SFX President Tim Crowhurst Talks Beatport Layoffs, Company’s Future (Exclusive)

Corporate restructuring is rarely pretty, and the layoffs that often follow, especially when those layoffs hit during the holiday months, can get downright ugly. Tim Crowhurst, president of SFX entertainment, knew that when the company recently made the decision to layoff multiple teams of software engineers at Beatport, the influential electronic music portal the company bought in March.

“The hard conclusion we had to make on Beatport is that we were spread a bit too thin,” Crowhurst tells Billboard in a phone interview. “We had to make some hard choices, frankly, to restructure the team and get everyone focused on one vision.”

Behind SFX & Beatport

News of the layoffs, which affected Beatport engineers in San Francisco and at the company’s headquarters in Denver, C.O., leaked earlier this week, prompting speculation that SFX was slashing costs in an effort to appease investors and buoy its stock price, which has slumped slightly since the company went public in October. But Crowhurst tells another story.

Though he wouldn’t confirm the exact number of engineers who were let go (TechCrunch puts the number at around 26), Crowhurst noted that, over all SFX companies, there’s still been a net gain in engineering staff over the past two months, even with the layoffs. That’s because of a recent acquisition spree that scooped up other small-to-midsize digital companies, including the development house Arc90, the online ticketing company Paylogic, the marketing and social media firm Fame House and the music experience platform Tunezy.
“This shift is more about product vision than it is cost savings,” Crowhurst says. “We’ve got a pretty exciting roadmap that will leverage some of the best technology out there to essentially create a new future for this industry.”
Crowhurst says the staff reductions were in line with a change in the way Beatport views itself and wants to be viewed.
“We’re making it more of a product-focused company as opposed to an engineering company,” he says. “We’re very focused on creating end-products that the community and all of our constituencies are going to love.”
In the future, users can expect a Beatport that puts an emphasis on simplicity and ease of use while at the same time adds features that connect it more broadly with other important platforms for electronic music fans, including, naturally, those owned by SFX. Crowhurst said everything from search on the sight to transactions in the music store could be retooled. To facilitate the changes, product leaders have been brought in from elsewhere at SFX and empowered to leverage resources from Arc90, Fame House, Paylogic and other companies within the fold.
Quelling fears that Beatport would shut down some of its services in light of the layoffs, which include the DJ social network Beatport DJs, the song stems store for DJs Beatport Play and the DJ mix store Beatport Mixes, Crowhurst said there were no plans to put any existing verticals on the chopping block.
“I wouldn’t think of the layoffs as taking away products from the community -- there’s actually nothing that we’re sunsetting out of this,” Crowhurst said. “There’s a lot of good DJ profile information [at Beatport], a lot of events information there, there’s an incredible store of mixes content there. All of that content is going to be surfaced in ways that I think, from a product experience perspective, will be more compelling.”
Crowhurst was particularly bullish about Beatport Play, which he said the company would invest in heavily both here and internationally.
As for the tricky task of getting teams from different companies, from different parts of the world with different cultural histories to work effectively toward collective goals while maintaining individual priorities, Crowhurst was undaunted.
“We see a really massive opportunity in this space to fill,” he said. “It’s a widely fragmented industry in terms of where people get their news and information, where they discover content, where they listen to content, where they discover events and where they buy tickets. Our vision is to create a much more cohesive experience for the fan and every piece here has a significant role to play.”