for $5. The fact that her album is exclusive to iTunes means I wont be purchasing it. Ugh, iTunes.

  • RipCity

    much respect to Louis but Beyonce is quite a bit bigger than him lol

  • Random_Disqus_Guy

    Thats not the point. The point is that Louis CK and others have done this, so this strategy is not "groundbreaking."

    LOL.

  • RipCity

    it's certainly groundbreaking for an artist of her stature to do this

  • Dumily

    What I find most amazing about Beyonce is the almost religious levels of dedication her fans have. I don't dislike Beyonce, but I don't particularly care about her either. Single Ladies is still awesome, but I'm not sure that I could name that many other songs of hers. But, seriously, her fans are for real. I have seen the coolest cool kid hipsters wax poetic, un-ironically about how perfect she is. I know a grad student who got "Beyonce Wouldn't Procrastinate" tattooed on his forearm. What is the deal, guys?

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I'm old and I doubt I could tell the difference between her and Pink singing but I still know who she is. She's stunningly beautiful, she apparently puts on a great show and she married extremely well. That makes her American royalty. And although she's worn some tacky clothes thanks to her "designer" mother, she's never gone the Miley route and she comes across as a class act. I can think of worse role models.

  • She has the masses fooled. She's no more talented than any other mass produced r&b artist, and probably less so.

    I find her vacant, substanceless, and dull in the extreme. We need a club.

  • kirbyjay

    I will join. I find her gyrations somewhat vulgar and I'm astonished at my own prudishness.

  • Dumily

    See, that's the thing. I have almost no feelings about her whatsoever. I can't even be bothered to be annoyed by the devotion. I just find it puzzling. Like when that crazy woman quit her job with a mass email, and included a bunch of reasons why Beyonce is better than Brittany? My only reaction was "Is this a thing people do now? Are other people debating Beyonce vs Brittany? Do I need to get a Team B_______ t shirt?"

  • apsutter

    You're not kidding. I love her as much as I can love any star but her superfans are cray.

  • Something completely calculated from one of the most calculating, constructed, artists of all time. Every tiny move, every word, workshopped to within an inch of its existence by the marketroids in Beyoncé's evil genius island headquarters.

  • She's worth a fortune. Her husband is worth a fortune. Cash is no longer a motivator for these people - they're literally swimming in it.

    Would you continue to do the painful, tedious, embarrassing PR Watusi if you didn't have to? Or would you focus on what you enjoy, put out an album your legions of fans will buy sans-PR simply because YOU did it, and skip all the BS?

    If I had F-U money, it's definitely what I would do.

  • Cowtools

    But SHE didn't do it. She's a fabricated product just like Miley and the rest. The corporations that have millions of dollars invested in the Beyonce 'brand' always want more money, and they've found a new way get to it.

  • Kate

    Artists don't tour on the scale that Beyonce and Jay Z do if they aren't interested in money. They don't sell their soul to Pepsi Co. for the experience.

    Beyonce doesn't fund her own albums. That she was able to do this suggests the label didn't think a big promo push would be worth the costs.

  • apsutter

    Fucking love her. Waking up today was like Christmas morning lol. I love how she did a video for every song...reminds me of B'day and I loved that album

  • This was such a smart move. Completely sets her apart from the Gagas and Mileys scrabbling for attention. Beyoncé is the real deal, she doesn't need to beg.

  • cedarfalls

    Except that the album doesn't have even ONE stand-out track. I listened to all the clips on iTunes and had forgotten every note within about 30 seconds!

  • I am bewildered at these downvotes. One from Miley and one from Gaga?

  • alwaysanswerb

    I didn't downvote you, but I'll share my disagreement in the form of words: given that her name is in precisely EVERYONE's mouth today, I hardly see this move as something that was done with the expectation that it wouldn't get massive amounts of attention.

    edit to add: I mean, the album is "a visual experience." There's a music video for every song. It's not exactly low-key, "don't look at me" album.

  • That's why I said it was smart. I don't think it was a game-changer or anything genuine, I think it was a brilliant strategy to get everyone to check out her album by pretending she didn't need to publicize. The best publicity of all. She and her team have always had strong business strategies.

    ETA: I'm not a big Beyoncé fan, but I respect the hell out of her work ethic and business acumen. She knows how to get what she wants.

  • Cowtools

    I down voted you because music isn't a 'business', and she'll be the 'real deal' when she writes her own songs and plays her own instruments and has a successful song without a million dollar video to push it.

  • Guest

    It isn't a great song, but she did write "Bootylicious." You may not want music to be a business, but it certainly is one. Especially the way Beyoncé is making it.

  • Cowtools

    Well, technically, 'Bootylicious' is based almost entirely on a sample of 'Edge Of Seventeen' by Stevie Nicks. Which really just proves my point: Someone else does all the hard work and Beyonce gets the credit.

  • BWeaves

    It's a question of expectation. If you hype something up, you're bound to be disappointed by the time it arrives. If you weren't expecting it, you're bound to be more enthusiastic after it arrives.

  • It's revolutionary for a star of her wattage to take this approach, but hyped rappers have dropped mixtapes outta nowhere for damn near a decade now.

    I always thought it would be clever of a movie studio to do something like this with a film that's good/entertaining but not a massive summer tentpole. Just drop it in 2,800 theaters sans promotion and let the internet take care of the rest. The logistics are admittedly difficult (theater owners/chains would have to be made aware in advance) so maybe VoD/Netflix would be a better approach, but the film would be a cultural experience and earn a lot more money than it would otherwise.

  • Emilie

    if you made it downloadable for a bit more than the price of a movie ticket you could accomplish it, perhaps.
    several thousand veronica mars fans are going to get movie downloads the day it opens in theaters, which is a really calculated and interesting move i think. it will be fascinating to see how that plays out in march.

  • oh the hue manatee

    I'm getting the DVD but I'm still going to the theater to watch w/ other fans!

  • Dumily

    I'm already counting down the days.

  • laylaness

    MY FLAWLESS QUEEN.

  • Patty O'Green

    Yeah, Courtney is pretty badass!

  • Sean

    She just didn't want to spend the money for PR. With the recording industry basically over, why bother? Touring is where she will make her money. And merchandising and advertising products. Why waste time, money, and effort doing something that will not do anything?

  • Al Borland's Beard

    So, she's getting all the promotion the day after in the form of stories like this. Plus, she just happened to be ready to interview about it? I don't see how it's not calculated. I also don't see how it's game changing. People will still promote the hell out of albums before, because not everyone has the success of Beyoncé to risk a flop.

  • JJ

    True. Like Louis CK selling standup tickets directly or self-releasing his album for $5 or the pay-what-you-will model for Radiohead's "In Rainbows." It's easier for those people to do because of their existing notoriety. It's just another level of shrewdness.

  • I dont think she's making the case that it wasn't calculated. Just that it's a different form of calculation.

  • Al Borland's Beard

    Then how is it any better? Why celebrate it as some bold, new move on selling an album when it's basically the same as anyone else only with the PR taking place after the album's release?

  • etguild2

    It's something that's never been tried, and appears to be a wildly successful strategy. This is a decidedly un-commercial, not radio-friendly record compared to competitors, with no advance singles, yet is going to debut to at least 600,000 copies, a career high...in only 3 days, less than half the time of a traditional release. It's possibly the "Netflix" of album releasing and could give the whole industry a boost/change in strategy. Then again, the logistics of making 17 music videos and the lawyering/confidentiality agreements involved in this...

  • Nicholas

    Umm, tell Radiohead that she was the first to do this.

  • etguild2

    Radiohead gave their album away for free, like tons of bands do. Much more commendable anti-establishmentarianism. Beyonce dropped it on the biggest music site on the planet, and reaped a record sales week within 3 days.

  • Nicholas

    Record? How so?

  • etguild2

    #1 in record number of countries. Biggest worldwide sales week on iTunes ever (in 3 days no less).

  • Nicholas

    Because it was exclusive to Itunes. Radiohead did their own thing and didn't have to pay a middleman. But, hey, whatever gets you off.

  • etguild2

    Hundreds of bands and artists do what Radiohead did. It's not a matter of what gets me off, it's what keeps the industry afloat so that labels have the money to promote all kinds of artists, from Radiohead to Beyonce.

  • gnibs

    I upvoted you for your screen name.

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