With the abundance of streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Prime Music and others, we are seeing one key problem, there's just too much music. Each service boasts the "biggest catalogue in the world" of music, which is great, but what if I want to discover different music? Some services offer curated playlists, but the options are limited, it takes too much time to find a good one and often times the playlist gets played out and you have to find another.
Enter Digitally Imported.
Colorado based company, Digitally Imported is the highest ranking and most listened to streaming radio network for electronic music fans around the globe. That's right, this is a music and radio streaming service purely for electronic music. It offers the all encompassing umbrella of electronic music from extremely detailed and curated channels ranging anywhere from Detroit Techno, to Big Room House or as detailed as three separate channels for different styles of Trance.
Digitally Imported is the one stop shop for those that either just want to casually listen to music, discover new music, and as soon as the technology is finalized, buy and download. The 90+ specially curated channels are accessible in every platform, as an online listening experience, mobile applications, and third party vendor and device support. We had the opportunity to speak to the company's COO, who also happens to be a Beatport co-founder, Eloy Lopez.
What is Digitally Imported?
- Digitally Imported is a streaming network that focuses on all styles of electronic music. We don't consider ourselves a dance music brand, but rather we encompass all electronic music; whether it be Ambient, Chillout, Lounge and other abstract genres or the more mainstream ones. The company has been around for 15 years, it started in 1999 when Ari Shohat our CEO started streaming music online straight out of college and it became quite popular. People started chiming in and asking for specific styles of music and genres, and that's how he grew other channels into an entire network. Digitally Imported has over 90 different channels of music with a whole mix of different experiences that we curate including single release content from artists, mix shows from our hand selected curators or other big name artists, and air time with specific radio shows that our users can tune into regularly and know exactly what they are getting.
How does DI get content?
- There is a submission section where people write all the time for an idea for a show or channel concept. We read and listen to all of those and hear about the emerging trends in music. Like dubstep starting in a way that has evolved into trap, or more drum and bass influenced dubstep, or even reggae influenced. That's how we end up with 4 channels for the genre, so that our listeners can find exactly what they want. A majority of our curators are volunteers, although we do employ some part time, but a large set of them just do it because they are passionate about a certain style of music and want to share that style with the world.
How did you get into the music industry?
- I started out as a high school kid who went to raves and saw DJs do what they did and of course wanted to get up there and do that. That dream lasted about 3-4 years, until I started thinking more about the industry as a business. I worked at record shops selling vinyl and the technology started coming around to play vinyl on computers through Final Scratch. I thought, why not sell songs online instead everyone having to digitize their own vinyl? And so Beatport came around with some DJ buddies. It took about 14 months or so to deploy, and launched in 2004 and that's what I did for the next 8 years. In 2010 I wanted to go back to university so I departed from Beatport and came across Ari the founder of DI, learning about him and his business I realized that he was looking for a partner to help him grow. I've been with Digitally Imported since 2011 now and that's exactly what we are doing.
What has been the biggest challenge for you in changing from Beatport to Digitally Imported?
- At Beatport there were aspiring DJs and professionals really connected to the brand, and although I am in the same space, I am now selling to the fans instead of the professionals. So that mindset change is what it took. It's about subscription and retention and getting people to listen to the streams as well as delivering the best content for users. It's no longer about unit sales and instead its selling to the consumers.
Where do you see the electronic music industry going?
- For Digitally Imported the business side of things is starting to align a bit better. There's always the struggle of making a sustainable business through advertising revenue or subscriptions in the premium market. That's no longer the main marketing idea. I think more and more of what people are realizing is that it's more about the selection of content that you are delivering or listening to. It's a curated environment. Services just saying that you have access to 25 million tracks just isn't that appealing anymore. Curation is what drives the stickiness. A lot of licensing and rates are starting to come into focus now and people are starting to pay attention to how you make the models work and where the opportunity is with the value for the consumer. It's all starting to happen, and that is the most exciting part. The majority of people just want to enjoy music whenever they want to without any hassle. The key factors are great content, and great user experiences as well as accessibility. Can you be on your phone, on your TV, or on the web, and that's really where you start to become a lifestyle brand.
- For the music side of industry there is also quite a big transition in the last few years. The popularity of the music in the U.S. as the music becomes familiar is immense. It's just how hip hop was emerging and transitioning when I was growing up and now how it is today. Electronic music as kind of the same path, and there is a lot of cross genre and dance music influence in pop music now. Any popular song today has dance music influence and that makes things a little more mainstream, but all of the foundations of electronic music are there. For that reason it's going to stick around forever. It will continue to evolve and start to create other movements, like the underground movement is starting to come back into play and what was more underground will shift into what is more mainstage or pop. It's like the resurgence of vinyl, that's sort of how the cycles work.
How is Digitally Imported different than it's competitors?
- We don't really have any direct competitors in the sense that there is no one out there really doing what we are. There are either streaming services or retail businesses, we are kind of doing both and everything all at once. At DI we facilitate a much bigger audience; we are going after the people going to the festivals, going to the clubs, the people that hear tracks a few times before they just have to know the name and download it. We also have to support the multiple ways people consume music, some people like to buy it but also they like to just stream and just listen to music. We don't have three different sites, we have it all in one user experience that as easy as possible. We focus a lot of energy on content, all the content in our system is curated. We will only have the catalogue that is curated to focus on the top 10-15% of all the electronic music content available in the world. That's what creates the retention of the service. You go there and now you will be delivered the best experience. That creates brand loyalty. We give scheduled air times to certain shows and exclusive content, and people can start following those brands.
What career advice would you have for someone starting off in the industry?
- Really the main point is that you have to have knowledge of the industry and be passionate. There are elements that we need on an operational level like marketing and such that make companies work. If you are passionate about what you do, that is everything. When it comes to utilizing people that run our channels, it's a completely different skill set. For that we ask why they are so passionate about the music, why they understand it and why they can make the experience better for others. It all stems from do you know what you want to do and are you passionate.
What's the most interesting trend you see in electronic music?
- The emergence of curators. The idea that people have this nature to love something and more and more with technology it is becoming easier to share that love with the world. People create channels on Soundcloud or YouTube for that reason. Through this demand for "hey, I have something I want to share." What we do on the brand level is paving the way for the transition to the individual level. If the tools are there, anybody can really become the curator on a large level and fully realize the direction of their brand. There is a want and a need to share. I think for us that's more forward thinking but we can certainly see the trend happening and the emergence of people wanting to push their own content.
If you weren't in the music biz what would you be doing?
- I would be an architect. I would be designing buildings. I started out in the engineering world and I've always been into computer aided design and drafting. It's really what I wanted to do before I discovered electronic music. I went to one rave and it destroyed me for the rest of my life. My brother brought me to a rave in some farm field in Colorado and the rest is history. I still love the creative aspect of building things, which can translate to electronic music directly.
If you love electronic music, which I know you do reading this magazine, definitely take the time to check out Digitally Imported here: Digitallyimported.com
It may completely change the way you listen to, discover and download music.