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Just Ask Beyonce: Why Traditional Publicity Is On The Way Out

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It seems the days of hyping an artist’s record in the months prior to its release may be over. With the immense success of Beyonce’s latest surprise album, it’s clear that there may be a shift in the publicity strategies musicians employ when releasing new music. Beyonce ditched the traditional album-release PR strategy by not promoting at all beforehand. The entire Bey camp managed to keep the 14-track album (which also includes 17 videos filmed in various locations around the world) a complete secret. No leaks, no accidental footage, no sneak peeks, absolutely nothing.

Instead, the surprise self-titled album was released early last Friday morning at 12 a.m. without any warning. The rest was left to fans, who frantically went on a downloading spree — causing iTunes to temporarily shut down from the strain. Beyonce sold a record setting 450,000 digital copies of her album in just one day.

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The results could also be seen throughout social media networks. When the album went live on iTunes, Beyonce posted an Instagram stop-motion video of the visual album with a simple caption underneath reading “Surprise!” The Instagram post alone has garnered over 541,000 likes and over 40,000 comments over a 3-day span. Twitter saw an incredible spike in mentions, with a reported 1.2 million #Bey related tweets in just 12 hours. Smart publicity stunt or just plain smart?

As we’ve seen with a number of artists this year, from Miley Cyrus to Lady Gaga, most are turning toward digital methods of publicity –creating hype in order to promote their album. Miley’s controversial VMA performance lead to hundreds, if not thousands, of viral parody videos, GIFs, memes, blog posts, etc. Memes and GIFs aside, her twerk-filled performance at the VMAs also significantly increased her followers on Twitter, likes on Facebook and her name’s search volume on Google. Miley’s official YouTube account saw a 52% increase in popularity after the performance.

On October 8th, just 6 weeks after her infamous VMA performance, Miley Cyrus released her fourth studio album ‘Bangerz’.  In the first week of its release, Bangerz sold 270,000 copies. As of December 2013, Bangerz has sold 503,000 copies in the US. The numbers are good, but they come nowhere near Beyonce’s.

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Lady Gaga is notoriously known for creating a media stir – whether it’s her lyrics, fashion, or music videos. Gaga jumped on the digital bandwagon by releasing her ARTPOP app prior to the release of her ARTPOP album. Gaga paired with mobile developer Relative Wave to create the app, which is intended to engage her fans, allow them to communicate between one another, and provide updates in the world of Gaga. The menu has four options: ArtHaus, ARTPOP (a link that takes you to the iTunes store to download the album), Trakstar and GagaTV, which won’t be available until 2014 (a great ploy to keep users glued to the app and engaged in the Gaga world). Gaga’s ARTPOP was released on November 6th and sold 258,000 copies its first week. Not bad, right? But compared to Beyonce, it’s still weak.

Apart from the numbers, what distinguishes Beyonce’s album release sales between Lady Gaga’s, Katy Perry’s (who sold 268,000 in one week) and Miley Cyrus’ sales? The publicity strategy. In comparison to Gaga, Katy and Miley –all of whom employed classic publicity tactics – Beyonce clearly surpassed both numbers in less than a week with a unique approach.

You might immediately think: “What publicity plan? She did nothing!”

Now, now.. let’s not underestimate the amount of planning and strategy that went into this bold and creative move.

As much as we’d like to give credit to Beyonce, this endeavour is not a solo project. Beyonce definitely has a solid team of publicists and marketing experts who are managing her key messaging, publicity efforts and execution of this album launch. As much as it may not seem like an aggressive publicity campaign, make no mistake: it is. The difference? All external publicity is done post album release – and this is what separates her campaign from her competitors’ campaigns. We applaud Bey and her team for the innovative strategy.

Artists shouldn’t go out and copy Beyonce’s strategy and expect the same results, however. The copy-and-paste publicity strategy that the music industry embraces certainly needed a shake-up, but that doesn’t mean the disruption stops here.  A lot of time went into executing this strategy, and it’s certainly working in Beyonce’s favour. It has been hard to engage in any media consumption this past week without hearing Bey mentioned not to mention the album sales to date (Bey’s album has already sold 828,773 copies worldwide).

Nobody expected a stunt like this (nor did they expect the album to do well — see this article written the day her album was released) which is exactly what is needed for success. Keeping the public guessing and disrupting the norm continues to be the best and effective way to achieve your publicity goals.

With the mounting competition in all industries (not just entertainment), the copy-and-paste publicity and marketing strategies no longer make the cut. Disruptive innovation combined with clever strategy are the only true tactics for survival. Just ask Beyonce.

*READER DISCLAIMER: album figures may vary, as numbers are sourced from time of article writing.

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