Happy fifth birthday, Beatport! What a perfect excuse to throw more events than a Vegas socialite. In honor of the momentous occasion, the No. 1 online retailer for electronic dance music (EDM) is celebrating around the globe, including tour stops in Berlin, Paris, Tokyo and Sin City (on January 31 at Rain during Perfecto). But more important than a good party, they’re launching Beatport 4.0.
For casual clubbers or novice dance-music fans, let this serve as your Beatport 101 lesson: Beatport is like iTunes for DJs … only with superior sound quality. Using the site earns major street cred. That new track you danced your ass off to last weekend? Almost certainly purchased by the DJ via Beatport (and you can look it up and buy it, too). With CDs taking the place of vinyl—record crates are heavy!—DJs were faced with the tedious process of converting their collections into MP3 files. Co-founders Bradley Roulier, Jonas Tempel and Eloy Lopez wondered why there wasn’t a site from which to download EDM files directly. “Eloy actually came up with the idea,” says Roulier. “He bought Final Scratch in 2003 and went to Jonas, who was [a] resident DJ, and said, ‘Hey. Check out this software. It’s really cool, but it’s stupid that you have to buy a piece of vinyl and turn it into an MP3. Why can’t we just build a website that sells the MP3?’” And history, as they say, was made.
“You could just see this migration from analog to digital was about to happen,” Roulier says. Since the official launch of Beatport in January 2004, the site has grown to include approximately 4,000 new tracks online every week. 2007 saw the addition of the Beatportal.com online community, and in 2008, Beatsource.com launched to focus on hip-hop music.
But if you’re looking to begin your career as a DJ or want to create a sweet mix CD to impress that pretty rave girl, don’t expect simply to create a Beatport account and download awesome tunes. Just as in the olden days of record stores, one has to dedicate time in order to find the perfect track. “If you think you’re going to just go for five minutes and go off the top 10, it’s not going to be very rewarding, and you’re obviously going to find the stuff in the top 10 is what everybody is playing—or even the top 100,” says Roulier.
However, with Beatport 4.0, hunting down tracks will get a bit easier. “The UI [user interface] is different. I think it’s going to take people a minute to get used to it, but it’s substantially improved,” says Roulier. “We’ve expanded the ‘My Beatport’ section to be able to subscribe to artists and labels a lot more.” (In previous versions, customized favorite artists and labels capped out at 100 each.) “It takes a minute to find the artists and remixers and labels that you do like, but once you do, the music kind of links to itself, and with the way Beatport links laterally, it’s really good. I would always say to people to fill in My Beatport and subscribe that way.”
For the experienced Beatport user, there’s still a problem with those maddening “territory restrictions” that prevent users from purchasing certain tracks. “The problem is that most of these record labels, a lot of them are still treating digital like physical, so they’re licensing the track to certain territories,” explains Roulier. “In the new version … it’s not completely fixed, but it’s better, and eventually, we’d like to get to a point where you only see the content available from your territory.”
Minor issues aside, the future looks bright. “We just wanted to sell some MP3s—we always joke about that,” Roulier says. There’s no mistaking it: Beatport has become a valuable tool. The team deserves celebrating, and we can bet the party music will be good. No word if Oakenfold will be jumping out of a giant cake.