Case | HBS Case Collection | August 2014 (Revised October 2014)


by Anita Elberse and Stacie Smith


In December 2013, music superstar Beyoncé is about to surprise her fans with the release of her self-titled album. The team at her company Parkwood Entertainment, which general manager Lee Anne Callahan-Longo described as "a management, music, and production company that is owned and at the highest level operated by an artist," had chosen to release the entire album at once and exclusively via the Apple iTunes Store, without any prior promotion—a significant, and potentially very risky, departure from how music was traditionally released. Sony Music's label Columbia Records, with whom Parkwood partnered on recorded-music activities, shared the costs—and therefore also the risk—of the album, which had been one-and-a-half years in development and was a particularly expensive proposition because of the many videos. How would fans and music industry insiders react to the daring launch, unveiled via Beyoncé's Facebook and Instagram accounts? Would the album be able to find a large enough audience even without traditional promotional activities? And would there be any adverse reactions, for instance from traditional music retailers refusing to carry the physical album later?

Keywords: marketing; Beyoncé; Online Technology; Music Entertainment; Distribution Channels; Product Launch; Music Industry;


Elberse, Anita, and Stacie Smith. "Beyoncé." Harvard Business School Case 515-036, August 2014. (Revised October 2014.)