Analysis

Surprise! Beyoncé drops new album as iTunes exclusive to beat piracy


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Beyoncé is the new David Bowie! She’s sprung a surprise on the music world by releasing her fifth album this morning exclusively on Apple’s iTunes Store, just as Bowie did with his ‘The Next Day’ earlier in the year.

Called simply ‘Beyoncé’, it’s being described as a “visual album” – 14 songs and 17 videos, sold for a single price (£12.99 here in the UK) with no ability to buy the tracks or videos individually.

In the press release announcing the album, the iTunes strategy is described as an attempt to fend off pre-release piracy. “For an artist who has been the target of leaks, this is a fully designed preventative plan,” as it explains. But as in Bowie’s case, the surprise element is also a big part of the plan.

“That the album is available on the day the world is learning about its release is an unprecedented strategic move by the artist to deliver music and visual content directly to her fans when she wants to and how she wants to, with no filter,” explains the announcement.

“This unique approach allows music fans to be the first to listen, view, engage and form their own opinions void of any middleman.  In the age of social media and an insatiable appetite for direct communication, this is the answer to the question asked over and over again, when is Beyoncé’s next album coming?… Stripped of gimmicks, teasers and marketing campaigns, this project is truly about art before hype.”

Well, the nature of this kind of surprise release creates its own hype, but anyway. The album won’t only be sold on iTunes: a CD/DVD version will be available before Christmas, although it’ll be interesting to see whether streaming music services get the album this year too. Facebook is part of the marketing campaign though: the social network will be the distribution platform for the first part of a mini-documentary – ‘Self-Titled’ – about the making of the album.

“I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it,” says Beyoncé in a statement. “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. 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.”

Stuart Dredge

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One response
  • Glen says:

    I think this approach is an ingenious way to prevent pre-release piracy. Some of the biggest instances of piracy and copyright infringement happen when artist’s songs are leaked. This album drop will probably set the stage for other big name artists, but unfortunately, the smaller artists who are his hardest by online piracy probably won’t be able to benefit from this new avenue.

    -Glen

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