For Beyoncé fans who happened to be awake in the wee hours of Friday the 13th, Christmas came early this year–in the form of a surprise album by the superstar singer.
The self-titled visual album was released exclusively via iTunes as a complete download for $15.99; individual songs will be available starting December 20th. The list of collaborators on Beyoncé features a who’s-who of the music business, including Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake, Drake, Timbaland, Frank Ocean, Michelle Williams, Kelly Rowland and, of course, Jay Z.
With so many high-profile names attached to the project, it’s a small miracle that nothing leaked in advance of the launch, but Beyoncé runs a tight ship.
“I’m never satisfied,” she told FORBES in a 2009 cover story, adding: “I’m sure sometimes it’s not easy working for me … I’ve never met anyone that works harder than me in my industry.”
Indeed, she’s already played 97 shows on her Mrs. Carter World Tour this year–and, in combination with the buzz for her new album, that could catapult her to the most lucrative year of her already storied career. FORBES calculates earnings on the half-year, meaning that the scoring period for 2014 will run from June 2013 to June 2014.
Beyoncé is already scheduled for 83 shows during that span, and that’s not counting additional bookings that could fill up April and May. She’s currently grossing over $2 million per city, according to Pollstar. Factoring in merchandise sales at her sold-out shows, that means she’s likely taking home somewhere around $1 million per night–if not more–before paying out agents, managers and Uncle Sam.
Those sorts of touring numbers alone should be enough to equal Beyoncé’s best years to date, her twin peaks of $87 million in both 2009 and 2010. Factor in endorsements with Pepsi and H&M, in addition to her other ventures and record sales, and she should easily double the $53 million she made this year. She’ll also challenge for music’s earnings crown, which went to Madonna at $125 million for 2013.
As for the new album, it’s too early for sales numbers. But there’s at least one indicator that points to success: in 12 hours, Beyoncé has already garnered half as many reviews on iTunes as Katy Perry’s PRISM and one-third as many as Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP. Both albums sold about a quarter of a million copies in their opening weeks.
Furthermore, Beyoncé’s strategy of selling her album as a whole for the first week–rather than allowing fans to buy songs a la carte–could prove incredibly valuable. Before the digital revolution in music, that was the status quo, and it led to platinum opening weeks for scores of artists who’d now be lucky to sell a third of that over the life of an entire album.
Her idea also hearkens back to the example of another top-earning superstar: Michael Jackson. In a video explaining why she decided to release a video for every song on her album, Beyoncé recalls watching the short film for “Thriller” with her family and being inspired.
“I see music,” she says. “It’s more than just what I hear.”
She’ll be seeing a lot more cash, too.