In a “crowdsourced” interview conducted on Reddit yesterday — called AMAs, or Ask Me Anythings — Matthew Adell, CEO of dance music retailer and news destination Beatport answered a wide range of questions, many directed at the surprisingly retro download rules his company abides by, some at the perceived valuation bubble surrounding EDM and all delivered in the typically frank tone that users of Reddit employ.
“Why is your services [sic] SO DAMN EXPENSIVE? Your sales are going down because of INSANE prices!” Many echoed TheOfficialTwizzle’s dismay at Beatport’s relatively high song prices — most tracks sell for $2 when $0.99, thanks to the iTunes Store, has long been established as the norm. Adell took issue: “Actually, Beatport has continued to grow. I think a great track is worth even more than we charge.”
Adell was asked twice what, if any, plans he had for Beatport if the much-discussed, rarely quantified EDM bubble pops, a question he had a fundamental disagreement with. “I genuinely don’t think this is a bubble. EDM is a bubble, but we are an Electronic Dance Music Business. Business was great before EDM and it will continue after that passes.” In a separate response he continued that train of thought, saying that “Beatport has been doing this for 10 Years now, during which time there was not a lot of attention to this scene. Beatport will still be doing the same thing when the tourists move on.”
SFX Entertainment, the behemoth EDM (or EMC — “electronic music culture” — as SFX prefers) corporation which could be the most high-profile arbiter of the assumed financial bubble around the industry, acquired Beatport in February of this year. “Positive,” was Adell’s response to whether or not that acquisition had been in Beatport’s best interests. “Retail music is a very difficult business. We compete against companies with billions in profits who sell music as a loss leader to make phones more fun to use or to cross promote vacuum cleaners.”
One topic which took up a lot of time, however: The inability of Beatport users to re-download songs, something that one would figure to be as simple as a programmatic “checkbox” on a user’s account. (For instance, in iOS 7 the Music app will display songs you’ve purchased from the iTunes Store, even if they haven’t been downloaded.) More surprising, perhaps, than Beatport’s lack of this feature was Adell’s confused response when a user pointed out that it should be possible. “I agree with you. That is how it should work. Nonetheless, iTunes does not allow it and they have become a de facto industry standard for how the rights work.” Adell then went on to reference iTunes Match, a service Apple created in order to allow its customers to have access to all of their music — whether ripped from a CD or downloaded — across their devices, which is similar, but not the same, as the ability to re-download a song you’ve previously purchased. After the interview had ended, Adell posted one last message: “I gotta go to a meeting and try to get this redownloading issue in the rearview mirror for all of us.”
Also of interest to anyone involved in web publishing or the overseeing of copyrighted content on the web was Adell’s response to two short questions. First, what Beatport does to fight piracy. The response was, in so many words, nothing. This wasn’t a surprising response — there are almost no options, outside of the much-reviled and so mostly defunct DRM, or digital rights management, a watermark that was applied to digital files in the early days of online media marketplaces. The second brief question had to do with sponsored content — customers have the option to pay for high-visibility placement on Beatport’s homepage, something that more and more publishers and digital outlets — just yesterday, Twitter implemented a more photo-centric, and ad-friendly, layout for its news feed — are having to confront with increasing regularity. Asked whether the practice cheapened the business, Adell responded frankly. “I hope not. We are experimenting with this because many partners have asked for a way to activate similar programs to what they do at other music stores. We will always mark these items as “sponsored” just like other digital services do. Also, only records we would carry any way can participate.”
Adell’s frank and informative responses throughout were frank, honest and interesting — the complete opposite of a recent AMA with the organizers of SXSW — and gave a small peek behind the curtain of a business doing battle with giants.