Beatport turns 5: Inside the mind of Jonas Tempel, CEO.

Words by: Gregorio
Posted: 18/11/08 12:26

Beatport is a phenomenon of modern dance music. For better or worse, it has been a pioneer and leader in dance music culture's changing dynamic in embracing true digitalism.

On the eve of the American company's 5th birthday, we got personal with Jonas Tempel, founder and CEO. On the agenda was Beatport past, present and future, the sudden end to their affiliation scheme and, try as we might, sales figures!! 

For those unfamiliar with how it all began, Jonas explains: "In 1996, I founded 'Factory Design Labs' to handle all flyer work for clubs whilst I was also the resident DJ at 'The Church' nightclub in Denver. By 2003, I had grown Factory from a flyer firm to a more organized and legitimate branding agency with 20 employees."

"In early 2003, a friend of mine, Eloy Lopez, came to me with an idea for a new company. He had purchased Final Scratch and was buying vinyl and recording it into his computer so that he could play it, he thought there had to be an easier way. Together with Eloy, myself and another partner Brad Roulier, came up with a business plan for Beatport. In May 2003, we decided to make a run for it. Beatport 1.0 was launched in January 2004."

"Independent music is the soul of the music industry. These artists and labels are the true believers in the sound and deserve all the credit. Beatport is just a platform to deliver their music to the masses."

How many employees does Beatport have?

How many offices do you have and where are they?
"Two offices. Headquarters are in Denver, Colorado USA. European headquarters are in Berlin."

What did you turnover in 2007?
"We are a privately held company and don't publish sales information."

Ok then, which country makes the most downloads?
"The United States."

Can you put the number of downloads into simple terms for us, like number of downloads every day or one download every 2 minutes, etc?
"We don't comment on sales volume, but I will say that we have multiple downloads every minute of every day." 

Which country/region has been the biggest surprise in terms of most increased volume of downloads or interest in beatport?
"Growth in Europe has been excellent. Additionally, we've had surprising growth in some smaller territories where dance music is making strong strides." 

What growth do you anticipate in 2008?
"This has been another great year of growth. Despite the current economic turmoil, Beatport expects to continue its rapid growth."

How many labels are on beatport?
"Right around 9,000"

We're on beatport 3.0 currently, what is the future for the site in terms of technology advances?
"Beatport 4.0 will launch early 2009. Official release date coming soon." 

Has the "My beatport" facility of the 3.0 been the most successful feature of the latest version?

Who do you consider your main competitors?
"I consider anyone who sells electronic music a competitor. We take all advances seriously and work hard to be aware of the market as it is rapidly taking shape." 

Do you still cater more for DJs or have consumers become the core market now?
"Beatport's core customer is the DJ market. We certainly attract consumers to our brand through event sponsorships and promotions but that community is not our primary focus."  

When will vinyl eventually die?
I don't think Vinyl will ever die, it's a collector's platform. It's certainly not Beatport's intention.

"Beatport is taking aggressive measures to end piracy of content on the internet. It's a huge problem online and we just cannot tolerate it as an organization any longer."

How are the likes of Richie Hawtin, John Acquavvia, Bad Boy Bill involved in Beatport?
"When we founded Beatport, we felt it important to bring in DJs who could represent Beatport as ambassadors as well as partners. Rich and John are partners because of their relationship with Final Scratch and Bill because of our relationship with him. They have all contributed greatly to Beatport's success and are heavily involved in the business planning cycles." 

You have previously talked about "good being the enemy of great" and that this is a mantra of yours every day. Do you think this attitude is rare in the dance music business?
"It is very hard to be great. To be honest, it's something that very few people achieve. There is always someone or something that is better. I'm not sure if the attitude we have is rare is dance music, but we certainly take this business very seriously and want to be a great company. We want to show the world that electronic music is a great business."

"Independent music is the soul of the music industry. These artists and labels are the true believers in the sound and deserve all the credit. Beatport is just a platform, a retail partner, to deliver their music to the masses. We believe that our job is to super serve the DJ community with content that inspires great DJ performances. That is how we will be great."

Do you find professionalism an issue in the industry and is Europe behind on that front?
"As we've grown Beatport, we have of course run into personalities and cultures that have caused us to recalculate our efforts. European business culture is much different that American business culture. Professionalism isn't the issue, but rather understanding the motives. It's something we are constantly working on to improve."

How successful were the Beatport awards, do you think you´ll continue with them?
"The BMAs were very successful and offered a real platform for Beatport to give back to the community."

It was recently announced that the Beatport affiliate program would be ending. Many portals seem to be rather confused about the manner of how the program was "shut down" without notice and the rationale why. How would you explain the decision to them?
"Beatport is taking aggressive measures to end piracy of content on the internet. We had notices an increased number of fraudulent affiliates that were posting significant amounts of content from Beatport and other retailers to be downloaded for free. It's a huge problem online and we just cannot tolerate it as an organization any longer. We also cannot allow these illegal blog sites to earn money from Beatport through affiliate relationships while building their profile through illegal downloads. We made the decision to immediately end the program without notice. It is unfortunate to the real affiliates who were driving real leads to Beatport. Our marketing department has been in contact with these affiliates and is working on a solution. We will relaunch a new platform in 2009."

How would you respond to critics who say that the onset of technology has made the whole DJ/crowd connection more distant and clinical?
"I started DJing in 1988 and I've seen every technology upgrade since then. It's always received by old DJs as "selling out" and received by young DJs as an interesting new tool. I have a personal mission to modernize the DJ booth. Technology is a good thing. It makes the performance better. DJs that go into the booth and stare at their laptop are boring. DJs that go into the booth with a laptop and give a killer performance are not boring. The tools are irrelevant; the performance is key. The performance has always been what matters."

Beatport is the idea that thousands of people are wishing they had and realized.  What innovation/piece of technology do you wish you'd been involved with?
"This is a tough question. I have lots of ideas about products that I'd like to help create [but] the future is so much more exciting than the past; creating solutions to problems is an entrepreneurs dream. When Eloy came to me with this idea for Beatport, it was just a simple question "wouldn't it be easier to sell this stuff through a website?" The rest had to be built - the name, the technology, the customer base, the label relationships - all of it was built by this team. It's a huge job and one we take very, very serious. I'm not even ready to contemplate what might be next. I have too much left to do with Beatport."

On technology:
Technology/software in the booth is great as long as it's used to advance the performance. Ableton and Traktor are both great tools but they won't make you a better performer. The performance is up to the DJ. Maximizing the potential is a great opportunity and I'm hopeful that more and more DJs will accept technology as their friend in the DJ booth.  

On the relationship with Native Instruments/Traktor:
The relationship with Native Instruments is always important to Beatport. The relationship with Traktor is successful because it's a performance application and we are the content for that performance. We are closing down the embedded store in favor of a much more seamless integration that will happen in future releases. Its something that Beatport strongly believes in. 

On Beatport versus iTunes:
I don't look at our business that way, it's not healthy. I totally respect iTunes and what that store has accomplished. In less than five years they became the dominant retailer in the world - it's totally inspiring. For Beatport, we took a different route. We love electronic music and the labels and artists that produce that music. We love it because we are DJs who have played this music for years. Our brand represents electronic music to the world and we take that very seriously. We built it from the ground up to cater to a specific customer that shops in a specific way.

On Beatsource (urban music store and portal):
Beatsource is a proof of concept that is still in the works. Cracking the urban markets with content is a tough job. By and large, most DJs play the exact same music, so it's much different to electronic music, and most of that music is released on major labels. Beatsource was designed to represent the independent voice of urban music. It's growing nicely and we have great plans for the future. 

On entering the mainstream music market:
We've talked about it, but nothing seems right. We really love dance music and it makes sense to our personalities. There are many underserved niches in music and my guess is that you'll see more and more niche retailers in the near future 

On Beatport providing global access to dance music:
They way we think about Beatport is that we are just a platform; the product is the content, we simply provide the access. Our role in the relationship is to aggregate the customer base, to bring in people, take care of them, and give them what they want. We know it's not about us. It's about the music and we are just the pipeline that makes it easier and faster to get what you want.  

On Jonas the DJ:
I have had a residency in Denver constantly for the last 18 years. I'm the old DJ in town but I still play regularly. I also tour with Bad Boy Bill and Kaskade on a regular basis. I'm not trying to be a traveling DJ, but I enjoy going on the road and playing new markets. It puts me next to our customers and I take time to learn about what they like and dislike about our site. DJing is the conduit that I use to the market. I can't imagine a day when I will not be playing anymore. My hope is that it is no time soon. 

As for artists, I don't really play like that. My ear just knows what it likes. Right now it likes tech house and techno, the darker sounds with more experimental production techniques. I play in big rooms so it has to have some energy or it won't work. I'm less about artists and more about genres.. 

On Beatport's plans/ambitions:
This is a tough one. Most people expect us to have the huge dot com exit but to be fair, that just isn't our style. We've turned down money already that would have been great but we just don't believe in selling right now. Our business is just beginning. Our fundamental belief is that the evolution of the DJ is in its infancy and that Beatport will be a major driver in the market place. We want to represent electronic music to the world. It's our passion and I am committed to seeing it through. Expect more exciting products and releases in the coming months. Things are going to go into overdrive for Beatport.  

You must be proud of what has been achieved with Beatport over the last 5 years?
To ask me if I'm proud of Beatport is an understatement. I'm so proud of the brand and my team that we have built a home for electronic music. It's something I work hard on every single day. |  |  | Beatport SYNC


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