1) A front line artist selling 600,000+ US albums in 72 hrs, with no album set up whatsoever, is really healthy in 2013. I don’t care if you’re Beyoncé and the bar is set really high, she reached a good number of fans. That many people opening up iTunes over the weekend to buy an album is great. How many people went anywhere to buy the new Katy Perry or Eminem record in the first 72 hrs?
2) You can’t undervalue instant gratification and I think Beyoncé was able to capitalize well on that. Ironically, it’s what makes streaming music such a good value proposition for consumers.
3) The “everywhere for everyone” approach is a good one if you’re talking about driving discovery but maybe this ‘Beyoncé’ experiment will show us something about windowing for streaming services. It’s all very having your cake and eating it but perhaps you can sell a lot of records initially and ultimately reach a larger audience over time through ubiquity.
4) I’m curious what type of purchase influence the videos have. Adding high production value video experiences for every song seems like a good device to get people to buy an album as a package, or at least mentally justify it. “This thing only comes this way, the way the artist intended, so if I want that experience, this is how I get it.” Video has to be highly compelling though. Belly banding footage you had in the can on the end of an album doesn’t help sell records.
5) There was a ton of demand for a new Beyoncé record. I think if you threw a secret album out every 12 months it would not be as successful the second time. Or maybe it would be more successful? You’d create ever larger demand by adding fuel to the fire, assuming the music was always great. 60s acts frequently put out multiple albums in a year. Timberlake put out two records this year and the demand wasn’t as strong for the second one, but it wasn’t a secret record.
6) Saying “Beyoncé sure, but that doesn’t work for a new artist” is almost a bit too obvious to be worth mentioning. Set up leading into a release has so much to do with scheduling – press, touring and promo etc. and non-Beyoncé level acts have to work around other people’s schedules. Dropping a surprise record would probably be too detrimental or at the least confusing. It’s helpful to have a date people can talk about and publicize.
7) I see no reason other big acts could not run the ‘Beyoncé’ plan and have sales success. You’d have to deal with the biting Beyoncé blowback, but I don’t see why an unannounced Drake or Coldplay record wouldn’t be just as exciting for their fans and reach a decent chunk of casual listeners. Though I wish I knew how many casual Beyoncé enthusiasts bought the record in the first 3 days. Are you even considered casual at that point?
8) It will be interesting to see how much traditional promo she does around this record and what effect it has. My assumption is she’ll do all the same things that she would had her album not been a surprise. She has two shows in New York next week and she’s touring Europe early next year. I would expect another US lap next year at some point.
9) Beyoncé doesn’t use Twitter and her website is borderline terrible so maybe those things are less essential to success than some people think. Or maybe she sells 2x if she is a master of all things digital, I don’t know if there’s a clear answer to this. It couldn’t possibly hurt her to have a solid website and an email list (try signing up, it’s really hard to find on her site). She has 52m likes on Facebook. If she could get 5% of those on her email list, she’d be doing even better.