The joys of being at a keyboard at 6.30am last Friday meant we were on the news that Beyoncé had released a surprise new album fairly early. As the day went on, global media (not to mention social media) joined in with news, reviews and analysis of What It All Means.

Well, what does it all mean? We’ve got some early figures in to help us puzzle that out. Starting with sales: in the US, ‘Beyoncé’ sold 80k units in three hours on Thursday after going on sale, and another 350k on Friday. Billboard expects it to top 600k for the sales week.

There are plenty of social media stats buzzing around too. Twitter said on Saturday that the album release had generated at least 1.2m tweets, while Facebook said that mentions of Beyoncé had leaped by more than 1,300% in the hours after the launch.

That’s backed up by analytics firm Musicmetric, which claims Bey added 217k new fans on social networks on Friday, and another 391k on Saturday. But Musicmetric has also published some figures on piracy of ‘Beyoncé’ on the first day of release too, suggesting that the star’s BitTorrent downloads surged by 1,300% on Friday.

It’s the surprise factor that’s causing most interest, although you have to feel sorry for every media outlet that was already most of the way through its ‘top X albums of 2013’ end-of-year series. “Typically, a launch campaign for something like this would last months, with trailers, singles and interviews. The instant surge of interest has almost concentrated that into a couple of days,” noted Musicmetric’s press release.

David Bowie may be the obvious comparison, but as things stand we can’t help comparing Beyoncé’s approach with Lady Gaga – the latter’s lengthy pre-release hype around an album app that was merely interesting, versus the former’s surprise drop of a ‘visual album’ with 17 videos accompanying its 14 tracks.

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