Beyonce Cashes in on Social Media Following

Beyonce’s new album launch is a sign of huge innovation in the music business even if she stopped short of self-publishing.

The American singer songwriter announced her fifth album on Instagram and released it direct to fans via Apple iTunes yesterday.

The so-called visual album consists of videos shot around the world from Houston to New York City to Paris, and Sydney to Rio de Janeiro.

Image via celebritynetworth.com

Image via celebritynetworth.com

Details of the launch trended on Twitter, and iTunes reportedly crashed as fans rushed to download the album. It already has more than 2,800 ratings.

Previews of the 14 new songs and 17 videos have been published on Beyonce’s website and YouTube channel.

It’s disruptive. It illustrates a trend that I think we’ll see more of in 2014 as celebrities attempting to cash in on their online communities.

And of course, it’s very smart business when it’s done well.

But perhaps reflecting the risks associated with an exclusively social launch the artist stopped short of going further.

Beyonce has built a community directly with a worldwide audience on Facebook (53 million), Instagram (7.9 million), and YouTube (500,000), and is using the internet to cut out of the middlemen of traditional distribution and promotion channels.

The savings in advertising and promotion drop straight to the bottom line and allow her to express herself with freedom and unbridled creativity.

The only surprise to me is that Beyonce didn’t go further and bypass her record label Columbia Records, and publish her new album herself.

Beyonce has combined new and old. Manufacturing of physical albums begins today and the double disc CD/DVD will be available in retail in time for the holidays.

We get excited about the impact of the Internet on the media and the disintermediation of traditional models but change can still be slow and it may take a generation or more for the music industry to modernize.

Six years ago Radiohead famously parted company with its record label EMI and released its album Rainbow directly to fans via the Internet.

Business models are changing yet progress remains slow.

Will 2014 be the year when celebrity-to-fan promotion breaks through and ushers in a new wave of self-publishing?

Stephen is a Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University. Chairman of Future Proof policy unit and Past President, CIPR. Author of Brand Anarchy and #BrandVandals; and editor and contributor to Share This and Share This Too.

Connect with him on Twitter: @wadds