After reports of dissatisfaction, panic and other pre-release drama, executives at Columbia Records are feeling vindicated by the positive early returns for Beyonce's new album, "4."
"All the speculation that gets around is frustrating when it's just not true," Columbia/Epic Label Group Chairman Rob Stringer tells Billboard.biz. "The story about us being unhappy with the record and stuff is just not true. There's never been any doubt or conversations about moving the record or changing it... Those conversations never existed. We're really, really happy with it."
The label is particularly pleased with sales reports from "4's" initial days of official availability. Stringer says early indications are that the album will debut at No. 1 in as many as 14 countries, including the U.S., and in the Top 3 worldwide. It went triple-platinum in Brazil on its first day of sale, while U.K. projections have it selling "well over" 90,000 copies in its first week -- which more than doubles "I Am...Sasha Fierce's" roll-out in 2008 -- and 1.6 million over its lifespan. The album's second single, "Best Thing I Never Had," is No. 1 on the U.K. iTunes charts and currently sits at No. 58 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 29 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts.
"The numbers are very good everywhere," Stringer notes. "We thought the record is great from the beginning, and some of the stuff that is happening now is vindication of it."
Columbia did scramble when "4's" first single, "Run the World (Girls)," leaked and was released ahead of schedule, peaking at No. 29 on the Hot 100. The album, meanwhile, leaked in full on June 7, three weeks ahead of its June 28 release date, leading to reports that "4" would be delayed and possible altered -- particularly after a tepid response from the blogosphere and a feeling that, with more than 70 songs worked on for the album, there would be ample material to create something markedly different than what was being distributed online.
"We didn't want the leaks to happen," Stringer says. "But there was never any discussion of this album moving. It has always been that date (June 28). It's been that date for four months now. There was never a conversation about pushing it back, bringing it forward, changing the songs -- none of it."
Stringer says the company is looking at an 18-month campaign for "4," which will include "extensive touring" by Beyonce. Just back from a successful overseas run that included three concerts in France and a closing-night gig at the U.K.'s Glastonbury Festival, she'll roll out a documentary, "Beyonce: Year of 4," on Thursday on MTV and BET, then perform Friday on ABC's GMA Summer Concert Series. She'll head back to the U.K. for a July 9 show at Scotland's T in the Park and a stop the next day at the Oxegen Festival in Ireland.
"The main concentration for the next few months is to get this record working everywhere," Stringer says. "She's well versed in being a global artists. The touring plan is extensive. The promo plan is extensive. We also know we're going to put out a lot of singles and...shoot a lot of videos from the record. There's enough positive information that we think we can work the record for another 18 months, and hopefully over that period we'll all be proved right that this is an important record and a commercially successful record."