LOS ANGELES Dec 18 (Reuters) - R&B star Beyonce's latest self-titled album surpassed 1 million copies sold worldwide in six days on Wednesday and set a record for iTunes, Apple Inc and Columbia Records said.
"Beyonce," the fifth solo studio album from the singer, which was unexpectedly released in the early hours of Dec. 13 without any prior fanfare, contains 14 new songs and 17 videos. It swiftly topped the iTunes album charts across the world.
The album also debuted at the top of the weekly Billboard 200 album chart on Wednesday, with 617,000 copies sold in the United States by the week ending Dec. 15, according to figures from Nielsen SoundScan.
The deluxe digital album, exclusively available on iTunes, can only be purchased as a complete set of songs and videos, and retails for $15.99 at the U.S. store. A physical version will be made available for sale in time for the holiday period this month.
The surprise release of the album caps a year in which the 32-year-old Beyonce made a carefully choreographed return to music after taking time out to give birth to her first child, daughter Blue Ivy, with rapper husband Jay Z. Both Blue Ivy and Jay Z feature as collaborators on the new album and appear in accompanying music videos.
Releasing an album without any prior fanfare or publicity is rare, especially for one of the top players in the music industry. But Beyonce's success does not necessarily mean other artists will be able to copy her stealth release strategy.
The singer has numerous factors in her favor, including a loyal online fan base of more than 53 million Facebook fans, 13 million Twitter followers and 8 million Instagram fans, and a year performing in the spotlight that has created buzz for an album release.
Beyonce kicked off the year performing at U.S. President Barack Obama's second inauguration in January, headlined the Super Bowl half-time show in February and launched her "Mrs. Carter Show" world tour in April.
Her latest album has outperformed some of this year's other most-anticipated new releases, selling more copies than albums from Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Britney Spears.
Currently, the year's top-selling album is Justin Timberlake's first part of "The 20/20 Experience," which was released in March with 968,000 copies sold in its opening week, and has topped 2.3 million sales in the United States to date.
Nielsen SoundScan compiles sales in the week ending Sunday, meaning that Beyonce's new album only showed three days of sales in the Billboard chart.