The Surprise Release Method, Is it Sustainable?

By this time everyone knows of the success Beyonce had with her recent “surprise” release of her 5th Album “Beyoncé”.  Yes, she sold a bunch or records and made headlines for doing so with no promotion whatsoever, but is this strategy sustainable or just accessible to huge artists like Adele, Justin Timberlake, P!nk, etc.  ?  There are definitely some polarizing perspectives.


Adam Pyarali over at Next Big Sound  seems to have a positive perspective when discussing EDM artist Skrillex and the surprise release of his debut album “Recess”.  Pyarali thinks that the numbers speak volumes:

Skrillex is seeing a large boost in numbers similar to those of a big-budgeted, label-supported campaign. Since the launch of the app on March 7, Skrillex has seen sizable percentage gains across all social platforms. He’s seen a gain of 359k new Facebook fans—up 71% from the two-week period before. Additionally, the EDM artist has seen spikes of 81% and 53% in Twitter mentions and Wikipedia views respectively—seeing major gains on Tuesday March 11 (the day after the album leak).


People aren’t just talking about Skrillex on Twitter—he’s also receiving new followers, with numbers up 48% percent. In regular Skrillex fashion, the artist uploaded Recess to his SoundCloud account on March 18, resulting in a 104% spike in SoundCloud plays. Over these two weeks, Skrillex has seen 6.2 million plays on his account—roughly 8% of his total play count.

In terms of developing more of a following  I agree that this method my attract more media attention but it might just be doing so because of the recent success Beyonce had with her album.  “Recess” did sell well but not nearly as close to the numbers that Beyonce hit with her release.  Skrillex sold about 45-50k while Beyonce moved and impressive 600k+ copies.  To me it seems as if though this strategy is more of a stunt to gain a buzz for the album rather than a real strategy and if more and more artists continue to use this strategy then does it not lose its appeal?  Some industry executives seem to think so:

“I think the surprise release is a one-trick pony,” says the distribution executive. “I am not sure it will work again.”

“I wonder when this is done frequently, does the surprise factor wane? If there are a lot of releases promoted this way, it will become less impactful. If mid-level and lower-level artists pile in, will the surprise get applied to the point where the public doesn’t care anymore?”

I side with these executives,  I don’t think is method is going to be accessible and effective for all artists, I mean if the artists want to decrease spending and self release of course it might be less cost effective but I doubt it will induce more sales. What do you think? Can this ‘surprise’ method be a sustainable approach for artists  in the music industry?


“Skrillex Goes Direct To Fans: And It Works”, Next Big Sound:

“Is the Beyonce ‘Suprise’  Album Drop Working For Others?”, BillboardBiz: