By far one of the most important parts of been a DJ is the music. As a DJ you will constantly be looking to get fresh tracks to incorporate into your DJ sets. One of the big questions though is where do DJs get their music from. Acquiring your music is a two-stage process, you need to know what music you want and then be able to actually get that music. In this guide, you’ll discover some of the resources at your disposal plus the best places to get your music.
Discovering New Music
Uncovering that new killer track that you can’t wait to drop into your DJ sets is one of the most exciting parts of the DJ lifestyle. Learning the intricacies of a track is a rewarding experience. There are a lot of ways you can expand your musical horizons to find those brand new tracks.
Discovering and using new music is at the heart of the DJ lifestyle.
Soundcloud has a reputation as a hotbed of both established talent and also up and coming talent. Following your favourite artists on Soundcloud is a great way to keep up to date with their new releases. This way you’ll always be at the forefront of music from the genre you enjoy most. Sometimes established artists will also offer remixes or original tracks for free download to use in your own DJ sets.
There are a lot of independent artists on Soundcloud as well. They’re looking to establish themselves so it’s also a great way to discover hidden gems. Occasionally you’ll be able to pick up some free music from artists hoping to get more exposure.
One drawback of Soundcloud is the limited search functionality. You can only search by genre when on the discovery path so those hidden gems can be a little difficult to find.
Youtube has grown from funny animal videos to a literal monster platform for video content and the music industry has taken notice. Every major artist has some form of presence on Youtube making it a great way to discover new music.
By following your favourite artists or record labels you can search through an extensive back catalogue of releases. You’ll also be able to keep up to date with new releases. Additionally, the suggested videos can often lead you to discover similar music from other artists.
There is also a plethora of mixes with tracklists available from not only the big name DJs but also from hobby DJs. Several of the major festivals like Tomorrowland and Ultra Music Festival will also upload their shows to Youtube. This allows you to see what tracks the hottest DJs are currently playing.
Of course be prepared to have to sit through ads unless you subscribe to Youtube Red or run Ad Blocker software.
Spotify & Other Music Streaming Services
Spotify and other similar services is also a great way to discover new music. The streaming era continues to grow by leaps and bounds each year replacing the need to physically own the music you enjoy.
Streaming services like Spotify are a great resource for DJs.
Many artists and record labels will have playlists that they update with the freshest music. Follow these playlists to keep up to date. The amount of user-generated lists can also be a goldmine for new music to add to your DJ sets as well.
There is a free version of the service and a paid version. Be sure to try it out first and compare benefits to subscribing to see if it will be worth it for you.
Streaming continues to take over media consumption. Many DJ software and hardware manufacturers are looking at ways to integrate these services. The dream of having access to thousands upon thousands of songs on demand for your DJ sets is not quite a reality. As technology improves this trend is picking up steam.
Many of your favourite DJs may have a regular show highlighting the tracks they’re currently enjoying. These podcasts are syndicated on a variety of platforms like iTunes. It also offers an insight into what tracks they’re using in their DJ sets. Following these shows is a great way to discover new music that suits your taste. They can often be showcasing tracks that may not see a release for months. You may need to keep some notes for future releases you want to pick up.
Of course, curating this list to your own personal style is one of the greatest advantages. It’s likely that the music your favourite DJs are playing will be music you’ll want to get for your own DJ sets. It’s also a great way to try out new DJs. Check out their last couple of podcasts and see if you enjoy their taste in music. You may find yourself discovering new genres and amazing tracks in the process.
Starting out with DJs and labels you already know is a good way to begin your music discovery process. However, there will be times where you’ll want to expand your horizons. This is where digital radio like the ever popular DI.FM can be a good addition to your arsenal of choices.
With the huge range of options available you can select genres you enjoy and let the music play. Then throughout the day take note of any tracks that catch your ear. This can be a good way to discover more obscure tracks. It can also expose you to classics that you may want to add to your collection.
While not the best resource from this list social media can still play a role in keeping you up to date with the latest trends. Social media is a crucial component of record labels promoting new music. Follow artists and labels you like on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date with new releases.
Acquiring New Music
Now that you know where to discover music it’s actually time to get that music. Once again there are quite a few choices available to you. Some of these services can also be useful in discovering new music as well. They will let you see what is currently trending as well as give you recommendations based on your purchases. Luckily if you’re on a tight budget there are also some ways to get free music. This can help build your music collection without having to spend any money. Let’s dive into some of your choices for getting the music you want for your DJ sets.
Most people opt to download digital versions of their favourite tracks.
First up are the various places you can actually buy music. We do live in the digital age so most of these will be for digital downloads. There are a few choices listed for CD and Vinyl fans as well.
Record pools are a popular way for professional DJ’s to get new music. For a beginner DJ, this may not be the best place to start. It’s a subscription service that is updated with new music for you to download. The pricing and quality can vary. There are a lot of choices out there so be sure to do your research before committing. While it will work out cheaper these record pools are usually reserved for working DJ’s. It can also be an expensive option for a beginner.
Unless you have been living under a rock you’ll be aware of both iTunes and Amazon. Offering a huge range of music both old and new. You can also get high-quality files to use in your DJ sets. Be aware that sometimes you may find it difficult to find extended versions of tracks that you want to buy. These extended versions are designed for DJ’s with longer intros and outros to give you time to mix in the next track.
One of the biggest and most popular sources for electronic dance music is Beatport. They have a deep back catalogue and have a large selection of new releases from all the major labels. Beatport allows you to download higher quality file formats if you want uncompressed files. The top charts highlight what is currently trending in a variety of genres. Beatport also offers suggestions on similar tracks. If you’re into electronic music Beatport should be one of your top choices when looking to get music.
Speaking of electronic music, if you can’t find it on Beatport it’s probably available on Juno Download. Offering a similar service to Beatport it also has a huge selection and uncompressed file formats. Between Beatport and Juno Download you should be able to find any track you’re after when it comes to electronic music.
If your taste skews a little more underground and you have an affinity for house music Traxsource is a good resource. They offer a large selection of the freshest cuts. Beside been regularly updated they often have exclusive tracks that you can’t get anywhere else.
Boomkat offers a wide selection of underground music and even allows purchasing of vinyl, CD’s and cassettes (yes they are still a thing!). They also offer an impressive selection of music from more unknown and emerging genres that you may not find elsewhere.
Sticking to the underground theme Bleep is another good choice for aficionados of more eclectic styles of music. They have an expansive and well-curated list of genres. They also offer vinyl’s so for scratch DJs it’s a valuable resource for fresh tracks.
Local Stores/Thrift Shops/Local Classifieds
Depending on your location you may be lucky enough to still have a dedicated record shop nearby. This can be a great source for vinyl without having to pay shipping fees. You can also build a close relationship with the people working there. They can introduce you to music and artists you may not know about. Plus it’s great to support local record shops. Luckily there is a little bit of a boom in the vinyl store space so hopefully more of these awesome stores open up.
Record stores are still around and offer a personalised experience for vinyl DJs.
You’ll also be surprised at what you can find at local thrift stores. Vinyl and CD’s have fallen out of favour for many and these shops can be a goldmine for cheap pickups that people have given away. You may also find songs that have never been released digitally. Plus it can be great for acquiring cheap vinyl’s to practise your skills with.
Also, keep an eye out on your local classifieds whether online or in your local newspaper. Sometimes people are looking to offload their collections of vinyl or CDs. You may come across some great deals and discover some classics you can incorporate into your sets.
You’ll actually be surprised at the number of ways you can build up your music library without having to spend any money. Independent and undiscovered artists will often offer their music for free. Sometimes even established artists and labels will give out some freebies. It’s good to keep these resources up your sleeve especially if you’re on a tight budget.
As mentioned earlier Soundcloud can be a good place to get free music and remixes. Sometimes you’ll need to like the Facebook page of that artist to gain access but other than that there usually are no strings attached. There are a lot of talented unsigned artists out there as well so I encourage you to dig around Soundcloud to find free music to add to your collection.
Likewise, social media can be a good source for the occasional freebie. Some high profile artists will commemorate milestones by offering a free track for a limited time. If there are artists and labels you like it’s worth following them so you can grab these free tracks when they become available.
Independent Artist Hubs
There are a few well known independent artist hubs. They have established a reputation as the go-to place for releases from unsigned creators.
Bandcamp is the most well known and does offer some free tracks or even tracks that you determine how much you’ll pay for. It may also involve signing up to the newsletter of the artist. In a similar way, Noisetrade allows you to use your email address and postcode as currency to get free tracks. Jamendo doesn’t have any strings attached but the range available is smaller than some of the others but it’s still worth checking out.
Remember independent artists are striving for exposure and a lot of good quality music can be found on these sites. Having those unknown tracks can also set you apart from other DJs giving your sets a unique sound.
Demodrop operates like a community for producers and DJs. They encourage feedback to artists and provide free music in exchange for support for producers. Additionally, if you do get into creating your own music it can be a great place to get your music out there and also get feedback on your productions.
Free Music Archive
With over 100,000 free tracks available and growing the Free Music Archive can be a great way to get some free music for your DJ sets. A large range of genres are available to choose from but be sure to double check the licenses on tracks so you know what you can use them for.
Quality is Everything
Before we wrap things up it’s worth mentioning quality and how it should be applied to your music collection.
When it comes to file types make sure that the music you get is at least 320kps MP3. Do be aware that these files are still compressed compared to WAV and other Lossless formats. For most DJs, 320kps will be enough to make sure the integrity of the music is maintained. If you want more information on ways to keep your music library organized you can check out this guide.
Of course, all the options I’ve covered today are places to legally get music. There are ways you can get music illegally but it’s not something I recommend. You run the risk of lower quality files or files that have been encoded several times. You’re also not supporting the artists that create the music you love. If you want your favourite artists to continue to produce amazing music make the effort to get their music legally.
The other thing to mention about quality is what it means when it comes to your collection. Be picky when it comes to selecting the tracks that will make it into your collection. When you’re on the decks you don’t want to be going through thousands upon thousands of mediocre tracks. This becomes more of a problem if you have a small window of time to find your next track. Curating your collection to be a selection of premium tracks you know and love will make your time on the decks more enjoyable. It also eliminates stress when selecting your next track.
Curating a lean collection will make it easier to find tracks when you are putting together a mix.
Discovering music is an integral part of the DJ lifestyle and for some is as enjoyable as the technical elements of mixing. Dropping a fresh track into your set and seeing a crowd respond to that track is priceless. Plus nothing is more motivating for a DJ than having fresh tunes to play with. So now that you know how to discover new music and where to get it from it’s time to go out there and start building your DJ music collection. You’ll soon have an arsenal of quality music up your sleeves.