Review: Beatport Pro Beta
How much “cratedigging” do you do? As a DJ, whether vinyl, CD, or digital (or even better, all three!), I hope your answer to that question is “lots”. After all, you’re only as good as your music, so it always pays to spend as much time as possible looking for great new stuff.
Of course, digital has completely blown apart the way DJs search for music (not least because it’s destroyed 90% of record stores), which is why we here at Digital DJ Tips are pretty much obsessed with exploring how DJs can improve, streamline and refine the way they search for music on a day-to-day basis. Enter Beatport Pro.
When we saw that Beatler, our favourite Beatport helper app (well alright, we don’t actually know any others), had been taken officially into the Beatport fold to become Beatport Pro, we thought it was time to look at the app anew – especially as it’s now free!
What is Beatport Pro?
If you’ve used Spotify, you’ll actually see immediate similarities with Beatport Pro. It’s basically a desktop app (unfortunately, for Mac only at the present time) that lets you surf through Beatport’s complete tune collection, organising, tagging, and of course buying at will. There are are a few other additions, but that’s basically the size of it.
So why would you need such an app? Well I don’t know about you, but I find buying music from online stores to be a singularly unsatisfying experience. It is just not in my workflow to browse around online stores, making crates and playlists, listening through them and eventually buying some tunes (or more likely, not, because I can’t find anything I like). No, instead I tend listen to web radio – 8tracks, Hype Machine etc – then make a shortlist of tunes I like, heading across to the download stores and (as quickly as possible) buying the tunes I want and getting the hell out of there.
Alternatively, I’ll do the same thing on Spotify, having it open in the background, with a list of starred tunes – mainly albums by people I want to hear more of – playing on shuffle. When I hear stuff I like, I shortlist it, then listen back through my shortlist later, finally buying from within the Spotify interface. (It’s faster and easier that way.)
Finally, if I find a new producer I like, I’ll stream all their stuff (again in the background) from SoundCloud.
So for me, my buying involves background listening (I think we judge tunes more truthfully when we’re not concentrating on them, which is why I struggle to actively browse around online stores), then shortlisting/buying those tunes. Happily, this is the one area where Beatport Pro particularly shines. However, it has many more features too. Let’s take a closer look.
How does it work?
You basically download the app (it’s beta at the moment, there’s a link at the end of this post), install it, and open it, adding your Beatport login details. It syncs with any carts (plus your “My Beatport”), and you’re presented with an interface that looks like a dark iTunes.
Down the left are Beatport’s top downloads and featured tunes in all the genres (you can hide genres you’re not interested in), new releases/charts, your My Beatport (where you can follow labels/artists, grouping at will), plus sections for your downloads and carts. Across the top are a waveform display and transport controls for the player. There’s a search box top right, to search the whole of Beatport.
Frankly the whole thing feels pretty close to a streaming music service like Spotify – you can playlist stuff, and listen at will, adding to your cart and buying as you see fit (you can have multiple carts), the only limitation being two-minute previews rather than the ability to listen to the whole tune.
It’s basically Beatport on steroids, and is of course nicer to use than the web version of the site. But where it becomes really attractive for me is the fact that you can assign hotkeys (including one to hide/show the whole app), so you can trawl through a playlist in the background while you carry on doing something else.
That means you can stack up a day’s worth of cratedigging, and easily fast forward, rewind, play/pause and add to cart with a few keystrokes as you’re doing something else – great for cratedigging while at work, for instance. This suits the way I search for music down to the ground. You can listen through whole sections, charts etc (and sort them easily enough too by track name, genre, label, even key), or just spend 10 minutes blasting through charts, new releases and so on, adding a pile of stuff to your playlist, then letting that play on its own in the background.
The way I tend to use it is to do just that, then hit my keyboard shortcut for “add to cart” when I hear something that catches my attention. Then later on, go and listen through the cart to properly audition the tunes. You can have multiple carts, so it’s easy enough to treat a cart like a shortlist (that’s how I do it in Spotify too, by the way – I star tracks, then shortlist them, then listen again before committing to buy).
There are literally stacks of other featured to discover: You can click around on the waveforms to move quickly around in the track samples; you can right-click to bring up “BeatBot” Genius-style suggestions for any track; if you press and hold the “buy” button on any tune it gives you the option to add it to one of your many carts. The fact that it’s a desktop app means such power-features are much easier for the developers to add.
Indeed, there are features here I didn’t even explore because they’re way past what I want from such a program; for instance, you can configure the filenames Beatport uses when it downloads your MP3s, so they are named exactly how you wish!
One other little bonus is an Artwork Tagging feature, that will tag your existing tune collection with artwork from Beatport should you have gaps. A nice, albeit secondary, addition to the primary function of the program, and if you have lot of un-arted-up dance music, a reason in itself to grab this app.
What could be improved?
So what’s not perfect about it? Well, first remember that this is only beta software and indeed they’re actively encouraging feedback at this stage – a good sign.
It would be nice if it would fade tracks out rather than just stop and start them when you’re listening in the background; it doesn’t buffer them as well as, say, Spotify, so when you skip background tracks there’s often a gap while it loads the next one; it would be good if it used the Mac’s native music nav keys instead of you having to define your own (different) ones; and just like Beatport, music is only MP3 and WAV (no AIFF). Finally, a “shuffle” function would be nice when background listening.
But these are small things. The bottom line is that if you’re a Mac user, and you love the tune selection in Beatport but aren’t so fond of having to shop in the online store, you’re quite possibly going to love Beatport Pro. It’s not changed so much from its Beatler days, but it’s now free, and with the might of Beatport behind it, it can only get better from here on in.
• The Beatport Pro beta is available for free download at the Beatport Pro site.
Have used Beatport Pro? Did you use Beatler? Or do you prefer to shop for music in the web version of Beatport? What’s your usual workflow when you’re cratedigging online? We’d love to know your thoughts in the comments.