Did you know? Beyonce has a new website.
She famously hated her old site “because she doesn’t think that it looks like who she is as an artist, someone who likes fashion and art and photography and travel.” Back in November she and her managers Parkwood Entertainment put the website business out to pitch. She gave the agencies 48 hours to come up with ideas for her new presence.
The new beyonce.com launched on April 5. It’s a site fit for an icon.
At its heart is The Vault, a repository for her photos and videos. The biggest problem for an icon’s web presence? It’s almost impossible to create something as comprehensive and fascinating as their fan sites. Fans have more time on their hands – Beyonce has none – and for fans, it’s a passion project. With approvals processes and copyright restrictions being what they are, it can take an entire agency and a team of lawyers to replicate the output of one fanatical supporter blogging from their bedroom. But with this treasure trove of hi-res images and exclusive video, the official Beyonce.com has immediately usurped fan sites to become the best Beyonce destination. So as far as is possible online, the star gets to present her image in the way she wants.
The image she’s presented is carefully calculated. It’s one part icon, balanced with one part human. She’s called Beyonce throughout – no surname. The site is filled with her handwriting – it’s intimate, and gives the site the stamp of authenticity. No ghostwritten blogposts for Bey. She handwrites them herself, like this entry on how the artist Basquiat inspires her. Remember when Hugh Jackman got the name of the Opera House wrong and had to reveal he got a minion to tweet for him? We’re savvy now. Every fan asks “is this really my idol?” or is it fake? Everything on Beyonce.com says “it’s really Bey.”
Nothing says this more than her Tumblr. “This is my life, today, over the years – through my eyes. My family, my travels, my love. This is where I will share with you, this will continue to grow as I do.” It’s (beautiful) Beyonce on holiday, Beyonce being (beautifully) silly, Beyonce being (beautifully) funny. After scrolling through Beyonce’s Tumblr, you stop envying her because she’s a superstar and start envying her because her life is full of happy moments with friends and loved ones. The images are casual, in that they’re joky or outdoors. But they’re photoshopped, too – not in a Vogue editorial way, just in pretty girl’s Facebook profile pics way.
The Tumblr is inoculation. One day Beyonce the superstar will do something that knocks her off her pedestal. The glimpse into Beyonce’s real life afforded by her Tumblr means we won’t savage her when she falls. We’ll love her so much we’ll gently lift her back onto it. This is not the first time she’s used Tumblr strategically. Upon the birth of their daughter, she and Jay-Z launched Hello Blue Ivy Carter; the first photos given as a gift to fans, a humble handwritten note requesting privacy. Surely after that they were much less likely to be papped and harrassed for baby shots.
While her Tumblr made the biggest splash on April 5, the cleverest part of Beyonce’s website is the online community, Beyhive. For many artists and brands, “online community” is synonymous for “frightening lack of control.” Beyonce.com shows how it’s done. First, she frames the conversation by inventing her own vocab. Do you want to be a Bey or a Wasp?
Second, fan chatter is organised by Beyonce.com. (The person who writes the agenda controls the meeting. The artist who mandates her own hashtag determines what gets discussed.) But it’s hosted elsewhere. There are no comments on Beyonce’s site, acting as a lure and playground for anonymous haters. If you want to say something about Bey, you say it as yourself, using your own Twitter account, in front of your friends. Other fans (Beys) find it by clicking the hashtag or going to the Colony.
Beyonce is a performer, a visual creature. She is made for our image-hungry times. Pecking out a bon mot on Twitter is not her bag. That’s absolutely fine – hopefully she won’t feel pressure to succumb to a ghost-tweeter. Twitter is not mandatory.
And what of her music? She’s a singer after all. Well, it’s all there. Every music video she’s done, high res and sans ads. It won’t stop piracy, but it will help. If you get a craving to listen to Girls (Run the World) – and who doesn’t? – perhaps Beyonce.com will be your destination rather than Mediafire.
All in all Beyonce.com is a masterful work of digital strategy and brand building. And Beyonce is a formidible brand. As Britticisms says,
Beyonce is the only contemporary, young, mainstream singer worthy of icon status. Bey exudes confidence and assuredness. She doesn’t need to demand respect. It’s a given… Beyonce understands she’s running on a different (higher, arguably untouchable) level than her contemporaries and 4 – as well as her relationship to the media and new online presence – suggests the superstar has rightfully claimed her throne and won’t be giving it up anytime soon.
Beyonce’s website is Beyonce.com. The agency responsible was designedmemory.