Rumors have been flying ever since the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) regarding some massive and pretty scary changes to Beatport that are in the works. Well apparently the rumors are true, but the details are probably pretty fluid at best.
At ADE 2013, Beatport announced that they were developing a new service called Amplify. Amplify is a new tool for labels, artists and DJs to better promote their products on Beatport. This “tool” is paid ad placement. And in so lies the controversy.
Over the years, we’ve expected niche music stores like traditional vinyl shops to expertly curate their product so that customers could easily find what would fit their existing taste or help expand it. You developed a relationship with the workers there and then they would hold back a few records for you to try out or they would put up a nice display regarding some major release of notable quality. In a way, we’ve all held onto this idea that the same level of curation happens on today’s online stores. The truth is, that may or may not have ever really happened – at least with Beatport that is.
From a label and patron’s standpoint, Beatport has always been in the curation business. They would have teams of people picking out some of the best releases each week and featuring them in special curated genre-based charts and if you were really lucky, you’d see your release featured on a genre’s homepage. Of course, Beatport did give preferential treatment to exclusive releases. After all, if they’re only place someone can get an exclusive release then they stand a greater chance to profit from it if people know it’s in stock.
Truth in Advertising
Let me stop here for a second and point out a few things.
First, once Beatport started to favor exclusives they stopped being total impartial curators. They now had an incentive to become more bias based on potential profit rather than profit generated by providing quality advice on what was quality music. In a way, paid ad placements were already in effect to some degree.
Second, in our traditional brick and mortar stores (especially in the big chains), display space was purchased by labels. If you wanted to have your record on the end cap of every Best Buy, you not only had to provide the display materials, but you had to rent out the space. The placement of any album in a retail store was never just some random placement by a sales associate, but deliberately purchased by the label or distributor from the store’s parent chain.
That pretty much brings us to Beatport’s Amplify. It’s nothing new. It’s a return to old skool retail marketing tactics. The label wants to sell its music. The store wants to maximize profit. With limited space, the store rents out prime placements and the label hopes for the best. This is the new model for Beatport and rather than being upset or surprised, we should all be wondering why they weren’t doing this right from the start or if they have been all along, but simply not telling all of the labels and distributors.
So after doing some digging, I’ve learned that Amplify is a bidding system. Beatport will have several areas on each genre’s landing page and the site’s homepage that will be up for sale. The system is still in alpha mode, so who knows when it will go live. The cost for these ad spaces start as low as $2,000 depending on where the ad will be placed. Just remember that it’s a bidding system. While an ad placement might start out at $2,000, it may actually go for quite a lot more.
The sad truth in all of this is not that the ad system will exist. It’s not even that people will bid for the space. It’s that with the lowest opening bid starting at $2,000, the vast majority of labels will be shut out of the game. Only the major labels, artists and DJs will be able to play. There is still hope however that Beatport will adjust Amplify’s pricing as they move closer to a launch date. Personally, I think they will need to if they want Amplify to catch on. Having a lower starting point with more players involved could mean they make more in the long run while keeping everyone happy. However, keeping everyone happy isn’t they’re job. Curating may not be their job either, but I do have hope that only some of their ad positions will be purchased and plenty of curated ones will still exist. From what information has been released so far, that does seem to be the case.
If any of this is a shock to you, welcome to the music industry. It’s dark and dirty in here and it’s all for your entertainment. Be sure to pay the man at the door, the bar, behind the DJ booth, in the bathroom, the coat check and of course the valet, if you’re a classy enough place for that kind of thing. Also, don’t be afraid to pick up a few addictions while you’re here. We’re the music industry and we’re here to bleed you dry while making you feel like you’re a god. We want your money and we don’t care how we get it.