How Beyoncé Changed the Music Industry


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On Friday, Beyoncé will certainly launch Cowboy Carter, the much expected cd that indicates the start of the 2nd component of a three-act task, adhering to Renaissance, a gleaming event of residence and dancing music. When the nation cd was introduced throughout Beyoncé’s look in a Verizon Super Bowl industrial back in February, gone along with by 2 nation songs, “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages,” it declared a new era for the artist. And it’s one that places her, instead strongly, in a category that has actually been much less than inviting to her. (See, for beginners, the function to a nation tune consisted of on her 2016 cd, Lemonade, and her efficiency of it together with the Chicks at the CMAs later on that year.) With Cowboy Carter, Beyoncé enhances a reality that has actually personified her job: she resists very easy interpretation. 

Over the training course of her three-decade job, the music super star has actually tested industry conventions and shallow presumptions regarding her art by doing points on her terms—and in doing so, she has actually changed the method we consider music and the musicians that make it. Hallmarks of the globe of music as we understand it currently, like the aesthetic cd or rollout techniques like the shock launch, Friday launch, or a totally electronic decline, were originated by Beyoncé. If she didn’t develop them, her impact assisted to make them industry criterion. 

Read extra: Beyoncé Has Always Been Country

There might be nothing else musician of her generation that has actually manifested music industry modifications fairly like Beyoncé, whose job steps have actually assisted to reword the playbook for musicians. Though a number of the modifications that have actually formed the previous years in music were unpreventable, from the decrease of radio’s impact in the middle of the increase of streaming to the relevance of social networks, Beyoncé has actually stayed pertinent as a result of her readiness to develop together with them. Her accept of originalities and methods have actually established her apart as a leader in the industry and a genuine trailblazer. 

For Rawiya Kameir, a music doubter and journalism teacher at Syracuse University that shows a course on the national politics of Beyoncé, the super star’s effect comes from the quality of her craft and her dedication to her imaginative vision. To Kameir, Beyoncé’s technology is an expansion of the job she places in behind the scenes to generate her art, from manufacturing to study. 

“Not only does she do things her own way, she does things really well. The extent to which she’s able to pull this stuff off relies on not just the ideas, but the fact that the execution is still top-notch: the Virgo ethos of it all, her attention to detail, the depths of the research—all of that is really important because you can’t pull off these impactful changes without having the art to back it up.”

Beyoncé modifications the cd launch

Like she raps on the 2014 track “Feeling Myself,” there’s no rejecting that Beyoncé “changed the game with that digital drop.” The greatest instance of Beyoncé’s influence on the service are enveloped by 2013’s Beyoncé, the crucial aesthetic cd that Kameir calls an “inflection point.” The cd was a significant separation from industry standards, from its shock launch without any development promo to its very early Friday early morning decline, which flouted the typical Tuesday cd launch day convention. (Albums for years had actually normally been launched on Tuesdays in the U.S. greatly since the Billboard graphes were released on Wednesday, and since this permitted suppliers to obtain their supply to stores, that had a week to prepare it available in advance of the weekend break). 

Leaks of physical cds stimulated Beyoncé’s choice to originally do a digital-only decline of the cd, however the step likewise foreshadowed the obsolescence of radio and physical duplicates to find. With a completely electronic decline, Beyoncé had no demand to observe a Tuesday launch day to fit equipping physical duplicates. Her choice to launch the cd on Friday was symbolic on several degrees; initially, it revealed that she was positive sufficient in her art to launch it later on, in spite of having just 4 days, instead of 7, to build up cd sales for her very first week. Second, having a Friday launch indicated that all followers, despite where they lived, reached experience music at the exact same time (various other nations launched on various days from Tuesday, which indicated that there was a better opportunity of pirating and leakages). And lastly, a Friday launch likewise really felt commemorative—brand-new music on a Friday seemed like an invite for followers to completely unleash, head out and delight in the cd (and themselves) in its completeness. 

Read extra: Everything We Know About Beyoncé’s New Album Cowboy Carter

Her choice greater than settled—Beyoncé debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, still holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest-selling cd on iTunes, and has actually been RIAA accredited platinum 5 times. Other musicians, from Drake to Taylor Swift, likewise transformed to the shock decrease in the years adhering to Beyoncé’s self-titled cd, discovering comparable success on the graphes. And probably most substantially, the document industry made a cumulative choice in 2015 to launch cds around the world on Fridays, to have even more consistent circulation and to punish piracy, a choice that probably was stimulated by Beyoncé’s launch. 

“I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it (before). I’m bored with that,” Beyoncé said in a statement following the album’s surprise release. “I feel like I’m able to speak directly to my fans. There’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. 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 (for it to be) from me to my fans.”

Beyoncé pioneers the visual album

The decision to create a visual album that had to be purchased in full was key to the album’s success. Although there were clear predecessors to visual albums, like Prince’s 1984 film Purple Rain which incorporated all of the songs from the album of the same name, and even Beyoncé’s own 2006 album B’Day which included visuals to accompany every song, her decision to release the album with no singles and no option to purchase songs individually made the album more like a narrative feature and compelled fans to listen to it in full.

“It wasn’t the first time that she had released a video for every song on an album, but so many things happened that year culturally both in terms of technology and politically,” Kameir states. “What made it feel like a particular pivot point was that everything about it was different—the surprise drop, the fact that you could only buy it, you couldn’t stream individual songs, the music videos for each song making a built-in narrative. And ever since then, pretty much everything she’s done again has felt like an extension of that particular moment.”

Read extra: What Beyoncé Gave Us

In the years that followed the release of her self-titled album, Beyoncé released two other visual albums, 2016’s Lemonade and 2020’s Black Is King, while other artists, from Janelle Monaé and Jennifer Lopez to Frank Ocean and Drake, have released high-concept visual albums of their own. 

Also integral to the album’s success was Beyoncé’s use of social media to promote the project on the day of its release. She tapped Instagram, then a fairly new app, and Facebook to run ads, bypassing the traditional media interviews that would accompany an album release. While the integration of social media in music marketing was well under way in 2013, Beyoncé’s decision to use social platforms as the primary way of promoting her album was a prescient example of what album promotion would look like in the future.

The wisdom of longevity

Kameir believes Beyoncé’s outsize influence on the music industry is also due to her longevity. Beyoncé’s experience over 30 years has made her uniquely attuned to not only the logistics of the industry, but also its evolution. Beyoncé’s innovative decisions were the result of someone who was carefully observing and studying the changes of an industry she more or less grew up in from the time she was a young girl.

“She was around during the days when radio promotions were super important, but she also is young enough to see the impact of the various digital media, so she has this advantage to respond to or get ahead of trends without losing her own sense of self and control,” Kameir says. “A lot of the innovations that she’s made that have taken off aren’t just random experiments—they’re part of the legacy of an artist who really believed in the full album experience, during the pre-Internet era. She’s finding ways to tie the things that she cares about as an artist in the industry, to various evolving trends.” 

Read more: Beyoncé’s Album of the Year Snub Fits Into the Grammys’ Long History of Overlooking Black Women

Kinitra Brooks, an English professor at Michigan State University who co-edited The Lemonade Reader and the forthcoming The Renaissance Reader, echoes this sentiment. “She spent years paying her dues as a part of Destiny’s Child and she’s been in the business since she was a girl,” Brooks said. “We have to give credit for the longevity of being a veteran in the business. She knows where the pitfalls are and has survived the pitfalls of many of her contemporaries.” 

Marrying business and creative decision-making

Brooks points to Beyoncé’s evolution not just as a veteran artist but as an insightful businesswoman, with her business decisions and creative choices working in tandem. She points to moves like starting Parkwood Entertainment, which mostly keeps her business and creative processes in-house, affording her ample creative control when it comes to trying things like the visual album that a label might veto due to cost or deviation from standard practice.

“Beyoncé is a very shrewd businesswoman who’s learned to hire people who keep her business close, who have worked with her for a very long time,” Brooks tells TIME. 

She also points to her ability to tap into the zeitgeist and engage with the current discourse. Like Kameir, Brooks says that while some of the industry-shifting practices weren’t created by Beyoncé, the innovation lies within her ability to pinpoint a trend or a moment and amplify it. 

Read more: In Her Renaissance Tour Movie, Beyoncé Chooses Freedom Over Perfection

“One of her great talents is being able to see the cultural zeitgeist coming and being able to catch that wave by putting her twist on it in a way that’s interesting,” Brooks says. “A lot of times what Beyonce does is open up and expose people to new things that they never would have been exposed to and there are politics involved in that because Beyonce is bringing something to the fore.” 

An independent ethos

For Kameir, one of the most impactful ways that Beyoncé has shaped the music industry is the example she’s set for artists to stay true to their creative instincts. “For a lot of artists, she has demonstrated that there is possibility in terms of building a lane for yourself,” says Kameir. “Even though she’s very much a product of the major label system, there is a kind of independent ethos to her that I think artists can borrow from and her greatest impact is in demonstrating this potential.”

A throughline of Beyoncé’s career over the years has been reinvention. From girl group member to her stylized Sasha Fierce alter ego to her Renaissance disco queen persona, she’s no stranger to transformation and no friend to easy categorization. (This was amply apparent at the 2023 Grammys, where she was nominated in both the Dance/Electronic and R&B categories.) Brooks points to her current foray into country music with Cowboy Carter, which Beyoncé described on Instagram as being born out of a “deeper dive into the history of Country music” and the Black musical archive, as proof of her dedication to her vision and a rejection of a system that could never imagine an artist like her. 

“It’s this idea that, ‘I don’t have to play the game this way,” Brooks states. “Like, ‘Why did I fight so hard to get to the top if I’m not going to change some rules?’”

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