Beyoncé, brand and business
Last week, the Wall Street Journal profiled Beyoncé, the CEO. Naturally she did not speak. Her dad did, though, because, well, nobody listens to him. The piece was all about how Beyoncé’s been making changes at Parkwood Entertainment to expand and diversify her business. Already we are seeing some of those plans in action.
Yesterday she released a new promotional video for the new Ivy Park collection:
And yesterday TechCrunch reported that Beyoncé has invested $150K in a startup, an app called Sidestep that makes it easier to buy tour merch so that you don’t have to wait in line. I can confirm that Sidestep is awesome. When we went to Formation there were 7 of us. And we all went out before the show to pre-drink. What sucks is leaving the restaurant early to build in an hour or whatever to get water and t-shirts and tank tops. So we all bought our merch on Sidestep instead. Then you just go to the side kiosk at the merch tables under the Sidestep sign, give your name, and they hand you a bag. Or if you want they’ll send it to your home. Obviously we wanted to be WEARING our sh-t when we were watching her on stage so we did our pickups at the arena. Still, that’s it. Takes no time. And now Beyoncé is one of the funders.
In addition to Ivy Park and Sidestep, Beyoncé has also put her money into WTRMLN WTR, a beverage company, and TIDAL, of course, and Parkwood is continuing to develop new talent. As the WSJ noted, many are wondering now if Beyoncé will eventually go full independent on her own label, without the backing of a partnership. Since 2012/2013, a couple of years after taking over control of her brand, we’ve seen Beyoncé strategically and flawlessly roll out two secret albums and change the way music is released. And, at the same time, while reaching higher and higher levels of artistic and creative achievement, and separating herself from everyone else in the industry, doing so without sacrificing any mystery.
Earlier this week, one of my favourite writers, Jenna Wortham, wrote about Beyoncé for The New York Times, specifically about how Beyoncé uses social media perhaps more effectively than any other celebrity to promote her brand and preserve her brand mystery and, also, her privacy. Which…what? In the time of the overshare, can you actually do all those things at the same time? First of all, Jenna’s article opens on Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, a book I LOVED, so from the first sentence I was already a believer. But then Jenna goes on to argue that Beyoncé’s intentioned application of social media (translation: controlled release) is an example of how technology can “liberate women from patriarchy and other oppressive systems” by “generating other selves” and casting a “virtual identity” creating a “prism through which we can project only what we want others to see” and therefore preserving “the rest for ourselves – our actual selves”. It’s an interesting opposing perspective to the fret and anxiety that is the most common and pervasive reaction to the social media generation – that we are compromising our souls by living on social media. Which is Sasha’s feeling on it and why she hates Instagram etc so much.
On a sort of related note, Adweek reported in July that social media is where the gender pay gap actually works in reverse. Women make more money on social media than men do, one of the few industries where being a woman is a financial advantage. If I were the Dean of the Faculty of Celebrity Studies at a liberal arts university we’d be debating this and how Beyoncé is taking advantage of it for an entire month.