While the album sales are impressive themselves, it's even more amazing how they got that high. As a total surprise to everyone — except, perhaps, for the most devoted Beyoncé fans, who magically prognosticated this very event — it had zero promotional leadup. There has been no lead single, no radio play. Beyoncé didn't even announce the album herself through a tweet or Facebook post. This was purely the result of her potent branding; her fans and the press both independently spread the news of the album's release.
Beyoncé may not be the first surprise album ever, but it's certainly the first by a major pop star to entirely ignore the standard album-release protocol. It certainly paid off. (Apple)