How to Hack beatport: Buy Your Way into the Top 10
The dance music industry had no idea yet, but it was experiencing a radical change in early 2004 with the launch of small online music store called Beatport 1.0. Until that point in time, there wasn’t a recognizable brand that people knew and trusted as a reliable source for purchasing electronic dance music in the US. After a series of sophisticated business moves and successful partnerships, including well-known DJ’s and technology company Native Instruments, the small music supplier saw their network grow from working with 79 labels to over 2,700 in only a year.
The Fans Trust Beatport
Things continued to flourish for the Denver-based company and over the next 7 years they cemented themselves within electronic dance music culture. The fans have embraced Beatport as the place to go for electronic dance music, to an almost elitist standard, questioning the commitment to dance music of those who purchase their music on such a mainstream platform like iTunes.
The Industry Support Beatport
It’s not just the fans who’ve embraced Beatport either. Both artists and industry professionals now openly support the online music retailer and use their Top 10, 20, and 100 charts as a measuring stick for success. Artists see it as bragging rights, while managers, publicists, and book agents see top 10 tracks as dollar signs.
Because popular artists get booked. And bookings make the money.
Don’t believe me? Let’s see how many tracks your favorite artists would have to sell to make $10,000.
How many songs do you have to sell to make $10,000?
Let’s take a look at the numbers together.
R3hab and Deorro’s track Flashlight currently sits atop the Beatport overall top 10 chart displayed on the right side of the homepage (3/21/14) and sells for a modest $2.49.
Divide 10,000 by 2.49 and you get 4016.06.
So theoretically, if you sell 4016 tracks at 2.49 a pop you’ll gross $10k.
But that’s before taxes. (knock off 30%, and you’re down to 7k).
And management fees. And publicist’s fees. (For the sake of this exercise we’ll say your manager and publicist fees are a combined 4k for the month…so that 7k just turned into 3k).
A recent story was just published on Digital Music News that pretty much confirms my numbers, feel free to read that here.
Moral of the story: Deadmau5 didn’t buy a Ferrari selling tracks.
But making amazing music did help him get a contract with Hakkasan that pays out 425,000 per show. And in case you’re wondering, the industry standard for booking agents is to take ~20%. Booking agents are basically human real estate agents.
You’re a believer
So, you’ve accepted Beatport into your heart. You’re ready to head over to their website, browse some of the top 10 charts and make a purchase or two. You notice that David Guetta’s new track with Showtek is #2 on the overall chart. Hmmmmm. Guetta’s still relevant? Okay…well the track is with Showtek, you can accept that. He’s a pretty popular producer right now crafting mainstream edm tracks so it’s understandable why this track would be so high in the top 10. Not to mention, it is a very common thing in this industry for a smaller/newer artist, like Showtek, to produce a track and then shop it around to larger DJ’s who are willing to put their name on the track if they think it will help boost their reputation; leading to more bookings, and thus, more money.
I’m not saying this happened on this track (Don’t sue me Guetta!) merely using it as an example to enlighten you. It happens in any industry, that’s just the reality of the situation. Sorry if I’ve just tainted your purest perception edm and/or PLUR.
Regardless of how a track is made, or by who, as a fan, as an aficionado, you still trust the Beatport chart and that it gives you an honest representation of which artists are currently considered popular and attaining success, correct?
But that may not be the case. This past week I was sent an email from a woman named “Mary” representing a company based out of Spain claiming that in exchange for a fee, they could put anyones tack in the top 10, 20, or 100 chart of a respective genre. I’ve taken a screenshot of the initial email and placed it on the following pages for you to review for yourself. I think the most offensive part of the email, besides the grammar and punctuation, was using Beatport’s logo and likeness in attempt to pass themselves off as some type of official affiliate.
#22 in section A of Beatport’s General Terms and Conditions reads:
In addition, you may not use a false email address or otherwise mislead other members as to your identity or the origin of a message or content.
But this was only the tip of the iceberg.
The first email
There are a few things that really stand out about this email. Specifically:
100% SECURE SYSTEM and 0% banned (we are doing 15/30 tracks per day, everyday during 1 year ago and never, never we had artist or label banned)
we are working for the most biggest Labels and Artists.
1) 15/30 tracks per day – way more than any one person is supposed to be able to buy per track per IP address, per day.
2) 100% secure system – This raises security questions for Beatport. My limited research has led me to the conclusion that each IP address is limited to 3 purchases of the same track per IP address per day. Asking your friends to purchase 3 copies of your new track all on its release day is called a good launch strategy, but openly manipulating the system in the manner outlined in the email above directly conflicts with Section A, #6 in Beatport’s General Terms and Conditions which reads:
You may not attempt, nor support others’ attempts, to decrypt, reverse engineer, circumvent or otherwise alter or interfere with any software required for use of the Website or Content.
3) We are working for the most biggest artists and labels – Besides the terrible grammar, this company claims that they have already been successfully manipulating the Beatport charts for over a year. (Really, Guetta in the Top 10?).
But how much does it cost to get in the top 10? How many downloads?
Upon seeing this email, I decided to dig deeper and requested more information about how I could pay for “my tracks” (non-existent) to land in the top 10. And it was almost too easy. “Mary” sent over an excel spreadsheet for me breaking everything down. How many downloads and how much those downloads would cost for each separate chart by genre.
Also note: They say on the spreadsheet they sent me, “We can to do 300 downloads per day/track, and 30 tracks at the same time”
So by now you’re dying to see this spreadsheet and what it takes to get into the top 10, 20, and 100 charts. Here it is:
Not as much as you thought huh?
Now let’s do the math!
Let’s start with the pricing from the initial email, 3.80 € per download at the current exchange rate, according to Google on 3/21/14, would be $5.24 USD.
I have a new track out and I really want it to land in the Beatport Top 20 of the main chart, so just to be safe, I’m going to ask Mary to deliver 600 downloads.
600 x 5.24 = 3144
So theoretically, according to the information provided in Mary’s email, she claims that her company can put any track in the Beatport Top 20 Main Chart for $3144.
But remember the exercise we did together earlier in this article? An artist with a management and PR team would need to sell approximately 4,000 tracks to make $3,000…but these numbers say it only takes 1/8 of that number to actually rank.
As an artist, faced with this choice, what would you do?
You could attempt to sell 4,000 tracks to make $3,000
Pay Mary $3,000 to download 600 copies of your track in one week, get your track in the top 20, and potentially start booking gigs to fund the next rack you want in the top 20.
(BTW: To put things in perspective $3,000 is .07 percent of Deadmau5’s 425,000 booking fee at Hakkasan)
This obviously opens a can of worms and raises some serious ethical questions. But it all boils down to one idea: “Beatport’s charts can, and are, being manipulated.”
Up until today, the surge and perceived success of “commercial EDM” music has been something that’s upset many of Dance Music’s longest and most prominent supports and trailblazers. And for many of the longtime fans, we’ve been left feeling a bit like, well…
Take a look at this short interview with Paul Van Dyk conducted by Armin Van Buuren. Both are absolute legends of dance music and both have similar views that help support my statements above about “commercial EDM”
What will Beatport do?
Should they do anything? Is it in their legal rights to pursue this company that is maliciously manipulating their algorithm?
Section A, #28, Beatport’s General Terms and Conditions:
Beatport reserves the right to enlist and take measures that Beatport believes are reasonably necessary to enforce, or appropriate to enforce, or verify compliance with any part of this Agreement (including but not limited to Beatport’s right to cooperate with any legal process relating to your use of the Website and/or Content, and/or a third party claim that your use of the Website and/or Content is unlawful and/or infringes such third party’s rights).
If you try to manipulate Google’s search algorithm they will literally remove you from their search results until they’ve decided you’ve learned your lesson. They have a whole team dedicated stopping this kind of manipulation, and I’m going to link to their blog, just so they see this.
As a consumer, you trust that when you see someone on top of the charts it’s because millions of people love their music.
Please don’t be naive. There are not millions of fans purchasing music from Beatport. They are stealing it from sites like zippyshare and hulkshare or trading tracks via encrypted uploads on Mega. According to Wikipedia (and many other sources), Beatport’s revenue in 2012 was between 15-18 million dollars. At 2.49 per track, that’s approximately 6 million tracks sold (seems a bit high for the number of tracks it takes to get into the top 20). Yet Beatport reported a 2 million dollar loss on the year 2013. Yep, you read that right. They actually lost money in 2012, the same year they were purchased by Robert Silverman’s SFX Entertainment for 50 million dollars.
But hey, this is the internet, let’s not believe everything we read. Instead let’s conduct a little study of our own right here, right now. Answer the poll below to see the results.
The music industry has suffered significant financial woes due to the internet, piracy, and peer 2 peer sharing over the past 15 years. Yet, due to the same factors, there are now more aspiring artists and more music being released than ever before. That tells me there is something wrong with the current model professional artists, labels, and records companies are choosing to operate under. And yes, by doing nothing about it, they really are choosing this fate. Some artists choose to give away their music for free, and they seem to be doing quite well for themselves.
Will Beatport continue to serve it’s purpose and be a great, awesome place to purchase new music? Of course. But there needs to be a paradigm shift. If you want to know my thoughts on that topic, I beat it to death in another article I wrote called Free Downloads…Why we don’t give away pirated music.
But I’m optimistic. Everyday I see a new companies popping up that serve artists and fans, creating solutions to our toughest problems, and I smile. Because I know it’s only a matter of time before we come up with the solution to this problem.
In the meantime? Stop believing everything you see, hear, or read, especially on the internet, and start make decisions about which artists you support and enjoy by actually listening to music. Stop being a follower and start thinking for yourself. Better yet, start creating your own music.