How Beatport Can Save Itself in the Face of the Streaming Revolution
For more than 10 years, Beatport has been a leading force in the dance music community, providing high quality downloads of tunes across all genres of EDM for DJs and serious music fans.
Despite vast changes in the landscape of dance music and DJ culture, Beatport has been a mainstay - even through its acquisition by the once ascendant and now rapidly crumbling SFX Entertainment. Through 2015 the site attempted to diversify its offerings, expanding beyond the scope of providing music and remix tools to DJs, into streaming, live event coverage, editorial content, and news coverage.
Yesterday, the company announced that they would be ceasing operation of these other offerings and refocusing on the core of its business model of providing music for DJs.
I applaud this choice - the world already has too many streaming services and EDM news sites. And despite the overall shift towards streaming for general consumers, DJs still need high quality wave files to play out at gigs, and they always will.
As a streaming service, Beatport couldn't possibly compete with Spotify, Soundcloud, or Apple Music, but as an online record store for DJs it's at the top of the game. That being said, there are some changes that could massively improve the service the site provides to DJs.
The first, and likely most important is pricing. Currently, new releases generally sell for $1.99, with $0.75 upcharge for lossless files (wave or aiff formats). So in reality, any self-respecting DJ is paying almost 3 bucks to buy a single tune. Granted this is still less than the $10-$20 we might have paid to get one tune we wanted on a release back in the vinyl days, but the truth is that asking almost $3 for a single song in a digital, non-tangible format is just too much.
Most of the DJs I know (myself included) look at Beatport as a last resort, only buying waves there when we can't find them anywhere else. I check the artist/label Bandcamp page first, then any other sites providing waves or FLACs for purchase, before heading to Beatport. If Beatport sold lossless files for $2 or less, it would be the first place I'd go. That $0.75 difference adds up for DJs who buy hundreds or thousands of tracks a year.
The second major issue is the streaming quality of track previews. Serious DJs don't just listen to tunes for the musical progression, but also for the quality of the mixdown, mastering, and other elements of the production. It might not be significant if you are only ever planning to listen to music on your phone's earbuds or laptop speakers, but if you are planning on playing a tune out on a big club or festival soundsystem, the production quality is very important.
Beatport's streaming quality is too low to get a truly accurate impression of the sound quality of the tune. I've had many tunes that I've bought from Beatport because the musical elements were great, but after downloading and checking the wave on studio monitors or good headphones, decided that the production quality wasn't up to par to fit into a DJ set.
The third problem is related to the second - the time limitations of the previews. Choosing to spend almost $3 on a single wave file makes me want to be damn sure I like the whole tune, and that it will fit into a set how I want. It's a hassle to have to go over to YouTube, Soundcloud, or another streaming platform to be able to listen through the full track before deciding whether to buy it on Beatport.
I understand that they can't provide high quality, full length previews because people will just rip the files - but providing a full length (or at least longer) low quality stream, plus a high quality 30 second clip would solve both the preview length issue and the sound quality issue.
I want to see Beatport succeed, and despite the changing landscape of the music consumption market, I believe they can. The market for purchasing high quality downloads of songs will sadly always be a limited one, catering only to DJs, hardcore music fans, and audiophiles. But it's a plenty big enough market, and if Beatport can refocus, streamline their business model, and provide a reasonably priced, user-friendly one stop shop for high quality dance music downloads, they can dominate that market.