Want to learn from the business behind Bey? The university's case study throws up some insight into her working habits
Last week, we reported Harvard Business School students would be studying Beyoncé as a new corporate case study. Unless you were sleeping under a particularly large rock in 2013, you'll have noticed that Bey's self-titled fifth studio album appeared out of thin air just before Christmas. People lost their collective shit, and the singer's marketing strategy of releasing an album with no marketing was so widely praised that Harvard Business School decided to study its release methods.
In their research, study authors Anita Elberse and Stacie Smith learned a lot about Bey herself by interviewing those who worked on the record and employees of Beyoncé's company Parkwood Entertainment, and passed that knowledge on to Billboard. So here are the five business lessons you can take away from Beyoncé's album. Donald Trump, take note:
ALWAYS HAVE MORE THAN ONE PROJECT (OR SONG) ON THE GO
Kanye West employed a number of producers to work on Yeezus but ultimately retained total creative control in pursuit of the realisation of his vision. Beyoncé worked in the same way for her surprise album. Parkwood's general manager Lee Anne Callahan-Longo said: “We rented a house in the Hamptons for a month. Everyone would have dinner together every night and break off into different rooms and work on music. She had five or six rooms going, each set up as a studio, and would go from room to room and say things like ‘I think that song needs that person’s input.’ Normally you would not see songs have two or more producers, but it was really collaborative.”
OFFICES ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND
While she may be a fearless corporate deity now, Beyoncé still isn't keen on traditional work environments – she's still an artist at heart. Callahan-Longo says: "She doesn’t often sit in her office. She usually walks from one office to the other, speaking with the staff. She’ll come to my office and talk to me, or she will sit in the back and give notes on projects we are working on. She has got a really good sense of the business side, but she doesn’t like to live there always."
MEETINGS SHOULD BE ONE HOUR, MAX
"We often laugh about how an hour into a business meeting she will get up and will start walking around," says Callahan-Longo. "I can see it then – that I’ve lost her, and that I have satiated the amount of business that she wants to discuss that day. I’ll usually say something like ‘Let’s stop. You are going to say "yes", but you are not listening to me anymore.’ She knows herself, will laugh, and say ‘You are absolutely right, I am done.’ Because at the end of the day she is an artist, and her passion for art drives her.”
DON'T SWEAT THE PHYSICAL STUFF
No actual physical records were manufactured until the album had been released digitally, to ensure maximum secrecy. “Once the album is out, the plan is to quickly print a black cover with Beyoncé in pink font which we can just slip over the package,” Jim Sabey told Billboard. Once the album hit iTunes and Facebooks, CD pressers began beavering away to make the physical product available.
DON'T COMPROMISE YOUR VISION – EVEN FOR CHRISTMAS
The record was originally scheduled to surprise the world in November, but Beyoncé's insistence on having 17 videos accompany the album pushed the date back, as the last one wasn't finished until just before the release date. This meant it dropped at the unusual time of mid-December. It doesn't matter what month it comes out when you're Beyoncé; Christmas Day would probably have been fine.