The current music industry is dealing with issues never seen before which have the potential of causing significant economic harm to producers and artists. This is due to the increasing accessibility of the internet and the digitisation of media content, as sharing files peer-to-peer for free becomes normality, encouraging the consumption of unofficially distributed content (Jewitt, and Yar). Therefore, the industry has found new strategies to protect their profit, creating innovative content people would be willing to pay for, one of which is the visual album.
The visual album is not completely a “new” concept, drawing from the idea of music stars proceeding to star into movies or having their own “musical” films produced altogether (Hornaday), which has become possible thanks to the same media convergence that jeopardized the music industry, as it is the meeting point of music and cinematography. Borrowing from different medias and genres, visual albums also allow for the creation of deeper narratives, often relating to the artist’s persona, possible because of the singers having more control over the production. This clearly noticeable in Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and Frank Ocean’s “Endless”, as both singers are producers, Ocean also directed, and Beyoncé co-directed the whole album and directed “7/11” by herself (Ehrlich).
The release of these two visual albums has followed the same pattern, allowing fans to purchase them for full price only on specific platforms (Tidal first and then Apple Music for “Lemonade” and just Apple Music for “Endless”). While Beyoncé’s exclusive release did propel Tidal’s downloads in the AppStore into the top charts, it is also arguable that the decision of not making the album available on other – legal – streaming platforms (i.e. Spotify, Pandora…) might have actually backlashed, with the album quickly becoming one of the most pirated items, following the sort of Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo”, illegally downloaded around 500,000 times on the release date (Turner).
In conclusion, while the idea of the visual album is innovative and supplies to the new way in which music is consumed online and update the music industry to the contemporary convergence of media culture, its success in preserving the artists’ revenue and rights is questionable, due to the circumstances in which the major pop-stars are approaching their diffusion.
- Ehrlich, David. “Who Directed ‘Lemonade’? The 7 Filmmakers Behind Beyoncé’S Visual Album”. Indiewire, 2018, http://www.indiewire.com/2016/04/who-directed-lemonade-the-7-filmmakers-behind-beyonces-visual-album-289339/. Accessed 19 Apr 2018.
- Hornaday, Ann. “How Beyoncé Perfected The ‘Visual Album’ With ‘Lemonade’: Music Stars Used To Break Into Movies. Now Beyoncé Has Perfected A Whole New Medium.”. Washington Post Blogs, 2016. UCC Boole Library, https://search-proquest-com.ucc.idm.oclc.org/docview/1784373147?pq-origsite=summon. Accessed 19 Apr 2018.
- Turner, Karen. “Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ Is The Latest Move In The Streaming Music War: The Album’s Rollout Reveals The Latest Strategic Move In The Streaming Platforms War.”. Washington Post – Blogs, 2016. UCC Boole Library, https://search-proquest-com.ucc.idm.oclc.org/docview/1785132422?pq-origsite=summon. Accessed 19 Apr 2018.
- Jewitt, Robert, and Majid Yar. “Consuming The Illegal”. Convergence: The International Journal Of Research Into New Media Technologies, vol 19, no. 1, 2013, pp. 3-8. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1177/1354856512462771.