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Crates: Beatport Track Digging, But Way Better

“I can’t use Beatport’s website anymore, I use Crates,” a fellow San Francisco DJ remarked to me earlier this week as we discussed finding new music. Flying under the radar of most DJs, the Crates website is built on the Beatport API, uses your data and favorites, but makes it easier to shop for tracks. Read on for our review and some comments from the team behind the website.

Crates: Built Using The Beatport API

Love it or hate it, Beatport has one of the largest catalogs of electronic and dance music on the internet. Almost every DJ has had reason to shop on the site – even those who might not enjoy the user experience or who have allegiance to the site’s competitors.

But the central experience of shopping on the site hasn’t changed – even if the user interface has, occasionally. But two San Francisco-based developers and DJs, Mark Slee and Jason Wohlstadter, decided that they would take the top-requested features on Beatport’s own UserVoice and develop them on their own platform:

“More and more music gets released on Beatport every day, but they haven’t focused on enough features that help DJs keep up. Shopping for music stopped being fun and became more like a chore. DJs weren’t digging for music as much because it took forever. Could we make it joyful?” – Jason Wohlstadter

I felt worried that if my music shopping continued to become more tedious and time-consuming, it would eventually end up threatening my enjoyment of DJing. Fortunately, I had the technical skills to be able to take matters into my own hands using the Beatport API.” – Mark Slee

What’s Better With Crates Versus Beatport

So how does Crates actually help DJs shop? I’ve spent the last day digging on Crates, cross-referencing with track suggestions from Kado, diving through new labels, and generally trying to flesh out my playlists for a gig in Amsterdam next weekend.

One of the biggest differences is speed – simply a function of Crates not loading anywhere near as many images and instead constantly focusing on showing you lists of songs in a basic table. But beyond speed, there’s some major features that make Crates way more efficient for real DJs – here’s my thoughts on the best of them:

Grey Out Or Hide Re-Releases Entirely

“I follow a large list of artists and labels. The main problem I was noticing was that the percentage of re-released tracks was steadily growing over time. Without being able to detect this easily, I was losing lots of time going over material that I’d already heard.” – Mark Slee

If you’re a DJ who follows labels as a method of digging for new tracks and artists, this situation will feel familiar:

  • Start following a new label on Beatport
  • A week or month later, you open up “My Beatport” to see what’s new with the labels you follow
  • It’s full of a 20-song compilation album from that label of tracks that were released months or even years ago – all of which might be in your library already

Not every label is guilty of this, but some labels do it all. the. time. (Get Physical, I’m looking at you.) This becomes very tedious. Crates solves this by default, dimming/greying out any re-released tracks. Tap a checkbox above the feed to hide re-releases entirely:

Crates can also hide preorder tracks from your feed. This is handy for a similar reason – why listen to a track preview and get excited about playing it in your gig tomorrow night if you won’t be able to download it for a whole month?

Full Length YouTube Search

On the left: The track’s waveform (from Beatport) above a YouTube player with the full song

A short preview of a track is nice to have – but how are you supposed to know where that preview is from? Also, if the song you’re listening to is 8 minutes long, does a 30-60 second preview really help?

Crates has a wonderful feature for solving this: YouTube Search. Tap the F button when you have a track selected or previewing, and the site automatically searches YouTube for a full-length version of the track. The video player loads, and it even puts the Beatport waveform (with the preview highlighted) directly above the video as have a frame of reference.

Checking Off What You’ve Heard Already

This one is pretty simple – but when you listen to a track preview, Crates puts a tiny check mark next to the track. It stays there, forever. Even if you close your browser and reopen it (Beatport resets their play marker after you’ve been off the site for a bit).

Custom Crates (Feeds)

A custom Trap Music crate to keep my main feed clear

When DJing, I play a lot of tech house, but also occasionally want to see what’s new with various trap and future beats producers. With Beatport’s default follow functionality, it combines all the labels and artists you’re following into one giant feed. In my case, this means that I have a lot of interspersed genres in my feed.

With Crates, you can instead make your own crates that follow specific artists, labels, and tracks. The feed of that crate will then show you all the latest releases from them, and highlight the artist or label in the feed as well. You can also share these custom crates with others, or keep them private.

Q+A With The Crates Founders

Mark Slee (left) and Jason Wohlstadter (right) – Photo credit: Devo Frohne on Facebook

I asked a few other questions of the two-man team behind Crates to learn a bit more about their plans:

Dan from DJTT: Do you feel like Beatport would be better if they integrated the features present in Crates into their site?

Jason: Anything Beatport can adopt from Crates would be fantastic. There’s plenty more we want to explore and build, so the more that makes its way upstream would be a win.

Mark: For sure! I think we’d be happy to see any of these features work their way into the main site. If it helps people find great music faster, that’s a win for us. Just like Jason, I am also an artist and a manager for my own label Manjumasi. So our perspective isn’t limited to Crates, we know that most people are still searching for music on the main Beatport site, so any improvements to that are a win across the board.

Dan from DJTT: Do you have a sense of how Beatport feels about Crates – if they’re even aware of it?

Jason: When we started working on Crates, Mark discovered additional access to the API was needed for some basic stuff, which wasn’t publicly available, so Beatport became aware of what we were doing pretty early on when we started asking questions. They helped us with a few important hurdles.

Since then they’ve continued to be supportive. As things moved along we’ve had closer communication with their technical team: sharing ideas, reporting bugs, etc. […] 2 years ago at ADE their SVP of Product Development said he wished Crates was the actual Beatport store! He doesn’t work there any more.

Dan from DJTT: What can users expect to see from the site in the coming months / year?

Jason: For me, one of the big things about Crates is giving DJs an experience they’ve always wanted, but hadn’t received from Beatport. So we listen to feedback from Crates users and try to build features they’re asking about. We have a User Voice forum setup where people can vote on upgrades they’d like to see.

What we can build is a bit limited by Beatport’s API, but there’s plenty I’m excited to explore.  One thing Mark and I are considering is an “Inbox Mode” that gives DJs the ability to handpick and combine feeds from multiple Crates while also hiding any tracks they’ve already heard.

Have thoughts or experiences on the Crates service? Let us know in the comments below – and we’ll be sure to make sure Mark + Jason keep an eye on your messages!  

  • I really, really like this. Like other’s have said, shopping for digital DJ tracks became so tedious that it more or less killed DJing for me. Especially with so many of the songs I was listening to just being re-releases.

    I’d love to see a way to search by genre though, as some other’s have also requested. Yes for some of the more mainstream genres there’s a lot of overlap that makes it almost pointless. But I mainly DJ downtempo and chillout, so there’s a pretty clear cut divide in that case. Thanks though, excellent job!

    • Shoot them a message on Facebook, they’re very nice and responsive dudes making the app.
      You can see that they’re working on filters next from their most recent post:
      https://www.facebook.com/cratesco

      • Jason Wohlstadter

        @Tarekith:disqus + @spacecamp:disqus : Genre filtering has been added to Crates, by popular demand from DJTT users!

        Click “Show Filters” above any feed to filter by musical key, release date, or Beatport genre. http://crates.co

  • Jason Wohlstadter

    Thanks to many of you that gave us feedback on Crates a few month ago! We’ve rolled out initial filtering on feeds by release date and music key. Just click “Show Filters” at the top of any feed: http://crates.co

    Based on your feedback we’ll see about adding filters for genre and BPM next. Let us know what you think?

  • Peter Nicolov

    Filtering the genres would be awesome. I miss it now. I’d also like to see a “hide all the played tracks” function.

    • Jason Wohlstadter

      @peternicolov:disqus – Thanks for the feedback. Genre filtering has been added, give it a try?

      Click “Show Filter” above any feed: http://crates.co

  • Houston Ford

    Crates is amazing!

  • Matt

    amazing – this works like the 1st generatino Beatport Pro Mac app except via a browser and available on all platforms
    Note: the 1st gen Beatport Pro stopped working on Yosemite…. and that’s enough of a reason for me note to upgrade to it!

  • For me this service is amazing. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! So refreshing. I can’t wait to get more time with this.

  • Big C

    I really really really like the layout. But it has a couple huge killers for me.

    I can’t focus my beatport list by genre or BPM ranges. This absolutely is a must have for me (especially with genre) as my list is curated from labels I follow from multiple genres, and then I can just specifically search for what I’m looking for.

    Example: I have a bunch of Breaks and Drum and Bass labels. Currently with Crates it just lumps them all together – I can’t separate them.

    Please update! Love this otherwise.

    • orge

      Split the labels into more than 1 crate.
      Agree that it would be nice if the columns were sortable/resizeable though.

      J

    • Jason Wohlstadter

      @disqus_8vbrM8X88c:disqus – We’ve added genre filtering to all feeds. Click “Show Filter” above any feed to give it a try? http://crates.co

  • [IN]CLUDED

    I like the idea of this, I’ve tried it and it is better. Would like more filters though. Specifically to filter albums/compilations.

    • Jason Wohlstadter

      @included:disqus – We’ve added filters for release date, musical key, and genre. Try clicking “Show Filter” now above any feed on http://crates.co

      Unfortunately Beatport’s API doesn’t have any filter for artists/compilations, though you can toggle the re-released tracks to easily identify all the compilations. 🙂

  • Pingback: Crates: Beatport Track Digging, But Way Better – dPico AUDIOS()

  • pacyderm

    I love it. Digging for tracks through beatport kind of killed djing for me. It just became not fun anymore.

    I tried several different methods….Juno download, blogs, Youtube, Di.fm, Proton Radio, forums, apple music, etc, but none of them worked how I do. I can cruise through music so fast on this platform. Honestly Beatport should buy them and offer a quick browsing mode that switches to the Crates platform.

  • mikefunk

    Connect it with Spotify anf Digitally Imported and you have absolute winner!

    • Jason Wohlstadter

      @mikefunk:disqus – We’ve started looking into Spotify integration, thanks for the feedback. What sort of interactivity with Spotify would you be looking for, specifically?

      • Jeggers

        Importing of playlists

  • Kevin Basher

    I’d love to see an extended version of this concept where
    -music from major sites (traxsource, trackitdown, junodownload, even itunes) is thrown together
    -prices can be compared
    -artists / labels can be filtered out (so many annoying artists in top100)

    Youtube full length search is awesome. No more surprises after shopping.

    • Jason Wohlstadter

      Integration with other stores and services is something we’d love to explore in Crates, but it’s very dependent on whether they have a decent API. There may be some cool opportunities with Spotify’s API in the future.

      And having the option to “Mute” annoying artists or labels could be in the cards, if enough DJs are interested!

      Neither of these features have been suggested on our User Voice forum yet, so make a post if you’re interested? That way you’ll get notified of any updates on progress: https://proton.uservoice.com/forums/284827-crates

      • pacyderm

        I could be missing this but it’d be nice to filter by genre, and it would be awesome if you had the option to hide or show tunes you’d already listened to in your feed. I know you guys have a lot on your plate so just so you know, I’m super happy with this so far.

        • Jason Wohlstadter

          @pacyderm:disqus – Genre filtering has just been added to Crates! Click “Show Filters” in the top right to filter any feed by genre, musical key, or release date. Give it a try? http://crates.co

          • pacyderm

            Cool I will check it out thanks.

  • ithinkmynameismoose

    Sounds good except for the douchey name.

    • Really? I can think of way worse than crates, which is a pretty commonly used term when it comes to DJ collections.

      Imagine if they called it Cr8s – now that would be stupid!

      • ithinkmynameismoose

        Crates in any context is a stupid word for collections.

        • Oddie O’Phyle

          The term “crates” is a left over from a by gone era, to many of us it was a very real experience to carry around our collection in a milk crate.

          • ithinkmynameismoose

            Like anyone doesn’t know that…

            It’s still a douchey term.

          • Agree to disagree, then 🙂

          • Matt

            are you serious? the name is douchey? What would you call it?

  • Oddie O’Phyle

    Sweet, thanks for the heads up.

  • Caz Coronel

    Is there a way to see a list of tracks you have heard on Crates? I was listening to this great track and then I hit one my crates and the track jumped to another and I couldn’t find it again? I am using Safari so this might be an issue.

    • Mark Slee

      Hi Caz – Crates does show what genre a track is in, but we actually don’t support top-level genre views or searches, since our model is built around the custom crate lists. Perhaps we’ll add genres in the future, but conceptually it’s something we’re trying to move away from, as broad categories like “Deep House” or “Tech House” become less and less meaningful.

      The idea of having a view of tracks you’ve listened to previously is interesting, we’ll consider adding that!

      • Caz Coronel

        Thanks Mark, that is a good point. Genres often don’t accurately describe a track so I appreciate what you are saying. But yes if you could put the previous listens in that would be really helpful! Many thanks for the answer and for Crates!

        • Jason Wohlstadter

          @caz_coronel:disqus, would you be up for making a feature request for the “Listening History” idea on our User Voice? This way you’ll get notified too if we add it:

          https://proton.uservoice.com/forums/284827-crates

          • Caz Coronel

            Sorry for the slow reply, yes absolutely

      • SethEllis

        Browsing through new tracks in a specific genre on beatport is one of the best ways to discover more underground tracks. Otherwise I’m largely limited to artists and labels I already know. For well established genres like Trance or Drum & Bass being able to browse by genre is essential. I hope you revisit this in the future and add that feature.

        • Jason Wohlstadter

          @caz_coronel:disqus + @SethEllis:disqus : Genre filtering has been added to Crates, by popular demand. Give it a try? Click “Show Filter” above any feed: http://crates.co

  • Toecurl68

    Sounds like the record store experience of 30 years ago. If we go back to the store flicking through the records we mentally grey out the ones we checked and would spot a new album cover instantly then trainspot it!