Beyoncé hates working in an office. Beyoncé will get up and start walking around if she gets bored in a meeting. Beyoncé wrote her whole surprise album at a big house in the Hamptons, with tons of collaborators, all at once, and you weren’t invited.
That’s from a new Harvard Business School case study on her self-titled 2013 hit surprise album, which broke all iTunes sales records when it was downloaded almost 830,000 times in just three days. Harvard professor Anita Elberse and her former student Stacie Smith interviewed employees at Beyoncé’s production company Parkwood (which is a joint venture with Columbia Records) to learn more about how the surprise album was made.
Apparently, Beyoncé is really savvy about business, but doesn’t have much patience when it comes to sitting through boring meetings. “She has got a really good sense of the business side, but she doesn’t like to live there always,” Lee Anne Callahan-Longo, the general manager of Parkwood, said in the study. “We often laugh about how an hour into a business meeting she will get up and will start walking around. I can see it then—that I’ve lost her, and that I have satiated the amount of business that she wants to discuss that day. I’ll usually say something like ‘Let’s stop. You are going to say yes, but you are not listening to me anymore.’ She knows herself, will laugh, and say ‘You are absolutely right, I am done.’ Because at the end of the day she is an artist, and her passion for art drives her.”
“Make no mistake—she really is the boss,” head of worldwide marketing Jim Sabey told Elberse and Smith.
“It is disheartening that there are still stories written where people assume that just because she is a woman, there is a person other than herself running the business,” Callahan-Longo said.
The album was written over the summer in 2012, in a big house Beyoncé rented in the Hamptons that sounds kind of like Camp Beyoncé. “We rented a house for a month. Everyone would have dinner together every night and break off into different rooms and work on music,” Callahan-Longo said. “She had five or six rooms going, each set up as a studio, and would go from room to room and say things like ‘I think that song needs that person’s input.’ Normally you would not see songs have two or more producers, but it was really collaborative.”