More DJs than you can count express the following sentiment: “Whatever happened to the record store?” In a sense, the question is rhetorical. We all know what happened: the ease and cheapness of download websites, like iTunes and Beatport, made the physical experience obsolete. Yet, the quick fix can’t compensate or replicate the decades-old pastime of browsing through bins and racks of the latest LPs and CDs.
Satellite, once a physical record store, strives to mirror that classic and nearly-forgotten sensation. According to a recent press release, Satellite Record Stores, which had New York, Boston, and Atlanta locations and a corresponding website from 1993 to 2007, unveiled Satellite, a dance-music only downloading website with 100-percent curated music and unique features for DJs and releases. Unlike Beatport, Satellite EDM puts all new releases on the same plane: not Swedish House Mafia at the top and independent performers on a hard-to-find interior page.
To avoid becoming another hits-pushing download website, Satellite features 20 content managers, all of which go through every new track, hand-picking them based on quality and leaving politics and promotions out. So, does Satellite EDM live up to its claims?
From the get-go, one of Satellite’s assets is the division of subgenres, covering house to tech house, breaks, nu disco, and even non-EDM options; pop house, as well, is filtered out from the purer tracks. Within this format, and perhaps this is the result of Satellite recently launching, the subgenres are sparse on picks, and the dominant EDM forms – house, dubstep, electro, and trance – offer greater variety. Although subgenre selections were slightly disappointing, this format holds promise once the website takes off.
Within each dominant genre, however, were listings of tracks based on DJ Charts, Hot Picks, Top Downloads, and Curators. None drew from the tops of the standard charts, be it Billboard, iTunes, or Beatport. Instead, this week, house’s Hot Picks were Paul Johnston, Nopopstar, and Syron.
The site’s DJ Charts inject the perspective of the EDM professional, while its New Releases selection lists all tracks, separating originals and remixes, by date. So far, Satellite, by its selection here, is pushing more independent fare. Yet, from a quick listen, the tracks reflect the modern sounds. Jucy Trax’s “Fly,” added on September 5, could fit on any contemporary house playlist, reflecting sounds from Avicii and Benny Benassi, but the presence at the top of the list means the artist gets a fair chance.
Hot Picks are considered the site’s “best tracks.” Unlike the New Releases section, Hot Picks breaks up originals and remixes, judging each on quality. However, should the listener want to hear the original, all he or she has to do is click on the pink checked box. This feature, as well, shows that a mainstream presence is not absent from Satellite; within the top 10 picks, for instance, was a Paul Oakenfold remix of Poncho’s “Please Me.”
Aside from the DJ’s perspective, curated tracks, and equal exposure for its New Releases was the Satellite Music Player, which, according to the press release, was designed to re-create the experience of listening to new tracks at a record store. Unlike track previews on just about every other music downloading website, the Satellite Player offers longer excerpts, allows for needle-dropping, saves a listener’s history, and offers the option of moving around different previews to create a playlist.
In its early state, Satellite is promising, particularly for listeners and DJs seeking out non-mainstream tracks. For now, the website expects to be introducing new features regularly, as it picks up speed.