Photo-Illustration: Vulture / Getty Images
In the launch episode of Vulture’s new Culture podcast in itHost Sam Sanders kicks things off in an appropriately critical fashion by discussing Beyoncé’s business with music journalist Danielle Smith, the former editor Feeling And Board and host of podcasts black girl songbook, Here’s Sam, from the episode:
13 December 2013. Dear listener, do you remember where you were? That was the day Beyoncé’s self-titled fifth album Fell From Heaven, Out of Nowhere It Sounded Like It, on a Friday. All 14 songs and even more music videos in one go. It was a moment – a global phenomenon. Beyoncé, the album became the fastest-selling album of all time on iTunes, and it almost immediately reached #1 in over 100 countries. And if you think about it, it established Beyoncé as the most daring and innovative executive in the music industry. So ahead of the release of Beyoncé’s latest album, RenaissanceOf course, we thought we’d take this moment to look back on that 2013 release and the moment Beyoncé broke almost every rule in the biz and changed the whole game. She did it all without a rut, a feat she couldn’t accomplish This week with his latest album.
You can read their conversation below, and be sure to watch the full episode of in it – available wherever you Received Your Podcasts — For More Information, On including Tributes to Women love island ukA focus on whether Bowling for Soup had whitewashed the ’80s in his song “1985“And a debate on ventriloquist Kendrick Lamar.
Sam Sanders: The same year Beyoncé released her self-titled album, 2013 saw several big-name artists like Katy Perry and Eminem leak their albums online. did. “Well, when these leaks happen it’s usually physical CDs going from the press to the stores,” said his team at Parkwood. So she says, “Well, we can stop leaks if we don’t do physical CDs.” That’s why it was only on Apple iTunes in the first place, right?
Daniel Smith: Yes, that’s why. Sometimes CDs leaked during shipping to shops, but this also happened after the files were shipped to the manufacturing plant. Because once something exists as a file-
It is out. it’s all over. it’s done.
Yes, it’s totally out.
Then to make sure she really surprised everyone, she released the album on Friday, when everyone at the time was putting out their albums on Tuesdays. She said, “I’m not doing it this way. I’m doing it that way.” And then because she couldn’t do a traditional press rollout because of the amazing nature of it all, she and Parkwood called Facebook and Instagram and said, “Would you give these videos of me a big push saying that the album Here it is. The day it was released?” And he just said, “Yeah, sure,” For Beyoncé. It is a great thing.
And it was such a co-sign, if you really think about it, of social media. It was a star of his stature basically saying, “That’s where my fans are. This is where the conversation takes place. This is where the original and new marketing is happening.” This is back when Beyoncé only had 8 million followers. He has about 270 million right now. But she knew, she and her team knew, that this is where Beyoncé fans lived, and she went where they were.
Everything else was pretty traditional. Very few artists or labels were aware that something had to change. Right now, if you look at the media plan or the marketing plan or the album release plan, the first sentence – if not the first words – will be about social media. But at that time, it was still not so. People were still talking about breaking songs on the radio.
I remember people going to Ryan Seacrest’s morning radio show like, “Ryan, here’s my new song. Will you play it now?” And Beyoncé added, “We’re not doing that anymore.”
In 2013 no one wanted to believe that social media was going to be social media, It was changing everything, but so many label pros, so many radio professionals, so many singer-songwriters, just didn’t want to believe it was going to be anything but a side dish. As we now know, it is the main dish. Beyonce knew this and took advantage of it from the very beginning.
Beyoncé knows how to cook, right?
a complete meal. And she kicked it too, because she was like, “I’m pretty sure of myself.” This is what makes him so seductive and sexy as an artist. She’s like, “I’m pretty sure of myself. I’m not making 12, 13, 17 songs, then the ones that I think are the best, and then there are the ones I really want to pursue and quote. Going to make a Bachelor single. No, I’m not going to do that. All my songs are awesome.”
“I’m going to make a video for every single song, and I’m going to put it out the same day. I’m not going to parse it for you. I’m not. I’m going to strangle you all with my stuff You loved it for the audacity as much as you loved it for the art.
Can you talk about how the industry changed for artists and labels after Beyoncé introduced the idea of a surprise album drop?
It changed everything. I think some people, some artists, some label executives still didn’t want to believe. I think some people wanted to think, Oh Well, It Might Be Different For Beyoncé Because She’s Beyoncé, without giving credit for changing the whole game. What he allowed the artists to do was, apparently, to take entire tribes of people out of the picture. And not only on the label. These things used to be called magazines. I used to run them, at least two. There was a whole dance where you got to get advance CDs and listen to them and compare them: well, which of these albums is going to help us sell the most magazines? We were third party. We were among the artist and the fans. And Beyoncé said, “I don’t want any of that.”
The surprise album release was so good, so important, so industry-shifting that, the following year, Harvard Business School case study on, One of the big things driving home is that Beyoncé didn’t depend on anyone for anything else. The traditional relationship between an artist and a label is that you have to rely heavily on the label – and they call the shots. But Beyoncé took away a lot of the power that a label usually has.
Yes. Labels used to have so much more control. People would sit in marketing meetings, a room full of 15, 20, 30 people listening to an artist like Beyoncé, and just go around the conference table and decide what was single. It literally doesn’t happen anymore, and Beyoncé is a big part of it.
In some ways, what she was doing was already happening. Little artists were saying, “Oh, there’s MySpace, there’s SoundCloud, these are all different things. I can just push a button and get out my music and release my music to my fans. Regardless. Whether I have 16 fans, 1,600 fans or 16,000 fans, I have control.” And Beyoncé said, “Listen to me, I’m going to do it for myself in a way that no one will be able to believe. No one will say anything about it. No one knows it’s coming. I m Christmas I am going to shut down this whole world at the time.”
We’ve talked a little bit about how Beyoncé changed the road map for other artists, but I wonder what did that infrastructure, let’s call it old industry, do after Beyoncé? How the traditional music press has adapted after Beyoncé quickly said, in a jiffy, “We need a lot less than you thought.”
Oh, Sam, do you know what I like about you? Your optimism, and the fact that you really think someone has adapted.
tell me more.
I don’t know if the industry has completely adapted, be it the recording industry or the media industry. I wish I could say they had. I think there’s a lot of nostalgia for how things used to be. As in the Motown era, when jazz and blues were completely controlled, there was nostalgia in the label and some sections of the media. Oh, wasn’t it great when we could decide when people’s jazz albums were coming out and blues albums were coming out? Wasn’t it great when we could decide whether to put a jazz artist or a blues artist on the cover of our magazine?
Now people are longing for the days when terrestrial radio was the biggest player in the game. And so letting it go, it’s hard to imagine, oh my god it’s really changed, Let’s really start thinking about things differently. Let’s stop acting like the intern is a social-media consultant.
I also think of the things we can see with RenaissanceRelease the “more traditional” and say, “Oh, that sounds old-timey.” No, it really isn’t. When she announced the album, she did with this wide spread British Vogue, You read that piece, and you look at those images, and you realize that Beyoncé has completely changed the relationship between an artist and a magazine. British Vogue, She was in charge. He was happy to have her time, and wrote that article as it is. They were working for him. The power has turned off.
It’s completely overturned. Beyoncé has me on record talking about how, right at the time Destiny’s Child was at its most popular, she was told truthfully and accurately by her publicists that editors had them on the covers of their magazines. There was no room for them. , So there is a feeling,
Didn’t you tell me I can’t be on the cover? Didn’t you tell me that it was not allowed for me, that historically there was nothing that was done? And I know it must have seemed somewhat right to her that she’s wielding this power in places that tell her it’s not there.
We must consider Beyoncé not only as a music artist, but also as a business executive. How would you call Beyoncé executive in a sentence?
People talk about Ford, they talk about Nike, they talk about Coke and Pepsi, and they should talk about Beyoncé. I think she is not even in the middle of where she is going.
Excerpts from this interview have been edited and condensed.
iTunes” and that “the album will also be featured prominently on Facebook’s music page and related
Channel. Plus, Beyonce was supported by an ad campaign run by Facebook and early access to the company’s then-new Autoplay Video feature.