The Online Milepost of 2013: Beyonce's Unpublicized 'Visual Album' Release

Although you can locate a lot of benchmarks that highlight the age of the Internet, it’s possible nothing this year was as important as Beyoncé’s surprise “visual album release” on Dec. 13 through iTunes.

It wasn’t the album itself, or the music, but the fact that Beyoncé  did it without any pre-publicity. That seems almost impossible at a time singers cannot emerge from a car without the world knowing if they’re wearing panties. And it promises to become a trend. Entertainers will travel the final mile on the publicity mill on their own which is great for a handful of singers like Beyoncé —that’s a very small handful--and less so for nearly every other character who is just…less.

Nonetheless, If I did publicity for musicians, I’d be worried. There’s less and less for them to do and what they do seems so transparent that even scandalous events seem even more totally contrived than before.  Thank god Beyoncé dropped the artifice.



The fan sites today are filled with reports of yet another Miley Cyrus scandalous video that somebody (supposedly) leaked online hours before its due date, thereby making the story a little about the content of the video and a lot about the “f---face” who allegedly leaked it. “The video for Miley's most recent single, ‘Adore You,’ shows the singer writhing between bed sheets, sucking her thumb and rubbing her body before putting on a crocheted top and singing in the bath, “ the Website reported in what seems by now about as titillating as reading a police blotter. 

What’s a publicist supposed to do with something as un-newsworthy as that?

Like never before, entertainers and the whole superstar community can control--or create—their own media machines. They speak through Twitter and appear via YouTube.

For less fortunate performers, YouTube is no great thing because it puts a singer’s catalog in front of fans for free. Concert tours once supported an album and it was the recording where the money was. Now, a broad swath of musicians lives on the road, or they don’t live at all.

The connectedness of the Internet, particularly in the young demo, makes online communication instant and pervasive and even intimate, in a mass marketing kind of a way and as Beyonce has proved, it may now be possible for the biggest stars to skip all the BS and just put “product” out there and let the Internet do its viral thing.

 "There's so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans," Beyoncé said in a statement when she pulled her surprise release. "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 sold 600,000 albums… in three days.

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