The surprise album: Why it's successful and what you need to know

17.3 million streams in the US in three days

Drake's surprise album has set records on Spotify.

Spotify announced on Tuesday, Feb. 17 that the rapper's new album, "If You're Reading This It's Too Late," released on Friday, Feb. 13, set the record for most streams from an album in its debut week in the U.S.

What album had the previous record? Drake's last album, "Nothing Was The Same", released in 2013 with 15.8 million.

The new album also set a record for most streams in a single day for an album in the U.S. with 6.8 million streams on Saturday.

Drake isn't the first artist to release a surprise album with wild success.

828,773 album sales in three days

Beyoncé surprised her fans with a self titled album released in December, 2013. Each song on the album was accompanied by a short film video. The album, Beyoncé, broke reocrds of its own on iTunes.

Beyoncé was released to the iTunes Store without any prior announcement or promotion. It debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200, earning Beyoncé her fifth consecutive number-one album in the country. The record sold 828,773 copies worldwide in its first three days of availability, becoming the fastest-selling album in the history of the iTunes Store.


The surprise album has shown that it can be a wildly successful strategy for the superstars. It's very likely that we'll be seeing more surprise albums in the future.

As a developing artist, you might feel like every one of your albums is a surprise album, except you're not setting records. Although you may not have the superstar following to break records with a surprise album, you can still take some lessons away by looking at the some of the benefits and reasons why a surprise album works. Here are three main points:

1. No waiting = Immediate gratification

No one likes to wait and everyone wants immediate rewards. The surprise album gives the audience immediate gratification and actually causes more excitement upon release than the anticipaition of an album with a future release date. When fans are surprised suddenly and unexpectadly, it creates more of a sense of urgency for them.

2. No pre promotion budget

This is a big benefit for artists that are working with minimal budgets. You don't have to spend a dime on promotion until the music is actually available. No lengthy marketing or PR to build up hype around the album. You can start promoting once the album is out there.

3. People will forget your release date

Don't promote until your music can be accessed immediately. If you start telling people about a future release date for your album, they might see the promotion, think "that's cool," and then forget about it by the time it's actually released. If you wait until the music is available to start promoting, then once fans hear about it, it means they can immediately start listening to your music. There's no lead time for them to forget about the album in the first place. It's tough enough to reach your target market with announcements so you might as well wait to reach them until they can listen to your album.

What other lessons can be learned from the successes of surprise album releases? Let us know in the comments!