P. CLAIRE DODSON 04.30.16 6:06 AM
Beyoncé’s new visual album Lemonade, released last weekend, is a masterpiece of a short film. It’s also the new pinnacle of popular music—a multi-genre epic full of anger, heartbreak, and power. It is a perfect culminating moment for how we make, distribute, and consume popular music.
Beyoncé has long been a pioneer in savvy use of digital platforms to promote her work. Her career picked up speed with Destiny’s Child in 1996 and again in 2003 with the start to her solo career, but she really began to dominate in 2013, the year she announced (via Instagram) the release of a surprise self-titled album with corresponding music videos for every song. Despite having no advance promotion, that album sold more than 800,000 copies worldwide in just three days, thanks in part to excited social chatter to the tune of 1.2 million tweets featuring her name in the first 12 hours. The joint tour with Jay Z to promote that album earned more than $100 million in ticket sales alone. Lemonade, meanwhile, was released on husband Jay Z’s platform Tidal, where it wasavailable exclusively for about a day before becoming available on iTunes.
While digital savvy is one ingredient in Beyonce’s successful business strategy, her artistic and branding decisions are also paving the way for other artists.
TAKING CREATIVE CONTROL
Beyoncé’ founded Parkwood Entertainment in 2008. Parkwood released her last three albums (arguably her best three), as well as a slew of music videos and feature films and her recent athletic-wear line Ivy Park with Topshop. Owning her own company gives her an immense amount of artistic and business freedom; though the albums are released in partnership with Columbia Records, she gets to say who she wants to work with and when she wants to do it.
Online streaming and new channels for distribution have leveled the playing field for everyone, and no one has exploited that better than Beyoncé. The future of this industry belongs to her.