By Ann Oldenburg
"I see music," says
And with that, on Friday, the superstar broke all the music molds and dropped her bombshellBeyonce"visual album," releasing 14 new tracks and 17 new videos all at once on iTunes in the dead of night and surprising everybody - inside and outside the music industry.
"It's funny," saysBillboard's Bill Werde. "I was excited, to be honest with you," even though he says the album was expected throughout the year.
"Typically a big artist will release this when she does a big tour or a
Traditionally, new albums arrive on Tuesdays. Typically, there's a single to whet the appetite. Usually, there's the drumbeat on Twitter and the lengthy magazine take-outs.
"I didn't want to release my music the way I've done it," the star explains in a release that arrived in our InBox at 1:34 a.m. ET. "I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There's so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn't want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it's ready and from me to my fans."
She cut out all middle men. She kept a massive work a complete secret. She allowed no leaks.
"I think very few people could pull it off to this degree," says Chris Mooney, senior director of artist promotions at
"Honestly I can't believe she kept this secret. We live in a world where it's impossible to keep anything secret, especially when you're a celebrity," says Ryan Aynes, co-founder of Edge Collective music marketers. "There are always members of the team who are leaking. I find it really, really difficult to believe that they kept it a secret, but they did."
Werde, editorial director forBillboard, says he got tipped that something was coming about 11 p.m. ET on Thursday, but didn't know exactly what.
"To me, one of the most shocking things is she was able to keep this a secret," he says.
The list of contributors on the project includes
"The number of people involved is staggering." Werde says it is "an incredible testament to her NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) or the power of the friendships and loyalty to her. I think her team is incredibly careful." He guesses security had to be extremely tight around the music and the videos in progress.
OnceBeyoncearrived, he says, it was clear that it wasn't a rush job. "One of the things I love is there's all this online chatter about how she's struggling," says Werde, "and she just took a giant three-ton hammer to all that and squashed that noise. It's that good."
Music marketers point to how the release proves the business is evolving.
"It's a big move for iTunes to get back into the limelight and it helps their revenue," says Aynes. "This is a dual play from the artist and the partner."
And in some ways, Beyonce is taking a page from hubby Jay-Z's playbook and his 1 million
It raises the bar all around, says Aynes. "Someone like
Releasing the album all at once and only on iTunes signifies that we are in a completely "digital, social age now," says Werde.
"Yes, we'll have radio and traditional media," he says, but, he adds, "It's becoming more and more about this direct relationship between artist and fan. This is the shot heard around the world."