More artists are forgoing standard marketing campaigns and are instead releasing their albums digitally as both a way to save money and surprise their fans.

Surprise, or pop-up albums, such as Kendrick Lamar’s “Untitled Unmastered,” released just last month, Beyoncé’s 2013 self-titled album and Drake’s “If you’re reading this it’s too late” were all released through iTunes without a prior announcement, all three debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

“You got to get past the middle man because the middle man gets paid,” musicologist and ex-Much Music VJ Michael Williams told Canada AM on Tuesday. “If you want to get paid you really have to become a business person yourself.”

According to Williams, every artist is now a business person and has tried to cut out as much of the middle man as possible, including involvement from record labels. 

Most of the change has stemmed from social media which has given the artist more power, freedom and control, Williams said. The Weeknd has previously forgone extensive marketing campaigns in favour of selling a tour simply through Facebook.

“Social media has changed the game,” said Williams, “But it’s an old game with a new face, the new face being new media.”

Williams remembers the first time he had heard of the concept of surprise albums back in 1971, when The Grateful Dead would come out with a surprise album the week following a concert. He also remembered keyboardist Jackie Mittoo, who would use surprise albums to pay for long-term hotel room stays.

Common practices, according to Williams, are to overcut and keep songs that did not make it to a previous album, which can then be release as a second volume or a surprise album. He believes that the songs on Lamar’s “Untitled Unmastered” are overcuts and B-sides from his previous album, “To Pimp a Butterfly." Other artists, such as Prince, tend to overcut their albums so that they can release records on their own time.

Kendrick Lamar, along with Drake and Future with their surprise mixtape “What a Time to Be Alive,” all reached the No. 1 position on the Billboard 200 with two records in the last 12 months.