Harlum Muziq

Nite Trax: Is Beatport the new Wal-Mart of techno?


When I heard that super-popular, infuriatingly designed dance music download site Beatport had partnered with Shazam earlier this month, I wanted to write something about how the valuable mystery of the underground might be compromised by anyone being able to hold a phone up to immediately identify and download a track. And then I wanted to contrast some of the fun measures DJs might take to prevent their tracklists (one of the few proprietary things left that can really distinguish a good DJ) from being exposed, with the simple joy of finally stumbling upon a song you'd been looking for for 22 years that instantly projects you into your gloriously wasted youth because yay Internet. The partnership might not be so bad, after all, if it leads to new discoveries and interesting subversions.

Beatport has a lot of crappy mainstream tracks on it, and the back catalogue is incredibly spotty, but it has some great stuff, too, and it's giant. (I go there once in a while to hear what a sizable audience is listening to and catch up on new releases.) And it does at least nominally reward musicmakers with some money and exposure, an opportunity to sell their handmade bedroom creations. It's kind of like Etsy for pimply boys. If Beatport-Shazam helps people find and buy some great new tracks, then fine. I also remember how cute the Denver-based Beatport was in the beginning, its candy-raver-like representatives handing me alien-looking free download credit cards at Pride and Love Parade and the Detroit Electronic Music Festival. Awww.  

But then I read this super-annoying but awesomely candid Billboard interview with Beatport CEO Matthew Adell about the partnership, and thought, "Hey, if they're gonna treat underground music as just a big business to be repackaged and monetized, (albeit one they seem to enjoy at least a little), then they can defend the Shazam partnership from angry DJs their own damn selves." 

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