Masterbeat, are you kidding me?

March 7, 2011 at 6:10 pm 6 comments

Broadly speaking, I applaud any effort to compete with the Apple juggernaut known as iTunes. In fact, only this morning, I tweeted a link to this article in The Guardian (UK), Forget Google—it’s Apple that is turning into the evil empire. I resent Apple’s consumer lock-in in myriad ways, despite being (as the screen shot below will show) a satisfied user of Apple products. (Full disclosure, I also have an HTC phone that uses Android; and the user experience is about 10x better on the iPhone, all other issues—and there are many—aside.)

When the online digital music store Masterbeat launched a few years ago, ostensibly as an alternative to Beatport (whose owners seem to think Apple’s corporate behavior is something to be emulated), I was ecstatic. With a user experience much like that of Beatport, I was rather enamored of the “renegade alternative” that Masterbeat represented.

Unfortunately, Masterbeat launched as—and still is—a Flash-only web site. No Flash? Masterbeat basically says, “F___ you. Store’s closed, loser.”

I was never much of a fan of Flash-only web sites, long before Apple in their “wisdom” barred Flash content from their iOS devices. Flash has a place, but to build Flash content (or whole sites) with no rollback whatever is just plain stupid, and it’s getting stupider by the day. And say what you want about Apple’s Flash decisions vis-à-vis iOS—right, wrong or otherwise—the simple fact is that iOS represents millions upon millions of users, and you can lock each and every one of them out at your own peril.

Beatport is Flash-based too, but they do have a rollback (at least for mobile users) that presents a usable interface for iOS (and other) users. Masterbeat, on the other hand, displays this:


The problem is, what started all of this on this particular morning is that a fan asked me where to get a copy of my remix for You I Need‘s song, Waiting. The track is exclusive to Masterbeat at this time. Here’s how things unfolded in attempting to tell this fan where to buy the track:

  • I went to Masterbeat, which will not load on the PC I’m writing from. It hangs on “Loading UI” and won’t go past it. It’s been that way for months, and I have no idea why it doesn’t work. Fail #1. (And yes, I’ve checked the Flash is current on this machine, etc.)
  • I used my iOS device to browse to Masterbeat. That resulted in the screen above. Fail #2.
  • I went to another PC in my office, and successfully got to Masterbeat. I found my remix. But can you just copy the URL from the address bar of the web browser? Of course not, because the site is Flash-only, the URL only gets you to the home page. Fail #3.
  • At the bottom of each Masterbeat page is a rather industry-standard widget to post to social media and whatever else. I don’t want to post the track, I want to link to the track. Is there a way to do that? No. Fail #4.
  • I then decided to try and use the share-by-e-mail function and just e-mail myself a freakin’ link to the remix. I entered all the information, and got instead some sort of error message that their system can’t e-mail the link. I tried it twice, and it failed both times, so what the heck? Fail #5 and #6.

In the end I gave-up. I had an artist link from an earlier attempt at this, and I just gave the fan that link, and told them how to find my track.

In any case, it shouldn’t take me half an hour to figure out how to link to a specific release on any digital music store, only to have it fail, and fail, and fail, and fail. It would have made more financial sense for me to just send the guy a free copy of the track instead of burning-up about $50 worth of my time trying to sell him one for a buck and half, and if the rights in the track were solely mine, I would have.

I’m no Apple fanboy, but no wonder iTunes has, and continues to win this battle. Every. Single. Day.


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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. DJ Sparque  |  March 7, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    I’ve been able to copy/paste/share links from the web browser that will link directly to specific tracks for MasterBeat, unless this is a new development, sharing links from the address bar should still work, regardless of the Flash interface. I agree though, the fact that MasterBeat still hasn’t rolled out a mobile-friendly version (specifically, iPhone friendly) is a big mistake.

    • 2. Wes  |  March 7, 2011 at 9:08 pm

      Could you describe what it is you’re doing, exactly, to accomplish that?

      As far as the address bar goes, all I ever see is: — which obviously links to the home page.

  • 3. Andy  |  July 19, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    “In any case, it shouldn’t take me half an hour to figure out how to link to a specific release on any digital music store, only to have it fail, and fail, and fail, and fail.”


    In fact, given the relative power of today’s computing environment, I should be able to casually think of a song …

    (while you play / I am listening to a set, DJ Wesley)

    … and be able to purchase and transfer a copy of said song to your “presence.”

    I’m not talking / thinking / wondering about LINKING it to you.

    I should be able to buy a copy, for you, and transfer it, to you. If you already own it, I should be refunded my money. If you don’t “own” it, I’ve bought it for you, and now you have it.

    And I can request you play that song, and complain if you don’t.

    Regardless of where “I” am and where “you” are.

    And be able to accomplish that in under 5 minutes.

    It’s hard living in a world where what “should be” doesn’t match what “is.”

    And what’s really surreal, is as I read what I’ve typed … it’s not Star Trek. It’s not like I’m just picking something out of my pocket, giving a few gestures, locating a document, and purchasing it on your behalf, and sending it to you.

    Naw. That’s Science Fiction. Like being able to hold a tiny device in your hand and talk to anyone globally.

    Never mind.

    — Andy

    • 4. Wes  |  July 19, 2011 at 10:08 pm

      Andy, I can’t disagree with that.

      The current system is basically a disaster. I believe that artists should have the ability to monetize their music and be rewarded for the effort they put forth to create it. It’s not what you were talking about, of course, but the prevailing attitude of “music should be free” is not sustainable or extensible. But it’s sort of in the same breath as what you described, or at least with “doing reasonable things with the music” after it’s been legitimately purchased.

      I’m going to blog about it in the next day or so, but Spotify is about the closest thing to the sort of magic you described, but even it is not a full solution, and of course, to do anything remotely resembling what you outlined, we’d have to both be paid subscribers.

      We live in interesting times, and it’ll be fascinating to see how this plays out in the next 10 years or so. At the current rate, however, there’ll be no reward for making music, and few will bother because of it, IMHO.

  • 5. Andy  |  July 20, 2011 at 2:13 am

    I had a very verbose and detailed reply here, Wesley, but unfortunately the intarwebz ate it.

    So quick like:

    (1) The current system’s not a disaster, it’s an ongoing-collapse. I don’t blame you one bit for having an “IMHO” that there’s no reward, never will be, it’ll never get better. I’ve never been in a building, while it collapsed, and thought happy thoughts.

    (2) I’m looking forward to your Spotify post. I hear good things and the Euro’s seem to love it. I’m looking forward to test-driving it too. I think the iCloud is gonna’ change things a bit too. We’ll see.


    — Andy

  • 6. So long Masterbeat; now what? « Finding the Rhythm  |  September 15, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    […] Larik, a reader of this blog, e-mailed me yesterday regarding my thoughts on the closure of the online music store Masterbeat, not too long after I’d written to express my frustration at its Flash-only implementation. […]


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