“I just want to give my album to the people I love and respect and hope that they feel the same thing I felt when I made the music”
I could not think of a better way to start the year 2014 than to feature one of the most popular musical artists of our time…or any time. The quote above is from Beyoncé Knowles, referring to the release of her new album, Beyoncé. Her fifth solo album is very different from her other efforts because it is infused with 14 new songs and 17 visually stunning, provocative videos shot around the world from Houston to New York City to Paris, and Sydney to Rio de Janeiro, all before the album’s release. The biggest difference is the album was made available December 13, 2013 directly to fans without any advanced marketing.
Reading the above quote helps us understand Beyoncé’s feelings of giving the gift of music directly to her fans. I truly believe she is no different from other musical artists in her resolve, but it is very difficult to produce and promote music void of business concerns. Nevertheless, Beyoncé Knowles recorded and released her album and made it available exclusively on the iTunes store with absolutely no filter. What made it possible for Beyonce to independently release music and videos in this way? Look nowhere else but her previous success within the music industry.
On stage, her dynamic, highly choreographed performances have led to critics hailing her as one of the best entertainers in contemporary popular music. Throughout a career spanning 16 years, she has won 17 Grammy Awards and sold over 118 million records as a solo artist and 60 million with Destiny’s Child, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time. The Recording Industry Association of America recognized Knowles as the Top Certified Artist in America during the 2000s decade. In 2009, Billboard named her the Top Radio Songs Artist of the Decade, the Top Female Artist of the 2000s and their Artist of the Millennium in 2011. In 2013, she was also included in Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Of course, with all the success has come a great deal of monetary gain and exposure to the very best talent throughout the music industry. Such contacts gave her an incredible pool of songwriters and producers to help her deliver the best product possible as Beyoncé debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart. Immediately after the album release I read several articles praising Knowles for changing the way music is promoted. I think we must applaud her production efforts first. The big push in unit sales may come from her decision to release music videos simultaneously with the album. “I see music,” says Beyoncé about her decision to create a visual album. “It’s more than just what I hear. When I’m connected to something, I immediately see a visual or a series of images that are tied to a feeling or an emotion, a memory from my childhood, thoughts about life, my dreams or my fantasies. And they’re all connected to the music.”
Record companies saw music videos as a promotional tool that could not be ignored years ago. Along with technological advances is the general public’s growing appetite for visual entertainment and it seems Knowles has fed her fan base exactly what they crave. I mentioned before that some feel that Beyoncé’s decisions will bring about changes in how other artists will release music. Some feel that she has changed the music game. I feel that the music industry climate changed a while ago. Various artists have successfully released and promoted music without investment or decisions from record company executives. Entertainers now understand they can control all aspects of their music and give fans unfiltered art. No, I do not think Beyonce changed the game but I give her credit for realizing that she had the ability to control her creativity and promotional efforts.
I have discussed this with a few folks inside and outside the music industry, with various opinions about the future of music business. Personally, I understand there are very few performers who have the resources to put together a product like Beyoncé Knowles. However, I have heard great music and seen very good videos from a few young artists without record company affiliation. Along with the impact from effective social media marketing this certainly may be a new day in popular music.
For all of you aspiring musical artists out there: produce the best music you can, find the best help for your music and video production, and get the best advice for a solid marketing plan. There are listeners waiting to hear your music.