Beatport Is Taking A New Approach To Genres

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Genres are constantly a topic of debate for every music lover and DJ. The way that music stores decide on genres can actually impact the success of tracks and artists, so wouldn’t it be great for DJs, labels, and fans to influence that process? In this interview with Beatport, we found out a bit about their new approach to genre tagging.

Genre Management at Beatport

“We expect to launch new genres by the end of August”

As a Beatport employee (during the time when the still site existed in Flash) I headed up a department that later became known as ‘Content Merchandising’. During these earlier stages of growth and development, we referred to it simply as genre management. Our job, as a team, was to manually ensure that all tracks on the site were assigned to their correct genre profile – a profile that was defined and set by Beatport.

Times have changed, but gripes regarding Beatport’s genre classification system have remained. It’s an innocuous problem that has seemingly been unfixable. Until now.

Beatport
Beatport’s original Flash-based website (serious throwback!)

Beatport plans to change the site’s genre system to meet modern needs and reflect the changing nature of DJ culture. DJ TechTools spoke to the VP of Marketing Terry Weerasinghe to find out more about the firm’s new approach to their genres, while touching upon the company’s future.

Future House

Since launching over thirteen years ago, the store’s original genre classification system has arguably failed to match the overall changes in the electronic music scene. The primary categories; Drum & Bass, Deep House, House, Techno, Progressive House and Trance are still there – and along the way, pages for Dubstep, Indie Dance and Hip-Hop were added. So what’s the plan now?

DJTT: What’s happening with Beatport’s new approach to genres?

Beatport: “This is something that the public has been asking for, and hands up, we’ve heard them. The important thing to say is that there is not one correct definition of a genre. We just want to make finding good music easier for our customers.

For instance, you have quite a broad spectrum of music under House now and this includes some of the new Future House as well as well as the more classic records, but the reality of House music is that it is an everything-goes underground dance genre.

We’re not going to be making these decisions on our own. We’ve put together a committee of industry experts. We’ve got key people from some of the main labels involved, including Kompakt, Toolroom, Spinnin and Aus. Each has provided a DJ to be a part of the panel. Before we finalize any changes we’ll be conducting an audio survey where we play our new genres to DJs who’ll give us feedback as to whether or not this is the right way forward. With all things said and done, we expect to launch these new genres by the end of August.”

future-house

DJTT: What are these new genres going to be?

Beatport: “It looks likely these will include ‘Big Room’ and ‘Future House’ which will contain music dedicated to the festival crowd. We’ve already launched a ‘Dance’ chart, which is already live, because what we’ve seen recently, is a vast increase in dance songs coming out with song-like structures – these are tracks that are eventually going to make the way into the pop charts, tracks like ‘Animal’, or ‘#SELFIE by the Chainsmokers.”

Future Proofing

Genres are styles are constantly in flux, and even definitions and understanding of how genres work are changing. Progressive House was once epitomized by the likes of Sasha and Digweed. Nowadays Bedrock releases often fall under the tech-house category, whereas the likes of Innervisions have the characteristics that once defined this legendary progressive period. So how does Beatport expect to be able to keep up with all these changes?

Is this going to be future-proof?

Beatport: “Yes, this is the reason we’re putting together a committee. The committee is currently more focused more on the house side of things, but we’ll add more genres when needed. Techno and tech house are fairly [accurate] at the moment. The bass side is the next bit we’re going to look at. Every six months we’re going to be reviewing the genres on Beatport going forward.”

Is there a time when you think genres will become redundant, like Glitch-Hop?

Beatport: “I think DJs will always need genres as a way of finding new music. We have 25,000 new releases most weeks and genres help to narrow down the tracks you’ll need to search through. We have to stay relevant in terms of what people are playing. We will also have to retire genres and bring in new ones. The main thing is staying ahead of the trends, and working with the artists and labels in those areas.”

beatportpro-1
Some of the tags in Beatport Pro will be used in the new process

How has crowdsourcing genre tags helped you come to this point?

Beatport: “As a Beatport Pro user you’re able to tag your tracks how you’d like to tag them and different tracks mean different things to different people. In the future we’ll be able to use that data in our algorithms to help people find things and that way we can get around potential cultural differences. For example, if you’re a user in Brazil you could just use data collected in [your country], because people use vastly different terms there than they would do in Berlin, for instance.

Genre tagging’s importance becomes apparent when content is only crowdsourced. When you look at the Deep House chart on Soundcloud, there are currently tracks by Drake and Ed Sheeran in the Top 10 because it’s based on public tagging with no definition or control of the genre. We have to set an industry standard, and we have to do that with our customers and key people in the industry. It’s not the worldwide definition of what that genre is, but what it is on Beatport it has to be consistent so that you can find that thing more easily.”

The Cancelled Sale

(What If) DJs Buy Back Beatport
The sale of Beatport got called off earlier this year – read our article about what might have happened it DJs bought the site here

Late last month SFX’s prosed sale of Beatport was cancelled. The media giant, emerging from a Chapter 11 winding-up process – now with a new CEO and structure- opted to pull company’s sales, citing improved financial results as the reason. So what happens now?  

What can you say about SFX canceling plans to sell Beatport?

Beatport: “The changes we’ve made have laid a strong foundation for Beatport and dramatically improved our profitability. Being focused on the store is enabling us to make positive strides to improve, making it possible to finally change our genres, and to add a pre-order system, which has been the biggest request from our labels and suppliers.”

How did you actually manage to improve profitability?

Beatport: “By concentrating on the core business. Right now all of our labels are focused on generating revenue on the store and all of our social media is focused on great music. We’re trying to get back to being that nerdy music store.”

Challenges Still Remain

Gone are Beatport’s streaming platforms, mixes and new features. By engaging with leader figureheads and listening to users, there is hope for the site and a future that looks more promising.

Remaining under the custody of SFX will still be a concern, and as Thump very articulately put it, ‘The company still faces the same existential challenge it’s been struggling to answer for most of its history––the impending obsoletion of downloading’.

How would you change genre classification on Beatport or other stores?
Share your ideas in the comments!

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  • I actively use Beatport Pro, and have extensively started to use the “Mood”, “Set-Time”, and other tag types to sub-identify tracks within a genre. Why not take this feature they already have, and raise their usability to song search within the store, and include this metadata on the page for each track?

    Beatport Pro also provides crowd-sourced values for the tags that I can *optionally* adopt (which is good, since I don’t always agree with the crowd). This crowdsourced data could be shown – though not used as authoritative – on the track pages, too.

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  • “We’re trying to get back to being that nerdy music store.”

    Does that mean they’ll make their API more widely available? The current process is complicated and feels discouraging.

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  • Jeremy

    I know I’m part of a small group, but I really need a reliable way to find true Indie Dance tracks. I like Nu Disco, but looking through everything in the Nu Disco/Indie Dance genre doesn’t work. They are similar, but there are some distinct differences between the two genres and judging by the volume of releases, the Indie Dance genre is very slow or nearly dead, so I have to sift through 100s of Nu Disco tracks to find a sound I’m shopping for. I’m sure other genre fans are in similar situations, so adding some kind of sub-tagging, crowd sourcing, or other granular organization will help immensely.

    Also, I’m terribly disappointed that streaming was killed off. I know there are reasons for this but from a shopping perspective, it is very time consuming to click through releases and listen to tracks, even with beatport’s helpful UI. Providing a stream of new material really frees up my time to just listen to the stream at work and flag songs I like and go back to buy them later. I hope this can be reconsidered so I can “shop in the background” while doing other things.

    • Agungald

      Um.. try hunt em one by one? Like trying spotify user made playlist, then buy each song one by one too?

  • DJ Kamayo

    the artists or labels should be the ones labeling the genres, NOT beatport. They should be able to label it as one or multiple genres.

    Note: this only applies to underground styles.

    The artists making commercial EDM don’t care about the genre label since their music is just generalized to begin with.

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  • Rolfski

    Genres: Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Classification problems typically occur because people have different interpretations of genres and boundaries are often crossed.

    “Expert” tagging is nice, but giving buyers an inside in how other buyers have tagged a particular track, as well as showing tracks that people also bought should help even more though.

  • Nacor Carmona Blanco

    The biggest misconception is about Progressive House / Trance genre. Cid Inc. productions have nothing to do with Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike ones. Please Beatport.

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  • Spacecamp

    I don’t condone media piracy in any way, but anyone who seen the user interface on torrent sites like What.cd knows that the gold standard for music tagging already exists.

    Putting things into a single category is a mistake – music crosses boundaries. There needs to be a dynamic, user-driven tagging system with voting. There needs to be related artists on every single release page. Here’s an example from a quick google search – look at the endless tags on the right. That’s how media should be organized.

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-VB_FyRPt2vs/T1KBdvCmEyI/AAAAAAAABws/_tLj2V1V-mY/s1600/What.CD+Review15.png

    • Jason McGibney

      aren’t you great putting up torrent sites, i made very little money last year because of twats like you, it cost 50 euro to get my track mastered for releasing on beatport and I made 30 euro on the track in royalties, I can’t finish tracks anymore as i can’t afford it, oh and you call yourself a dj using mp3, don’t make me laugh

      • Stop being so dramatic. You can admire certain aspects of things you don’t agree with.

      • Spacecamp

        I don’t use torrent sites, but I do admire some of them that have a serious commitment to delivery efficiency, library organization, and consistent quality.

        It far surpasses anything similar on any proper stores. Artists like yourself should DEMAND that stores be better than the illegal options out there. I’m amazed that no one has found a way to make a site based on Gazelle that is a proper paid music store.

      • Envinite

        There are people who want to torrent your creation???

        hueheueheueheu
        jk bro. (on a side note, I can’t even find your music, so I doubt people would find yours and torrent it)

      • Snow

        No, you made very little money because your tracks are plain trash. I listened to them. I also checked WhatCd. Your crap isn’t even on there. Nobody wants it. The fact you made 30 euro is robbery. You are nowhere near where you need to be in terms of skill or talent to be charging money for anything besides manual labor, Jason.

  • Bah, humbug! Beatport needs just one new category; “god-awful EDM garbage” 😀

    • Spacecamp

      You’re making a joke, but there’s no reason why Beatport can’t develop a maschine learning algo that allows you make it so you don’t even see the stuff that you think is god-awful….

  • In this digital age of music, I’d like to think of genres now more as tags like one sees on a blog entry. The producer should pick 3-5 tags that best describe his/her tune, then Beatport can tweak as they see fit, and even Pro users can further suggest the ideal tags.

    Too many genre lines are blurred now, and thus things should just be better in searchability, as opposed to organization.

  • Future Southern Gothstep Breaktrance is still so hard to find though

  • In this digital age of music, I’d like to think of genres now more as tags like one sees on a blog entry. The producer should pick 3-5 tags that best describe his/her tune, then Beatport can tweak as they see fit, and even Pro users can further suggest the ideal tags.

    Too many genre lines are blurred now, and thus things should just be better in searchability, as opposed to organization.

  • Denn Is

    What needs to be changed is that a track can only be found in one genre. So for instance, if I am searching for Progressive Trance, I would certainly look at the genre Trance and limit the bpm to 135 or so. However, if a Track that floats around between the genres, since the transition between the genres is blurred, I would miss a trancy sounding Progressive House track. Silk Music is a good example for that. I don’t care wether you call it Progressive Trance or House and it does not matter, but missing out tracks because of the strict categorization is annoying.

  • Smooth Smooth Smooth

    What really annoys me is that Beatport does not necessarily just go with the genres assigned by the labels/distributors when the content is delivered to them – this really screws up labels’ marketing efforts when their dark techno record is put in “electronica”. THANKS – NOT.

    • too many labels categorize stuff under the wrong genre, beatport also does a terrible job correcting stuff… 75% of the “techno” on beatport is mis-categorized. Its fucking awful.

  • David Brown

    What we really need (and Beatport, praying you read this) Is a genre and subgenre tagging system. Instead of categories, we should be able to add 1-3 or 1-4 major genre keywords (ex: big room, hardstyle, and progressive might turn up Headhunterz tracks), and then add subgenre or label tags to narrow the search. I really think genres are descriptions, often incomplete ones, as opposed to definitive terms. A system like this reflects the uniqueness of many modern dance tracks and would help us DJs in maintaining and evolving our musical style.

    • Vittorio

      Should Beatport learn about “The Echo Nest” platform? Concerning music genres , you can check some of the amazing stuff that comes out of it: http://everynoise.com/engenremap.html .
      there’s a bounce of web content out there ..not sure if they’re already behind the scenes.. 🙂

  • Paul Muller

    The genre debate is such a rat hole – my kids study music and arrived at the conclusion that all music is Punk Opera unless it’s instrumental in which case it’s Jazz 🙂
    Jokes aside, trying to tie a track down to one genre is nearly impossible.

    • schlommo

      “trying to tie a track down to one genre is nearly impossible.” I’d like to add: “… and if so, it is boring!” Isn’t that one of the most recurring critcisms in music journalism etc.? That track A or artist XYZ are not innovative, but just use the existing gerne-conventions?
      So trying to put music in a genre-grid is like trying to fetch water with a strainer… 😉

      • Paul Muller

        Yup! Having said that, when I get asked “to play more R&B than house” it’s helpful to have buckets. When someone said “can you give me a jacking house beat to solo over, I knew what they meant.
        Now when someone asks if I could play a Bigroom set I have to admit I think two things; 1). WHY?!?! and 2). Are you sure you don’t mean Progressive, Trance or just a stomper than you last happened to hear in a very large room?
        I suspect there’s a middle ground where musically we could identify formalisms and conventions that are attributes – jacking, swung, disco, etc that are more universally “true” than trying to call something “Electronica” which is about as useful as “EDM” in terms of telling you anything meaningful.
        As a total aside, it’s also why I still love my record store! I don’t worry about Genres – I just trust Steve to hand me a bunch of records and say “I’ve listened to over 2000 songs this week, here’s a bunch that I think you’ll like” – if I told him i just wanted Nu Disco I would be a lot musically poorer for pigeonholing myself and the music.

        • Sven van Bavel

          Hi Paul, the last thing you’ve said about the record store is exactly what i miss in online stores.

          i loved my vinyl shops, you could more or less explain what you look for, in online shops it’s to much to narow down. explaining a song with different song , know what i mean ?

          the suggestion i’ve read here with main genre and subgenre and a ‘related to’ option would allready be a very nice start.

          time for those big store shops to go on a meeting with google. they specialize in that stuff.

          • Paul Muller

            I <3 Record Store Day!
            (every day is record store day for me…. 🙂

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