Beatport Link is a music streaming service for DJs that lets you access the Beatport catalogue inside your DJ software (currently WeDJ and Rekordbox DJ only). While there are some kinks that need to be straightened (this is a beta after all), the implementation is a very good start and, most importantly, it works. The Offline Locker is the single biggest feature that will make this very attractive to digital DJs, though the current terms and conditions don’t allow you to perform with Beatport Link music in public (only time will tell if this changes). Nevertheless, we are witnessing the birth of a new era of digital DJing – what a time to be alive indeed.
First Impressions / Setting up
Beatport Link is a subscription service that lets you access and stream from the entire Beatport catalogue straight to your DJ software. Currently it works with Pioneer DJ’s Rekordbox DJ and WeDJ apps, with Virtual DJ integration coming later this year.
You subscribe to it via the Beatport site. Once subscribed, you’re able to create playlists on the Beatport site and add songs to them. You can then access these playlists (and search the catalogue) while spinning when you login to Beatport Link inside your DJ app.
It’s worth noting that Beatport Link can only be accessed in Rekordbox DJ aka “Performance Mode” – it won’t work in “Export Mode”, which means you can’t export music from Beatport Link to a thumb drive for use with media players like CDJs / XDJs.
There are three subscription tiers: the basic Beatport Link (US$14.99/month) comes with streaming and the ability to make playlists on Beatport. Beatport Link Pro (US$39.99/month) comes with all that, plus an Offline Locker with storage for up to 50 songs. Offline Locker lets you “download” songs which get saved in your DJ software so you don’t have to be connected to the internet when you spin with them (more on that later).
Finally, the top-tier Beatport Link Pro+ (US$59.99/month) gets you all the features of the previous plans, but with storage for up to 100 songs in the Offline Locker.
Beatport Link, and the Rekordbox version (5.6.1) that supports it, are currently in beta. We signed up for the Beatport Pro plan, installed the Rekordbox beta, and got to work.
There are over six million songs in Beatport’s catalogue (it’s the largest dance music specialist store after all). With Beatport Link and an internet connection, you’re able to access the catalogue and create playlists through your internet browser, letting you add tracks. You can have as many playlists as you like in your account, and these playlists show up in Rekordbox DJ / WeDJ once you log in.
The playlisting aspect is still a bit clunky: there’s no way for you to add a song to a playlist while browsing Beatport. You need to do it from within the playlist itself which you will want to have in a separate tab or window. That means you need to copy/paste the artist name and title every single time you want to add a track to a playlist, which is a bit of a drag.
It would be a lot faster and easier if you could add a song to a playlist just by clicking on a dropdown beside the track, as in the case of purchasing a song and then adding it to a crate.
You can also access the Beatport catalogue from your Rekordbox DJ / WeDJ Collection browser: it’s not as graphical or intuitive as using the Beatport site though, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to add songs to playlists if you go this route. That said, you’re still able to do a search of the entire catalogue, and you can browse through different genres – it’s just a bit harder to do so compared to doing it on the Beatport site.
Once you’ve found a song, you can drag and drop it to any of the decks just like it were part of your normal music library. It does take a few seconds longer for the waveform to be drawn and for the deck to be populated depending on your connection, but when it loads the track can be played as normal (even if the WiFi conks out).
Speaking of WiFi, Beatport Link has the Offline Locker feature: this lets you store songs in your DJ app (50 for the Pro plan, 100 for the Pro+ plan). That means you can play these songs even without an internet connection present. The way it works is you log in to Beatport Link in Rekordbox DJ, and when you see a song you want to store, you click on the “Download” button. The song downloads in seconds and is stored inside of your DJ app, ready to be played whenever. Songs are also automatically downloaded when you drag and drop a song from Beatport Link onto your decks.
In our tests it worked as advertised: I prepared a playlist of funk / disco tunes which I then downloaded and stored in the Offline Locker. After, I simply closed my laptop lid, headed to the gig, opened my laptop, plugged in my controller, and started spinning with a mix of tracks from the Offline Locker and my own DJ collection. It was awesome.
I’m a proponent of both DJ music streaming and collecting music, and Beatport Link felt like the best implementation of streaming in DJ software so far. It felt like the future of digital DJing was right in front of me – it’s quite convincing, even at this beta stage.
It’s not without its drawbacks though. The most obvious one is that you don’t own the music: that means you can’t do anything to these songs like change track metadata, even if you’ve got them stored in the Offline Locker. That also means you can’t make edits to these tracks in a DAW like Ableton Live. You also can’t use the Record feature if you’re playing music from Beatport Link, which means you can’t make a mixtape or record your practice sessions.
Lastly, and this potentially could keep gigging DJs from jumping onboard the streaming bandwagon, the Beatport Link terms and conditions specifically state that streaming music is only meant for personal use and you can’t use it to perform in a public place. This puts it a step behind now-shuttered Pulselocker, which allowed you to stream tracks at gigs in public spaces.
This is likely a licensing issue more than a technology one, and if Beatport is gunning for mainstream adoption by gigging DJs, this is something that needs to be addressed at some point.
Overall, Beatport Link beta is a turning point because it could be the single innovation that ushers in a new generation of DJing in a digital landscape that has become increasingly tepid in terms of breakthroughs. If streaming in DJ apps becomes the norm, the next wave of digital DJs won’t build MP3 collections, rather they’d be making playlists with the world’s music right at their fingertips at a fraction of the cost.
Imagine that: renting music instead of buying it for DJing. How will future DJs build music collections then? It’s anyone’s guess, but right now let’s just enjoy the fact that there’s never been more music out there in the world, and we’re one step closer to being able to access all of them whenever, wherever, and at the monthly cost of a 180g vinyl reissue.