— Lauren Wirtzer-Seawood, Digital Strategy at Parkwood Entertainment
"I saw the Jackson 5 when I was 6 years old at Dodgers Stadium. I’ll never forget it. It was their last tour together, the 'Victory Tour.' And that’s kind of how I feel when I see Beyonce live. Her ability to perform is just unparalleled. I’ve seen a lot of shows over my time and you can’t help but compare from other things you’ve seen in the past and her ability to come up there and perform day-in and day-out, at that level all the time is mind-blowing. We all work really hard here but nobody works as hard as she does. She is incredibly tuned into her own brand, which is not a given all the time. I think a lot of artists are often unsure about what they like and what they don’t like and unsure if their creative ideas are worth sharing, but she has a very distinct idea of what she likes and doesn’t like, and she will share it and vocalize it and expect you to execute on that concept or idea. And she does it in a really seamless way.
"I started my career as an assistant at Def Jam in the 1990s, and I did a multitude of jobs like we all did back in the record label days. And then I went on to manage our non-music Def Jam businesses on behalf of Russell Simmons, Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles, the three of them—who still to this day own the brand. Those were things like video games partnerships and apparel partnerships, or working with mobile partners. But I was much involved in our video game efforts, which lasted about eight or so years with console game makers, Electronic Arts and Konami and that’s how I got into the tech space and learned everything I never wanted to know about how to make video game products.
"When I arrived here, I was not aware of the plans [for the fifth album] until about a week into it when Leanne says, “I think you need to get on a plane with us and come to this meeting in San Francisco,” and I was like, “Sure.” I know a lot of the folks at iTunes and all the other tech companies there, and we went to this meeting and it was, “OK, this is what we’re doing.” I thought it was a brilliant idea and, of course, scary because you never know how it’s going to be received, but I don’t think that anybody here doubted for a moment that it wasn’t going to be right.
"I caught myself singing 'Drunk in Love,' without realizing it, one weekend when I was out and about with my husband and kids. My husband was, like, 'What is that?' and I was, like, 'Nothing.' For me it was just easier not to talk about it at all. I didn’t even tell him; he had no idea this was coming together. Nobody knew. I don’t think anybody here told anybody, so I knew that that record was one of my favorites because I was mentally replaying it in my head without even thinking about it. That’s when you know you have a hit. The way music is distributed is so greatly different than what it was in the '80s and '90s. So you don’t have those iconic three or four albums a year—even less at that time—you have 400 albums that came out in a year and you have to remember what you listened to and a lot of it has to do with what your friends are listening to, and talking about, and how young people are sharing it on social networks, and it just becomes a whole different kind of conversation. But I think this album for sure is going stand out as a major moment.
"At launch, the challenge was how to ensure that all of the content became available immediately to the widest number of people at the exact same moment. It’s incredibly challenging when you’re talking about 14 audio tracks and 17 video tracks. From a technological standpoint how do you do that? We were able to flip the switch on a new website at midnight, and when we did that, we included all of the audio tracks and clips of each of the videos that were also immediately available on YouTube. All of that pushed out alongside a Facebook post that went to the entire 60 or so million Facebook fans that are currently in Beyonce’s sphere, and they all shared. So the 'virality' of that was pretty huge. It was a huge team effort. On the digital side, there are some little things that we do to sort of keep the conversation going. For example, when the album came out we released two full-length videos via YouTube—'Drunk in Love' and 'XO,' but then we held the other back, so they were only available as 30-second clips. Now, of course many people post them, they’ll buy the album, they rip the video from the DVD and then they’ll post them on YouTube, but we do spend a lot of time pulling those down.
"I’m the newest of the bunch, and I think and what is apparent is that everyone here works as hard as necessary to make sure that the job gets done and there’s never an instance where you have to worry about someone doing something that might not be best for the Beyonce brand, it’s not even a question. I think ultimately, the diversity of the group reflects those who are really great at what they do and I don’t think she cares less about who you are, where you come from, what you look like, what you do at home. It’s just really about can you do the job, do it well and ensure there’s nothing to worry about."
Photograph by Ricardo Nelson