Beatport has shed some light on the company's health ahead of its impending sale.
With the retailer set to be sold by SFX, its bankrupted parent company, Beatport has stripped away parts of the business—its news, streaming and distribution services are all gone—to focus on its digital download store. The company says more than 90% of its catalogue and sales come from independent labels, many of which rely on Beatport as a key source of income.
Terry Weerasinghe, Beatport's senior vice president of marketing and analytics, told Resident Advisor in an exclusive interview that the company would retrain its focus on its core customer base: DJs. Weerasinghe confirmed that two of the company's offices (LA and Amsterdam) have been closed, and outlined some upcoming improvements to the download store. Here's the interview in full:
It looks like you guys are stripping things down to the core Beatport offering of digital track sales. What are the benefits of doing this?
Several. First is simply focus. We're now able to dedicate all our resources to the store, which is what we are known and loved for. This means we're also able to focus on one customer—DJs—who are the foundation of what Beatport is and always has been. We'd rather do one thing better than anybody else than offer another me-too service. Second, this is something that our core customers have been asking for. While we'll always keep an eye out for areas of expansion and new features to surprise the community we serve, we also have to listen to what they're telling us and respond accordingly.
Finally, we have to operate in areas where we have what it takes to be a market leader. We operate the largest electronic music store in the world, and it is one of the most important sources of revenue for a lot of independent dance labels. We want to best position ourselves to continue to support and serve that creative community. The services we discontinued seemed like great ideas at the time but we have realised that trying to compete with the Pandoras and Spotifys of the world was draining our valuable resources and taking away from our focus on our core customer base, the DJs.
What plans have you got in terms of improving the digital download service?
We've already put a lot of work into site speed and responsiveness. The new version of the store that we launched last year wasn't better than the old version. It had a lot of issues with load time and time to interact. Improving this has been a priority and I'm happy to say the site is running over 50% faster since the beginning of the year, with more improvements on the way. Speed aside, there are a number of features from the Classic version of the store that the community has asked us to bring back through our Uservoice Forum.
We're prioritizing those now and expect you'll see some noticeable changes in the very near future. But probably the biggest thing we're working on that I'm sure everybody is interested in seeing is a change to our genre classifications. One thing is clear, people want genres that are clean and up to date. Underground DJs don't want EDM tracks in their genres and vice-versa. I can't provide all the details just yet, but we are adding some significant new parent genres to the store, and reorganising some of the sub-genres across them accordingly, which we hope will satisfy the community.
What is the mood like at the company right now?
I think people are generally relieved that we can now focus on doing what we do best. We were doing a lot of different things across streaming, video and news that were interesting, so it will take a little time to refocus the team. Obviously it's also tough to see some of our co-workers and friends leave, but we need to apply our financial resources where they create the most value for Beatport and our customers. We're all very proud of the store and the position it has in the music landscape. So we're all extremely motivated to make this the best damn music service for DJs in the world, and hopefully be so successful with it that we can bring back some of the employees we had to let go.
Can you give us some details about the current staffing situation?
The current staffing situation is focused on the store, as you can imagine. There were very few changes in product development and tech support. We did close the LA and Amsterdam offices, but some of those who were working in those locations are now working remotely. The teams focused solely on news and video are obviously no longer with us. There's also been some changes in management. Chris Nicholls from the consulting firm managing the SFX restructuring, FTI Consulting, is interim CEO with Greg Consiglio still involved in an advisory role.
What's the best-case scenario in terms of things unfolding from here?
Everyone here is focusing on the store, returning to what we do best, which will be of great benefit to all the labels we serve, the majority of which are smaller independents. We'll focus on the needs of the DJs. Right now, there is a real resurgence in underground dance music and I'm excited to see eight of the top ten charting labels on RA this year are selling more on Beatport this year than last. In an ideal world, we can get away from the corporate intrigue and media analysis around us and focus on our partnerships with labels and our role in getting the right music to the right person.