MSN Music Blog - Reverb

How did Beyonce keep her surprise album a secret?

Industry experts weigh in on the secrecy of 'Beyonce'

By MSN Music Partners Dec 16, 2013 10:22AM

By Steve Knopper

Rolling Stone


A week ago, Toronto songwriter and producer Noah "40" Shebib was mixing and mastering "Mine" when Beyoncé's people called to demand the finished song immediately. "They were pressuring me: 'We need this mix. We got to get it done. ASAP, ASAP!'" recalls the longtime Drake collaborator. "I fight some people sometimes: 'Don't give me the pressure. You're going to get it. Everybody will be OK. Relax.'


Also from Rolling Stone: The ultimate guide to Beyoncé's surprise new album


"And sure enough, they weren't joking," says Shebib, by phone from his studio. "My manager called me last night, 'It's out! Beyoncé!' We're all just pulling out iTunes."


The 14 songs and 17 videos that make up "Beyoncé", the superstar's anticipated new album, landed on iTunes last night with almost no marketing or fanfare other than a press release and a banner at the top of the digital-music store. The "visual album" blew up on Twitter and Facebook and, according to Billboard, sold 80,000 copies in three hours. Although stars from Justin Timberlake to David Bowie have announced surprise releases all year, none have dropped new albums on the spot, as Beyoncé did.


"Many other artists who aren't of Beyoncé's stature would not have been able to get this done and move it through the system this quickly," says Syd Schwartz, a former EMI Music executive who now runs the independent marketing firm Linchpin Digital. "She obviously had to bypass a lot of the standard mechanisms to make this work."


Beyoncé's album came out exclusively via iTunes, so she could work with Apple employees to maintain secrecy and not have to negotiate in advance with Amazon, Target and others. "The hard part is keeping it a secret, when you're Beyoncé's size," Schwartz says. "A very small number of people in her inner circle must have known about this."


"I had no clue it was coming," adds Caroline Polachek of Chairlift, who wrote and produced "Angel." "I never heard the final version till last night."


Beyoncé recorded the album throughout the summer with a series of super-hot songwriters and producers, including Justin Timberlake, Sia, Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, Frank Ocean, Miguel and The-Dream. Shebib and Drake worked with her at a New York studio for two days, honing the three distinct parts of the jittery, spacey "Mine." At the time, all Shebib knew about the album release was that Beyoncé hoped to get it out by Christmas.


"It was brilliant. You spend no marketing dollars, essentially. To hold that together and not let that out of the bag is very, very impressive. It's not easy to do," Shebib says. "Everybody was surprised. Everybody. It wasn't just the fans."


Additional reporting by David Marchese


More from Rolling Stone

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Rolling Stone’s List of New Immortals: Beyonce
Rolling Stone’s List of the 50 Greatest Live Acts Right Now
Rolling Stone’s List of Women Who Rock’s 50 Greatest Albums


Dec 17, 2013 8:39AM
Cant believe the people's comments here!  Ya all teens--20's----Like this rappin' nappin' nasty lookin--sexin' stuff!  Grow up people----they could dress better ---he could wear a mask -or just put clothes on to sing or "rappo" ha ha ha. Think about her, rollin over in bed, lookin at that????This isn't hate--this is dissgus--ting--these people--J Z, HE'D BE GOOD AT A TALK-A-THON. All millionaires because of U----NOT ME---i dont buy trash---I take that out--wasting your food stamps on them-----really----
Dec 16, 2013 3:22PM
Dec 16, 2013 2:54PM

in the end she gettin paid big and everyone sittin at their desks behind a screen talkin trash


kudos to B


behind any successful person is a pack of haters


Dec 16, 2013 2:38PM
Ha Ha.  I just love those photos of her funny faces she makes when trying to be "fierce".  She tried to buy back all of the images because trying to be Sasha Fierce was a total backfire, and a hilarious one at that.  I wonder if JayZ will approve of his kids heading out, slinging that rock, and being strapped every day...
Dec 16, 2013 1:05PM
I am amazed at the haters in the world the Album is very, very different. The visuals are stunning, and she is very clear that this is made for WOMEN, she touches on almost everything we feel each day and in relationships. I for one am glad this is not a bubble gum album and yes it is sexy but unlike a lot of the garbage listened to it is not obscene. It also revels in a monogamous and trusting relationship.  I can't agree with any of the haters shame on the jealousy.  You go B.
Dec 16, 2013 12:26PM
I heard the song she sang with Jay Z---trying to sound like Rihanna.
Dec 16, 2013 12:16PM
Who cares about this beeotch & her drug dealing husband.  
Dec 16, 2013 11:50AM
If you can't say nothing nice, then don't say nothing at all.
Dec 16, 2013 11:24AM
Like I want music from a mother that acts like a slut. She invented "twerking", not Mily---So sick of her and that augly dude shes married to----that dont sing, he talks a song--big deal!
Dec 16, 2013 11:18AM
Beyoncé needs to have a closed caption video with all of her songs because she mumbles so much when she sings, you can't understand what she is singing.
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