The album caused a stir on social media websites, with fans posting about the release early Friday morning. Twitter said early data shows mentions of Beyonce spiked by 500,000-plus tweets after she announced the album. Diddy, Alicia Keys and Demi Lovato were among the celebrities tweeting about the topic.
Billboard said Friday that "Beyonce" will likely debut on top of its charts next week.
"Our early numbers are showing that this is likely heading toward a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 albums chart with only three days of the tracking week," said Bill Werde, the editor of Billboard. Billboard closes the tracking week on Sundays, and typical albums are released on Monday or Tuesday.
On Friday afternoon, the explicit and clean versions of "Beyonce" ranked No. 1 and No. 2 on the iTunes albums chart.
Along with Beyonce and Jay Z, other leaders in pop music have released albums in new ways recently: For her "Red" album last year, Taylor Swift had partnerships with Target, Walgreens and Papa John's; and Lady Gaga sold 440,000 copies of her "Born This Way" album on Amazon for just 99 cents when it was on sale for two days in 2011, helping the album sell 1.1 million in its debut week.
Werde said Beyonce's way of releasing the album "speaks to the change in the music business."
"I think on one hand what it really speaks to is the emerging power that artists have to go direct to fans," he said. "One of the things that's most impressive about this Beyonce release is she's controlling the conversation around it to a certain extent. She's controlling the initial experience that fans are having, so it's not about what critics are saying, it's not about, 'Here's what the album means' and explaining it, it's about, 'Hey, I put my art together for you, videos, songs, and you get to have the joy and experience of forming your own opinion on the work as I intended to be presented.'"
Beyonce calls the work a "visual album" and she filmed some of the videos in Paris, New York, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro and Houston, her hometown.
"I didn't want to release my music the way I've done it," she said in a statement. "I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There's so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn't want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it's ready and from me to my fans."
Beyonce's last album was "4," released in 2011. It reached platinum success. "Beyonce" will be available in stores "in time for the holidays," her representative said.