Music & Musicians

Beyonce's new album: What it tells us about the music industry

Larry Busacca | WireImage

The unexpected release of a new Beyonce album, straight onto iTunes with videos for every song attached, is not just about the singer putting out more tunes to liven up the Christmas party season.

It also shows the evolution of the music industry from the days when the internet was viewed with fear, as a beast pummelling top lines across the sector.

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A decade ago, an album release by an artist of her profile would have been marked by previews to select journalists, possibly a couple of select single releases, and fawning interviews, to build a groundswell of excitement. In recent years, the tracks would almost certainly have leaked out onto the internet.

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"I didn't want to release my music the way I've done it," Beyonce said in a statement accompanying the album. "I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans."

Music industry analysts said it was also a shrewd business move.

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"Beyonce has almost been like Apple in the move to keep everything quiet," Mark Mulligan, co-founder of media analysis company MIDiA Consulting, told CNBC.

"When you're an artist who's big enough, if you do something different it will get you lots of free marketing and exposure. And if it means that the album isn't leaked, that's a price worth paying."

Another new element to the release is the amount of videos put online – one for each song, and a couple of extras thrown into the mix.

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"It feels like a digital age product. Most tracks only use one function of devices like theiPad, but videos on YouTube are one of the most popular ways to listen to music now – so people want the video as well," Mulligan said.

The album, called simply Beyonce, was trending on Twitter within minutes of its announcement Friday morning, and various different tracks made it onto Twitter's top ten global trends during the course of Friday.

The embrace of digital media is helping the music industry's slide level out. In 2012, global music sales rose for the first time since 1999, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) – although they are still less than half the $38 billion earned at the industry's peak.

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Three albums in the top 50 bestsellers around the world last years old more in digital than physical formats: Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto, Of Monsters and Men's My Head Is An Animal and Florence The Machine's Ceremonials. And boyband One Direction's cracking of the U.S. was down in no small part to a savvy digital campaign.

"Record companies have transformed their business models over the last few years to embrace digital technology," a spokesman for IFPI told CNBC.

"Record companies' continuous investment in new music is also helping drive the broader digital economy, attracting audiences to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube."

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