Beyoncé’s surprise album has sold surprisingly well: her fifth solo effort sold more than 600,000 copies in its first three days, setting a record for first-week digital sales in the US.
The album, simply titled Beyoncé, was released on Friday exclusively on iTunes without any pre-release publicity. Apple said on Monday that the album sold 617,213 copies in its US iTunes Store, and 828,773 internationally.
“You have to be innovative. The internet has changed the game. You’ve got to look at how to address the fact that most artists’ albums leak before their release plans,” says Lee Anne Callahan-Longo, the general manager of Beyoncé’s production company Parkwood Entertainment, which released the album alongside Columbia Records.
“Look at where your opportunities can lie – that’s kind of how we approached it,” she continues. “We had a multitude of things we were trying to accomplish, some things we were trying to avoid – and this turned out to be the perfect plan for us.”
Beyoncé surprised fans with the release of the album, which features 14 songs and 17 videos. Social media websites exploded with mentions of the singer and her new music. In three hours, it sold 80,000 copies and the build-up continued over the weekend.
“It really wasn’t about making a hit record or chasing what sounds like today’s music for singles,” explains Callahan-Longo, who has worked with Beyoncé for seven years.
Beyoncé features collaborations with Jay Z, Drake, Frank Ocean and Justin Timberlake, who co-wrote two songs. It is being sold by iTunes exclusively for a week at US$15.99 (Dh59). It will be sold by retailers and from other websites this week.
“It wasn’t easy and we were really careful,” Callahan-Longo says of keeping the album a secret. “It started with a very small core group of people and only grew when necessary in order to make something happen. It got a little dicey there and concerning as we got closer and closer as the circle had to widen.”
Callahan-Longo says the Jay Z-featured Drunk in Love and XO, co-produced by Ryan Tedder, will be launched as singles. She says Beyoncé came up with the idea to launch a “visual album”.
“She said to me one day: ‘I really want to do a visual album. I want to do all the videos and I want to put them out.’ I looked at her and I said: ‘Whoa, wow, oh my God,’” she recalls. “We all said to her: ‘Wow, you’re crazy, but OK, let’s think about that.’ And we really kind of sat down and figured out how could this actually happen.”
The album also marks the singer’s best first-week numbers and is set to debut at No 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart this week. It is also the second best-seller on iTunes in 2013, behind Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience. Albums from Imagine Dragons, Jay Z and Drake rounded out the top 5.