How To Use Beatport (Properly)
Almost every single week on TA, I see someone expressing their frustration with Beatport, someone who clearly does not understand how to use Beatport. In fact, I would say this is the single biggest problem in the digital era, not just for DJs but for listeners in general: how to pick the good music from what increasingly seems like an unscalable virtual cliff-face of digital shit. I think the root of this frustration is that people have still to adapt to the relatively new idea of The Long Tail. Summarised briefly, this is the theory of Internet sales models that posits that unlimited choice means extremely low sales numbers of an extremely large variety of products. The consequence is that things such as music will no longer appeal generally to large numbers of people but appeal very specifically to extremely small numbers of people.
In other words: someone out there is making exactly the music you want to hear, but that music will only sell about 100 copies to the people with exactly the same tastes as you. Beatport sell millions of MP3s but the sales of each individual track are really, really low. Interesting music is no longer going to be easy to find. The best song in the world for you is somewhere on Beatport, but it's only sold the same number of copies as every one of the other 50,000,000+ tracks on there.
But you don't care about all that. You just want to know how to find that one song. Well before you can do that, you've got to accept it involves a fundamental change of approach. It's going to take a lot longer to find tracks. A lot of people get burned out because the hour of searching that would have yielded a lot of good music in a ye olde vinyl record store has revealed maybe three or five decent tracks at most. That's because you're listening to a hell of a lot more music. It's going to take longer. You can also throw away those old-fashioned aids such as DJ charts or store recommendations. Beatport is not your local small-business vinyl store. The guys behind the counter do not give a fuck about helping you out, because they have a billion other customers. This is a different paradigm of music shopping to the good old days, and here are some tips to get you started:
- Tip 1: Do not listen to Beatport. Your mindset should be: if Beatport are pushing it, it's shit. So stop reading their emails. It makes me laugh when Beatport mail me saying "Use these secret weapons for your set!" You mean the same secret weapons you've just recommended to hundreds of thousands of other DJs? Stop reading their charts. Their charts are a generalised summary of what thousands of people are playing. They are not going to appeal to your tastes. Anyone who has wasted an hour of their time listening to an entire Beatport Top 100 in any genre or section and has then gone on a forum to complain about said Top 100 is doing it wrong. Stop clicking on their front page. Nothing on the front page that I didn't directly put there has ever been of any help to me, ever.
- Tip 2: Use the features. What people don't seem to realise is that Beatport is actually a fantastic search engine, especially now they've rebuilt it. I do 90% of my trawling on Beatport, but only buy about 50% of the tracks I find from Beatport itself. Use the My Artists and My Labels feature. Build up a roster. If you find artists or labels you do like, get Beatport to deliver their tracks to you. It saves so much time, and once you've built up a good roster you can easily have 100 relevant tracks by musicians you are interested in, every single week, without even having to trawl.
- Tip 3: The Hold Bin is your best friend. Seriously, put everything in your Hold Bin. I know people who have filled their Hold Bin, made a second account just for more storage, and then filled that Hold Bin as well. If you happen across a great track amidst an hour of absolute shit, save it straight away into the Hold Bin. Do this with every good track you find, regardless of whether it fits what you're currently looking for. Don't just buy stuff because it sounds good after an hour of shit. Queue up half your bin and listen to these good tracks next to each other. This is a much more effective way of deciding if a track is genuinely good.
- Tip 4: Cross-reference everything. Found a good track? In a couple of clicks, Beatport can show you everything that artist has made and everything that label has released. Play all of it. No artist has a 100% win rate and some really are one-hit wonders, but usually an artist will have a few more interesting tracks. Likewise with labels - if a label has released one track that's up your street, they'll probably have some more. Listen to everything on that label, and then when you find some more interesting artists, listen to their entire discography and everything on every label they've ever released as well. Then do that with everyone who they've remixed and who has remixed them.
- Tip 5: Get better at spotting the signs. If you're really good at buying you music, you can pick up a record you've never heard of before and buy it completely blind (or deaf) based entirely on the information found on the cover, safe in the knowledge you've made a good purchase. Buying music online is exactly the same. From the cover art, the artist names and the track titles it's possible to discern an awful lot about how the music will sound. The better you get at reading the signs - about finding the little trends in the music you like - the easier it is to stare at a wall of new releases and click on the one you know will be relevant to you.
- Tip 6: Run random searches. Every now and again, I will type a random word into the search and see what the results are. I cannot tell you how much great music I've found as a result. Think of suggestive words like "space" or "ethereal". Whatever the relevant semantic field for the music you like. This is a great way of finding stuff completely outside your usual search patterns.
- Tip 7: Combine Beatport with other methods. Spotify, Youtube, Last.fm, Discogs, forums... The important part of Beatport is you have somewhere to start. Other places can give you information on music you like that can get you started running searches, cross-referencing and listening. It's also well worth typing in music you already know about to see what leads it throws up. The trouble with Beatport is that starting on a shit track will only give you connections to more shit tracks. You need to find that starting point.
- Tip 8: You always have the time. So many people complain that they just don't have the time to search for music. Think of how many hours a week you spend listening to music, or practising your DJing, or just sat at your computer doing any amount of random shit. All of that time can be reassigned to queueing up and playing samples in the background while you read your emails, post on TA, cook your dinner, play online poker. If you have ever bitched on a forum about not having time to find music while not simultaneously playing Beatport samples in the background, you have no right to complain.
- Tip 9: DO NOT SEARCH BY GENRE. It's a complete waste of time and you will just end up depressed. Trust me.
EDIT 05/03/2014: It's now come to my attention that you can search by sub-genre on Beatport, a function I thought had been lost in the redesign. Use the Genre tab and click on the relevant genre, then you will see an option to search by sub-genre. This method is still far from perfect as:
A) Stuff is still prone to rampant mis-labelling.
B) A lot of labels don't bother using this feature.
...but it can relieve some of the genre search woe. It's mainly useful for extremely unambiguous sub-genres. "Acid techno" lets you isolate anything with an acid line in. That's helpful. "Progressive trance" means anything below 135bpm. That's not helpful.
I hope the above will get you started in being able to find the music you want to hear on Beatport. If anyone else has any tips, suggestions or thoughts to help others out, please share them. That doesn't just mean Beatport either - any profitable methods of finding music out there in the chaotic online info-nebula are much appreciated.
> A Secondhand Sunrise [Lush Breakbeat House]
> Lost In You [Trance Classics]
> I Dreamed Of Summer [Deep & Melodic House]
> Into The Blue [Progressive]
> Hangover Square [House/Tech/Progressive]
Last edited by SYSTEM-J on Mar-05-2014 at 16:15