Pulling a Beyonce: What the “surprise release” says about Modern Marketing

We’ll do anything Beyonce does, and we’re not alone! Since her secret, self-titled album drop in 2013, you can expect the unexpected, because everyone seems to have a secret project. So what does a product release with no buildup mean for the future of marketing?


Queen B knows her way around a non-disclosure agreement. Artists from her 2013 album have revealed that even they didn’t know about the whole project. Despite the scale of her projects, Beyonce is one of the few artists who keeps her secret albums secret.

The process is classified, but the intent is an honest relationship with the audience. In the album announcement she says “I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans.”


In his surprise album, Kendrick Lamar took his audience underneath the editing. Untitled unmastered, a collection of demo’s and outtakes from his album To Pimp a Butterfly, is uncharacteristic for the perfectionistic rapper. Like Bey, Kendrick is crafting the image of an authentic relationship with his fans.

What LeBron wants, LeBron gets. The project was in the works for a year, but the sudden release was a reaction to a tweet from LeBron James. This dynamic response shows fans that Kendrick is actually paying attention, and even non-NBA-stars can hope that if we ask, we shall receive.


Drake teased his fans all year with releases on his Soundcloud, and then capitalized on the buzz, suddenly releasing the albumViews. This technique means that you can’t look away from Drake for long, because content could be coming at any moment. It worked- Drake is the only artist to top Beyonce in surprise album sales, with over 1 million equivalent album units in a week.


You’ve heard the rest, now hear the West. In an interview before the release of The Life of Pablo, Kanye West declared “Release dates is played out. So the surprise is going to be a surprise.” He laughed, saying “There goes the surprise.” Whether they were calculated or accidental, Kanye’s hints got fans excited. However, unlike Kendrick, Kanye delayed his album’s roll-out to continue editing, resulting in almost $10 million in lost sales from impatient piraters.

The Wife of Pablo, as she calls herself in one Snapchat story, is joining the secret project trend. Kim Kardashian-West may be the first non-music-industry celebrity to capitalize on this phenomenon. She continued “breaking the internet” in her instagram announcement, and released a complimentary set of Kimoji’s. If nothing else, we can all learn from Kim to use your assets (no pun intended) to your advantage.


Creating an open relationship between brand and fan is key. Like Snapchat, secret albums help artists respond to their audience’s desire to see something “real.” Nobody likes waiting. Secret projects give the consumer immediate access, avoiding sales lost to pirating.

It’s minimalist marketing. In 2013, album releases were hyped up to the max. Now, secret album releases use quality over quantity. Fans appreciate brands that don’t flood them with promotion, and keeping the audience guessing about when they’ll get the goods keeps them engaged.


Let social media work for you. With a secret release, there’s no need to spend money on traditional marketing when social media users create buzz for you.

Keep the hoarding habit! You never know when you’ll want to publish unused content, Kendrick-style.

Here at LMS, we have our finger on the pulse of modern marketing. You can count on us to know where the industry is headed, and to help you keep ahead of the curve. From finding the perfect influencer for your brand, to helping you launch your own secret project, we’re just waiting on you to take the first step towards the high life!