The numbers are staggering ... even for a global superstar like Beyoncé. After initial projections had the singer moving more than 550,000 copies of her surprise Beyoncé album since its pop-up debut early Friday morning, when the final numbers came in on Monday afternoon (December 16) the walls came tumbling down.
A few of the new benchmarks set by Queen Bey:
»617,213 downloads, a new first week record for the U.S. iTunes store.
»828,773 worldwide downloads, a new record for global iTunes sales, making Beyoncé the fastest-selling album in the history of the iTunes store.
»Number one in 104 countries.
»Beyoncé's biggest sales week ever.
»Second biggest digital sales week overall among all digital sales outlets, behind Lady Gaga's Born This Way, which moved 662,000 in its first week. (That figure was thanks, in part, to an estimated 440,000 copies sold on Amazon.com. Bey's album is available only at full price ($15.99) as a full album download.
»Biggest sales week of 2013 for a female artist and the biggest for any woman since Taylor Swift moved 1.2 million copies of Red in October 2012.
To put the feat into perspective, Beyoncé nearly sold more than Katy Perry's Prism (286,000), Lady Gaga's ARTPOP (258,000) and Britney Spears' Britney Jean (107,000) did in their first week combined. And Bey had only three days to put up those gaudy figures. "There is no other digital retailer who has ever sold this many copies of a digital album in a week," said Keith Caulfield, associate director of charts for Billboard.
As for how she did it, Caulfield said there are multiple explanations. In a year when everyone from Daft Punk to Justin Timberlake, Kanye West and David Bowie surprised fans with unexpected albums, Beyoncé upended the whole business model by completely side-stepping the traditional promotional cycle.
"In the age of over saturation and information [Bey, Timberlake, etc.] bucked that trend completely," he said of the more traditional full-court blitzes from other acts that included the usual press releases, radio singles, videos, awards show and morning news program performances and commercial placement. "By the time their albums arrived the public had generally formed an opinion on whether they wanted those albums or not. When you instead drop an album out of the sky and it hasn't leaked and the only place you can buy it in full is through the number one music retailer in the world, it makes sense that people will be very curious."
That said, Caulfield said even his colleagues at Billboard (and he suspects, Bey's label) were a bit surprised by the final numbers. It didn't hurt that celebrities from many walks of life, movie, TV and music stars were losing their minds over Beyoncé, which is the best promotion money can't buy. "It's that pop culture moment that everyone has to be a part of and the only way to do it is to pay $15."
Get Ready To Be Surprised Again
It's hard to think of another artist on Beyoncé's level that could pull this kind of shock and awe release off. But, expect them to try. "I bet a whole lot of people are looking at how they can try to do the same thing now," Caulfield said. "But not every artist can and not every artist would be afforded the kind of promotion iTunes gave Beyoncé."