When Beyoncé released her self-titled fifth studio album on Dec. 13, 2013, without warning, fans and even music insiders agreed that the release was just another sign that the superstar was in a lane of her own.
With impeccable execution, Beyoncé and her team set a new bar promoting and packing the new album, which included 14 songs and 17 videos.
While members of the Beyhive continue to blast the album through their speakers, students at Harvard Business School are taking it upon themselves to conduct a case study that examines the marketing and business strategy behind successfully putting out Bey’s surprise 2013 album.
“She’s clearly among the most powerful people in the music industry at the moment … so to understand the operation behind such a powerful figure is always very interesting,” Anita Elberse, the Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration at HBS tells Harvard Gazette.
Elberse and her students examined whether the surprise move is an option only for superstar talent; what goes into companies putting together marketing plans and structure partnerships with artists; and whether the release affected the singer’s relationships with companies that were left out of the launch.
The case study involves insights from top executives at Apple, Facebook, and Instagram — the companies Beyonce secretly worked with to effectively release her album — as well as Bey’s management company, Parkwood Entertainment, and her record label, Columbia Records, to learn how much of a business gamble this project really was. While the album debuted at No. 1 on the music charts and sold more than 600,000 copies within the first three days, the study goes beyond its short-term success to examine the effect the album will have on the singer’s long-term career.
“You could look at the album and say, ‘How did it perform?’ But you also have to think longer term and say, ‘What did that do to her ability to control the next release that she’s planning?’ or ‘What does that do to her potential as a touring artist?’ Those are harder questions to answer,” said Elberse.
According to the 27-page report that was exclusively released to Billboard, consumers now know that Bey and her camp rented a house in the Hamptons for a month to serve as a secret recording studio; her album was originally to be released in November, not December; and her team had a 72-hour turnaround time to produce the physical copies after its online release date.
With strict deadlines, top secret team members, and a business mindset that seems unmatched, no prediction is safe when it comes to the projects Queen Bey has up her sleeve.