Harvard, Business, Beyonce, Duh

Christina Drill
September 26, 2014

“She’s clearly among the most powerful people in the music industry at the moment … so to understand the operation behind such a powerful figure is always very interesting,” Anita Elberse, a Harvard business professor who co-published a case study analyzing the success of Beyonce's surprise visual album that she unleashed on us on December 13th, 2013, told the Harvard Gazette.

This fall, Elberse will be teaching a course at Harvard Business School (HBS) called "Strategic Marketing in Creative Industries," where her case study on Beyonce will be part of the curriculum.

Elberse, who is an expert on marketing strategies in popular culture industries like entertainment, sports, and media, has reported extensively on the trend of hosting “blockbuster events” to grab people's attention and create a "splash." She states that the unconventional way Beyonce released her album, as well as the amount of control Beyonce generally has in overseeing her career's business interests, is something that Harvard MBA students should study closely. After all, it was a dramatic moment for the music industry-- Parkwood Entertainment, Beyonce's production company which is made up almost exclusively of her close family and friends, made a deal with iTunes to be the sole seller of her album for the entire opening week, prompting behemoths like Target and Amazon to refuse to stock the record even after the exclusive first-week window had closed.

Artistically, Elberse believes, like most of America, that this was an incredible feat, but whether or not it was worth it from a business standpoint is what the case study concerns itself with most. Some questions Elberse hopes her students will begin to think about are: Is a maneuver like this only possible for someone with a certain level of super-stardom? And what effect might the release have on Beyoncé’s relationship with companies left out of the launch (i.e. Amazon and Target), and with her fans?

Beyonce gives us so much to think about on so many levels. If she didn't exist, I probably wouldn't think about anything at all.

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