The 2013 surprise release of Beyoncé’s self-titled album didn’t just create a ripple effect through popular culture but it also became part of the reason the record industry changed the new music release date in the United States, from Tuesdays to Fridays. The change completely altered the way music is distributed and also played a role in combatting international piracy issues.
There was never a specific reason why albums were released on Tuesdays in America. In the 80’s (and before everything went digital), producing physical records took a lot of manpower. By placing album release dates on Tuesdays, it allowed record labels the entire weekend to ship new inventory across the country to record stores, and stores had a full non-weekend day (Monday) to unpack albums and prepare the store.
According to #Vox, that means if you release your album on Friday, like Beyoncé did with her self-titled, you’ll only get four days of album sales to count as your “first week.” So Beyoncé didn’t sell a million copies in her first Billboard “week” to make sales history, even though she actually did sell one million copies in her first calendar week.
The unexpected release of “Beyonce” has a lasting legacy because it set a precedent for all surprise releases to follow. Teresa LaBarbera Whites, Beyoncé’s longtime A&R, said the idea for the surprise release came from the singer’s desire for her fans to hear a body of work in its entirety without their perception being altered by radio-curated singles or media coverage.
She said, “These so-called ‘surprise albums’—I think it creates an event and an enthusiasm and an excitement around the music, not so much all the marketing and this and that. Not that those things aren’t important, but it all comes right down to like, ‘Oh sh*t, so-and-so dropped a record and it sounds amazing!’”
The album was reportedly in the works for a year-and-a-half and was mostly put together at a private house in #NewYork. Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon, who co-produced “Drunk in Love” and “Partition,” said that he and frequent collaborator Timbaland were both called into work on the project relatively early on.
The most impressive part was how ALL of Beyoncé’s collaborators kept the album a secret from even family and friends the entire time. Beyoncé was initially an #iTunes exclusive, and only a handful of higher-ups at the company knew about the album, which was codenamed “Lily.”
Beyoncé’s 5th album remains a huge success and can definitely take the blame for “changing the game”, literally.