In December 2013, megastar Beyoncé surprised her fans with the release of her self-titled album. The team at her company Parkwood Entertainment and Columbia Records had chosen to release the all-inclusive album at once and exclusively through Apple’s iTunes Store, without any prior promotion—an important, and potentially very daring, departure from how music was traditionally released. Sony Music’s label Columbia Records, with whom Parkwood partnered on recorded-music activities, joint into paying the costs—and therefore also the risk—of the album, which had been one-and-a-half years in production and was a particularly expensive proposal because of the number of videos. On the evening of December 13th, 2013, visitors of the iTunes store were alarmed by the black and white visuals flickering on their computer screens. These images were of Beyoncé owning every banner on iTunes, announcing that her latest album is available for purchase. Beyoncé establishes herself among the most powerful people in the music industry by selling her fifth, self-titled album over 800,000 copies in just three days without any publicity, promotions or any music leaked to the Internet.
The self-titled fifth solo album eschewed outdated suspense-building marketing strategies and featured 14 songs accompanied by 17 music videos, making it a “visual album”. For the last 15 years of Beyonce’s career, she was able to reinvent herself from the teenage lead singer of the all-female group Destiny’s Child into a solo worldwide megastar. However, she has never dropped a bombshell like this. The surprise release of the album set the Internet on wildfire. It was clear that Beyoncé had a different vision set for her fifth studio album. Although she deliberately did not promote her album, her larger than life fan base did the promotion for her through the word of mouth and most importantly through social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Without the Internet and these social media outlets, the album would most likely have not sold as it did because communication online is undeniably a swift in comparison to communication via word of mouth.