Many are talking about Beyonce’s new self-titled album, from news outlets to social media networks. But what I find to be the highlight of Beyonce’s release isn’t the fact that she is giving a finger to the industrialized machine of the music industry, but the marketing genius of a team behind her album’s release. Beyonce is still very much a piece of the corporate music machine, from being part of a label (Columbia Records), to the art she produces (pop music designed to sell). Her rejecting of marketing traditions does not make her irreverent, nor a rebel of the system, but instead, makes her adaptable in an era where people tune in more and more to social media and pop culture news outlets to get their dose of news. She is very much a product of the system and this move has perhaps promoted her to her record label’s favorite child.
Beyonce tells the world casually through Instagram that she just released a new album. It sounds like a direct, heartfelt way to communicate her art to her fans, and the video on her website where she looks like she’s telling a personal message is very convincing. As someone who works in the media industry, I can pinpoint some things why I think this was marketing genius from the paid, owned, earned framework:
– She took the less predictable route to tell everyone about her new album, thereby eliminating the cost of paid advertising and betting primarily on the power of owned and earned media.
– Anticipating the surge of searches when people hear about this release, paid search advertising is activated
– There could be other forms of digital advertising, such as pre-roll or display banners, but I haven’t seen any lately. And I’ve reading about her and going to her website in the last two days. Either her marketing team doesn’t know about retargeting, or they have failed to designate me as part of the target audience.
– Her website was redesigned to accommodate this new album, putting it at the center of the show, with every other piece of content acting in support of this new masterpiece.
– The production quality of this multimedia work (each song with its own video) is quite high, showing that there were a ton of resources (in terms of people, equipment, production budget) that helped birth this album.
– Celebrities tweeted about the album, giving it a lot of attention, and with these celebrities having clout through the number of followers they have on social media sites, their tweets produced a snowball of impressions for Beyonce, garnering more people to hear about her new album.
– Prominent news outlets like Time and NY Times, along with media and music websites, picked up the story and that gave the album even more coverage.
– All of these messages from news outlets to social media reach a global audience, where Beyonce has legions of fans, not just those in the US.
– Beyonce repeatedly describes this new album as a work of “art,” and she, an “artist,” riding the phase in the industry of elevating pop music as an art, which was made prominent by Lady Gaga in recent years with her theatrical performances, appearances and fashion. However, I would call Lady Gaga an artist first before Beyonce.
– Beyonce is branding herself as an artist who is human, someone who is “one of us”, taking away some of the pretentiousness earned by divas that imparts resentment among fans and has the potential to hurt a musician’s reputation when found out. This idea that she is just an ordinary girl like the rest of us was seeded a few years ago when she released her “I am Sasha Fierce” album (and went on interviews where she talked about being a reserved woman who takes on a different persona when she performs), which then continued with the release of her autobiographical documentary early this year, her videos with au naturel makeup, along with her posts on social media that flip between personal and performer personas, all contribute to making her look down-to-earth, an artist who is centrally concerned about her art, not the spectacle that comes with being a celebrity. This is her way of being relatable with her fans in this era where consumers are seeking more honesty from industrial machines (ie. food industry, media, etc)
I like her album, and I think it’s entertaining. It has it’s moments of beauty and catchy beats, along with the typical serving of Beyonce vulgarity that is constant in her albums and videos ever since she started performing. I wouldn’t venture to call this personally as art, though. The genius behind this event is that Beyonce’s team knows how to adapt to the changing media landscape. Why pay for advertising if I can get my friends to tweet about me for free and reach not only people in the US, but also in other parts of the world?
What would really be noteworthy is if she gave away this album for free, like Radiohead did for “King of Limbs” two years ago. Now that’s what I call a remarkable move from the artist rather than the machine. That makes more of a statement than her new album.