Beatport's New President Lloyd Starr on Download Farms, What EDM Even Is (Q&A)
A version of this article first appeared in the July 26th issue of Billboard Magazine.
You could say Lloyd Starr, 35, was primed to be president of Beatport. As the 10-year-old company's former COO, there was nowhere to go but up. With Matthew Addell's June 24 exit, the door opened and a flood of "philosophical" conversations -- many over beers in Ibiza, Spain -- turned into reality. How will the EDM online hub grow under his leadership? Starr is tight-lipped on specifics, but tells Billboard he plans to increase the company's social media presence first while continuing to reach users through Beatport's bread and butter: track downloads.
What's first on your agenda as the new Beatport president? How do you plan to include more of the community, as you said in your announcement?
There really isn't much different over here. We've done some focus groups starting in Ibiza with some key partners: smaller sessions with labels, and some where we became intimate about specific features and functionality, so we could have conversations about how things should work (over beers, of course). We have a strong label management team here at Beatport in Berlin and in L.A. We're at 10-20,000 independent labels through our relationships.
What are the most common requests?
The ones where we argue "religion" -- in the sense of genre, where one group of people thinks genres should be assigned in a specific way and another group believes something different. There are some other usability feature requests that come through in navigation and what people can search by.
Can you speak to rumors of a September overhaul?
I can talk about our philosophy. Over the past 10 years, Beatport's been focused on accessing users through downloads, and we're going to continue to do that. We'll have new features there as well, but in the future we're also going to be focused on providing affinity to music. That takes on different forms than just selling a download, such as social media, events, commuity, that sort of thing. We're really excited about that.
How are you going to continue engaging the non-purchasing customer, especially with the launch of Boomrat, another EDM discovery platform tailored to the streaming video?
Thse types of sites are popping up all over the place. We've definitely been keeping our eye on them, but everybody's going to be using social media in some form or another. It's not going to be much different than that for us. You have to leverage it in this day and age. Obviously, there's stores that have popped up since Beatport's launch, so we have competition out there, with news portals and blogs that are out and specific to electronic music. We intend to continue moving down our roadmap.
Besides extra vigilance on Beatport's behalf, do you have additional plans to deal with so-called "download farms" [services that repeatedly purchase an artist's song to drive it up the charts]?
First of all, fuck those guys. It is bullshit what they're doing. They're attacking the credibility of everybody else who's made it into a list before them. We recently took a stance on to let our position be known. We have some really cool tools with some really smart people working on how we deal with that reactively, and we're building in functionality to deal with that proactively. So yeah, it's really unfortunate byproduct of the popularity of getting into our charts. That's something I'm really passionate about.
What kinds of tools?
Here's the challenge with that. It's a cat-and-mouse game. The fraudsters do what they can to defeat our tools, and we have to outsmart them. So we keep all that very proprietary and internal, just like any other fraud mitigation software or tool on the market.
What's your opinion on Kaskade's attack on SoundCloud's controversial move to take down certain un-copyrighted tracks?
It's interesting how electronic music is going to pioneer the future of these kinds of rights. Consumers want something to mix content, and the DJs and the copyright holders want to put that copyright out there. It's unfortunate when technology and legislation gets in the way of that. That's why we had originally put out this platform where we didn't have any challenges with the legality of it. We've got some really high-quality music out there, but that's not something that grows to the scale of SoundCloud overnight. We launched mixes.beatport.com a while ago, and in that platform, when somebody purchases a track, they also gain the license to remix it with another song and put it up for sale or for streaming.
Electric Daisy Carnival drew 400,000 people this year. How big do you think EDM can get?
It has more room to grow, for sure. It comes down to this innovation of people making music on their laptops. We're in this revolution where the barrier of entry into composing and creating music is much lower than before. Just like with education, we're going to find some people who wouldn’t necessarily show what they have to the world, the ability to do that. This remix platform we've been growing -- Zedd won two remix competitions back to back ,and before he did that he was living with his parents. He got a record deal and signed and moved up. When I get up every day I work towards that, giving people this opportunity that they might not have had without that platform, playing a small role in where they go and what they become. That's what makes this fun.
How do you feel about the term EDM itself?
I don't really have any issue with "EDM." The industry came up with -- not really the industry, the community -- came up with that term, so it's here, right? You embrace it and I embrace it. Where I think it's confusing is, what is it really? Is it a genre, or is it a scene? It's certainly popular and we've had tons of philosophical debates about what it is and how should we represent it in our store.