Beatport is the monster that won’t die. Bankruptcy, relaunch after relaunch, and an ill-advised flirtation with streaming have all taken their toll on Beatport. But it’s still here. It’s still a big deal as well. Check how many big name artists shout out to Beatport when promoting their releases on social. My question is why? If Beatport’s mission is to provide everything DJ’s need, and be the epicenter of dance music culture, why isn’t it better? Here are some of the problems Beatport needs to address if they’re to live up to their mission.
When I’m browsing Beatport the first thing that hits me is a difference in prices from the other downloading sites. I’m not the type of guy that shops around, so I can’t speak with scientific accuracy. It’s just a gut feeling. I’m used to tracks being a certain price, and when I go on Beatport it feels like tracks are more expensive.
Luckily, a guy with more time on his hands than me, did scientifically compare Beatport’s prices. He compared the prices for Beatport’s top 2200 tracks, with prices for the same tracks on Amazon. Guess what he found? What do you think the difference in price was? 10%? 20%?
It was 42% cheaper to buy the tracks on Amazon than on Beatport. That is a vast difference. OK, pick your jaws up off the floor now. In Beatport’s defense, around 500 of the tracks in their top 2200 were not available on Amazon. In addition, Beatport’s downloads are of a slightly higher quality, 320kpbs rather than 256kpbs. But still, 42%. Wow.
Everyone knows that when you go to the supermarket, you’re subliminally manipulated into making certain buying choices. They put the fruit at the front so you think fresh and wholesome thoughts as you enter. They move stuff around regularly so you get lost and see other products.
Well, that’s the feeling I get when I’m on Beatport. The circular Spinnin’ logo seems to jump at you from every screen, like a supermarket’s end of line display. It feels geared to push their Top 10 on you at all times, whether you want it or not. Whatever page of the menu bar you click on, there it is. This leads to a self-perpetuating snowball of everybody buying the same 10 records, because they think they have no choice.
At time of writing, the Number 1 was a ‘Future House’ (don’t get me started) version of Hit The Road Jack. Are DJs really playing that? Maybe we’re in more trouble than I thought.
OK, I’ve started now. I’ve got to talk about genres. Seriously what is that all about? Future House? Big Room? Look, I understand that it makes it slightly easier to browse tracks if you know roughly how they’re going to sound, but do we really need these cheesy terms?
My main problem with genres on Beatport is that it leads to the homogenization of music. The Top 10 of Beatport is all Future and Tech House. If a producer wants to make a track that is successful, they’re going to make something that sounds like Future or Tech House. They’re not going to push the boundaries, they’re going to make something that fits into those boundaries. They’re going to make Hit The Road Jack. (Seriously, a version of a song written in 1960 is called Future House? The only thing that’s Spinnin’ here is my head.)
The Beatport Experience
Aside from the high prices, subliminal selling and crazy genre names, shopping on Beatport is, well, not that much fun. I find the website slow and clunky. Previewing tracks is annoying. You can’t preview the beginning of a track, which is pretty important if your job is mixing one track in with another. It’s just not a fun browse. If you’re not looking for something everyone else is playing, Beatport soon becomes a chore. Crate digging it is not.
OK, let’s have a bit of balance. Beatport’s user experience has improved in many ways from a few years back. You can also argue, that all the Top 10 and genre stuff simply reflects what their target audience want. No one is putting a gun to my head and making me download Hit The Road Jack (yet).
We all know downloading is on the way out. DJs are turning to other platforms like Soundcloud to upload and download their music. Technology is allowing DJs to play straight from streaming sites, should they want to. It will be interesting to see what Beatport does next to keep up with this. They tried to set up a streaming site, but it nearly sent them bust.
In the meantime, DJing is still what you make it. Play the Beatport Top 10 Future House if that’s your thing. But why not get off Beatport, find tracks you love from elsewhere? Push the boundaries a little. You might like what you find.