The venerable Beaport, according to some the most popular DJ download store in America, continues to amaze us with their extraordinarily piss poor vendor support and customer service skills. Sure, we love the service, but they don’t seem to love us–the DJs, blogs and web sites that have helped them brand their service and become the first, succesful dance music download store on the Internet.
On October 20th, Netmix received a cryptic email from Beatport’s affiliate support department notifying us that we had been temporarily removed from their affiliate program. The email implied that we had done something wrong and our partnership is now terminated
All of the Netmix mix shows in the Podcast section have links to purchase titles through Beatport. Without prior notice, Beatport made a decision to shut down the program, without notifying us (or anyone else for that matter) in advance.
As you can see from the emails we have posted above, first we received notification of termination with no explanation. We replied to that email and received the second one, which simply confirmed everything.
If Beatport knew they were shutting down their affiliate program, didn’t they consider it would make sense to do it in phases? They should have let blogs and web sites know that they were going to terminate the service in 30-days time to give their partners (and I use that term very loosely) enough time to remove hard links to titles.
This is especially true in the case of a new DJ culture site, ILOVETHATTRACK.com, which provides DJs with the ability to upload play lists and link titles to services like Beatport for their fans to purchase and download. It must be a stunning blow to their revenue model. Maybe they have some side deal with Beatport to link up to an API or something, but after testing the site tonight, all the Beatport links are broken.
It’s got to be pretty devastating to a new service that is dependent on a partner like Beatport. Just pull the plug and lave ILoveThatTrack’s team high and dry to figure out something overnight. It’s not easy to make a wholesale change to your web database that pulled in and hosted all of those links. It will take days if not weeks and real, hard dollars to remove Beaport from their system, or switch to another service that may not have the same catalog.
This is why I’ve never been a big fan of the affiliate model. Your partner can pull the plug at any time and leave you holding the bag after you’ve invested time, resources and real dollars into building a business that depends on that ongoing relationship.
The company gets all the benefits of your partnership, especially in the form of marketing and promotion of their brand name, as well as the long term customers you’ve pushed into their system. Since you’re not taking the transaction, that customer is never really yours. Although ILoveThatTrack is a great service we hope succeeds, they’ll never be able to build a real business on the affiliate model for this very reason. You can see that dependency on affiliate partnerships as a revenue driver is a risky proposition. They’re going to have to go out and build a music service of their own to fulfill their customers expectations, if they haven’t started already.
It’s just another example of Beatport having absolutely no clue when it comes to relationship building with its partners. The perception is now that they’ve reached a certain level of success, let’s turn off the program that helped get tens of thousands (if not millions) of dollars in FREE exposure and good will through hundreds of web sites from around the world, without any prior warning.
One Beatport executive told me that there were a variety of problems with the affiliate program and it was costing the company more than it was making. Okay, we understand. You need to shut it down to ensure that you’re not spending more than you make.
But, the good will that has been squandered by just turning if off overnight is the same mistake that company after company has made with supporters, suppliers and vendors for hundreds of years. Has anyone at Beatport gone to business school? Don’t they read Seth Godin’s or Guy Kawaski’s blogs?
It’s part of the ethical code of running a business that you notify your partners well in advance that you are going to make a major change to your business model, which will affect their revenue and their content IMMEDIATELY. You must give your partners time to prepare. Beatport did not, and for that they deserve a letter grade of “F” for failure.
What’s worse is, not only did Beatport shut it down, but in our mind slapped all of its partners in the face by telling them that they’ve been removed from the program for negative reasons, without any explanation whatsoever. That’s real warm and fuzzy for ya! A great way to run a business in this day and age. Kick the people who put you where you are today.
Every time a company goes out and makes poor judgments like this one, they can’t expect to go back to the same people for support in the future. Why would anyone want to help you now? They’re probably laughing right now reading this, but I say to them, look at GM and Ford. Two of the greatest car companies in the world are on the brink of collapse, all because they refused to see the future.
Whether something is working on not, you have to ask yourself, is it in my best interest to shut the program down without any prior notification? Or, should I let everyone know what the deal is before I pull the plug? The way I work, I think letting people know is the fair and right thing to do. The way Beatport is run, it seems like a very few in that organization care about their customers or their partners. And that’s what the dance music industry never learns, which is certainly the subject of a future post: How come the dance music industry can’t get out of it’s own way?
It’s all about Beatport and no one else. That’s a lonely road to travel as your competitors chip away at your lead. Sounds like an election we just had.
— by Tony Z.