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Op-Ed: Beyonce's Album – By Bob Lefsetz

It's a stunt. No different from Radiohead's "In Rainbows." Unrepeatable by mere mortals, never mind wannabes and also-rans.

That's how desperate Apple is. It lets Beyonce circumvent its rules and release a "video album," so the record industry can have its bundle and the Cupertino company can delude itself into believing that it's got a solution to Spotify, when the Swedish streaming company is chasing YouTube, not iTunes.

And the media is so impressed by numbers that it trumpets the story, believing its role is to amplify rather than analyze.

Yes, it was a story. The same way a bomb or SpaceX or anything new gets people's attention. Only in this case, there was something to buy. Whoo-hoo! We got lemmings and fans to lay down their credit cards to spend money for the work of a superstar, as if this is a new paradigm.

And we've got Rob Stringer and the rest of the inane music business slapping its back, declaring victory.

What a bunch of hogwash.

The story of 2013 is cacophony. How it's almost impossible to get your message out to anybody but those who truly care. Because we're inundated with a tsunami of information and can't be bothered by that which we are not interested in.

Yes, in a world where Snapchat is burgeoning and Instagram allows private messages we're trumpeting something that went viral.

That's so 2012, that's so "Gangnam Style."

The bottom line is Beyonce is a superstar. And superstars get traction. And everybody else is close to ignored. And you become a superstar by having a bunch of money and power behind you.

Name this year's big viral music video.

There isn't one. That game is gone too. And anything that moves is supported by the big boys, it's all about manipulation.

So you do the same thing Beyonce does. You drop your album with no advance publicity. Will that be news?


We've seen the trick!

Beyonce has put in years of hard work and hit tracks to get to the point where people pay attention.

If you've got a stiff album can you whip your audience into a frenzy and get them to buy it first day out by doing no advance publicity? In other words, would Gaga have been better off doing what Beyonce did?

I'd say so.

But that wouldn't work for long. And the point here truly is longevity.

Yes, at the heart of this Beyonce project is old school thinking. Which is let's release an ALBUM!

Are we gonna be talking about "Epic" a year from now? Three months from now?

There's a good chance we're not. That's what's wrong with the album construct, it was built for a different time. When we were starved for information and people waited for radio to work a "new" single years after the album was released.

But these days the entire album is available for free the day it comes out. Do you really expect those sitting on the fence to decide to purchase 18 months out? That was the old game, deliver enough hit singles to convert those who were unsure. The new game is to constantly release product so that the audience will continue to be enticed.

PSY didn't have a follow-up single. Oh, he released one, it got a bit of traction out of curiosity, then disappeared, I dare you to name it.

Carly Rae Jepsen had the hit of the summer and had no follow-up and is now forgotten.

Robin Thicke released an album, but all people wanted was the single, he's a trivia question, do you think he's going to be invited to sing "Blurred Lines" at the 2014 AMAs? Ha!

What's your plan Stan? Just because you've got ten tracks that does not mean anybody is interested.

And that's what you need, a plan. And the plan can't be to sell people one collection at one time. That's as if Google only updated its search engine once a month, instead of constantly. How often do you think you'd go back to Google if that was the case?

It comes down to music. And careers. And today being an artist means constantly creating, building an audience and holding it.

This surprise album changes none of that.

If you think there are lessons to be learned here, you come home from Magic Castle and try to duplicate the tricks.

It's a novelty. A footnote. Near meaningless.

Beyonce is a star. If she tried to do this a year from now, almost nobody would be talking about it.