The Changing Face of Music Marketing and Success

At the end of 2013, Beyoncé rocked the music world by unexpectedly releasing a visual album through iTunes, allowing fans to instantly download 14 audio tracks and 17 full-length music videos. With this release – announced through Instagram – she ushered in a whole new model of digital album releases and broke the record for most albums sold in a debut week on iTunes.

This came shortly after Beyoncé’s husband Jay-Z promised in a commercial for his new album to write “new rules” for the Internet and music, which he did when he partnered with Samsung to release his album free to 1 million Samsung Galaxy users via an app.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), it was Jay-Z’s tactics with “Magna Carta Holy Grail” that inspired a significant change in the process used to determine album sales and Gold or Platinum certifications. Previously, the RIAA waited 30 days before determining an album’s success in order to adjust for any physical returns of the album to the store. Now, the digital album can be certified on the release date, while physical albums must still wait 30 days for certification.

“The reality is that how fans consume music is changing, the music business is changing as labels and artists partner with a breathtaking array of new technology services, and the industry’s premier award recognizing artists’ commercial achievement should similarly keep pace,” wrote RIAA director, Liz Kennedy in a blog post on

Since a million app albums were released before physical sales kicked off, “Magna Carta Holy Grail” had already achieved Platinum status by the time it became available to the general public. This accomplishment is a first for the industry, but Jay-Z and Beyoncé aren’t the only artists on the cutting edge of digital music marketing.

Coldplay recently surprised fans by tweeting that “something new” would happen at midnight. At the designated hour, the band released a new song and video on iTunes and followed up a week later with the announcement of a new album. Alternative musician Beck took to the skies to release his newest album, making if available for free to anyone who used Gogo Inflight Internet a full day before it was available on the ground. 

With the RIAA’s new rule in place, artists who pursue the digital album route and embrace new technologies moving forward are poised to have their achievements branded in Gold, Platinum or Multi-platinum faster than ever before. And with Jay-Z’s and Beyoncé’s game-changing releases in the books, the stage for a whole new wave of creative music marketing has been set.