DJs need an arsenal of music to wield in their sets. It’s all about variety, selection, and diversity – you might be mixing hundreds of tunes over the course of weeks or months. You need a proper selection or else it’ll get painful and boring for both you and your listeners if you eventually end up playing the same tracks over and over.
And then there’s the fact that many DJs don’t just mix one genre, but several. You also might get called out or invited to play new music, or play parties or events, like weddings or parties, where you’ll need several hours of music.
All things considered, most DJs have thousands of tunes!
So, where do DJs get their music?
Well, to get music, you have to know what you’re looking for. Everyone knows some artists but when you begin to DJ, you realize you need to know more!
YouTube is the obvious one here. It features virtually all music from all genres, even the most obscure from gabba through to terrorcore, g-funk, footwork and bassweight. Name it, YouTube it, find it. Also, YouTube’s excellent suggestions functionality gives you a trail to follow. Check out comments, likes, find new channels and save music you find to your playlists. YouTube is the number one index for music.
SoundCloud is dedicated to musicians and producers. Its interface is designed for audio, nothing else. Artists and labels of all kinds use SoundCloud and the great thing is, you’ll hear many up-to-date mixes from the artists and labels themselves whereas YouTube involves more third-party or amateur mixes. You often find free downloads and it’s also very easy to search by genre.
SoundCloud also contains links that take you to sites that sell the track you’re listening to. This is very useful if you can’t find music on your favourite download site and need to track it down to another source.
3. Social Media
Social media is where you can find your favourite artists and see what sort of pages they’re interacting with, their labels and other helpful purchase and download information. Social media is also great for finding groups for your genre where people openly discuss music and releases. Facebook groups are awesome for song requests and ideas and communities will usually engage with you if you ask for recommendations.
4. Spotify and Streaming
Spotify has an excellent UI for discovering music. You can flick through playlists, suggested artists and let the app shuffle music for you to help you find new music. Playlists exist in genres and moods which can be great for creating interesting multi-genre mixes. Any tunes you come across can be saved to a folder which you can check later to then go and buy the music.
Beatport is an excellent resource of music, particularly electronic music. You can start with your favorite artists/labels and search from there to see what collaborations they’ve been involved in, compilation CDs/releases they’ve been published on etc. It’s handy also being able to add tunes to the cart as you go for simple payment and download.
6.Out and About!
As a DJ, you ought to be getting out! Seeing big artists at clubs, festivals and concerts is a great way of gaining ideas and insight onto mixing. However, how do you know what they’re playing? You can ask people, but that’s unreliable, particularly when everyone is inebriated in a loud environment…But there is an alternative.
Shazam is an app that listens to audio and matches it to music on its database. It’s pretty good and you can often leave it in your pocket when you go out and discover it’s recorded quite a few different tunes from a mix, providing the audio is reasonably loud and clear. Obviously it won’t find all songs in the set because mixing makes it more difficult for Shazam to pick out the tunes but it does a pretty good job and you might be surprised!
Once you’ve noted some ideas and have a list of music, it’s time to buy. Building a music collection is actually pretty daunting. It depends first and foremost on your format, your mixing identity and equipment. If you’re old school then you need vinyls and CDs, if you’re new school then digital downloads for USBs is the way! Of course, many DJs will want both or all formats of music to build a proper collection!
A Note on Illegal Downloads: You might be tempted to use illegal download techniques like YouTube converters, but as a DJ, this is a terrible idea. Buying music ensures you get the best quality. A poor quality illegally ripped MP3 will sound terrible out of a large sound system.
Music doesn’t have to be expensive and it’s really worth the money to get professional tunes that are as loud and clear as possible. Additionally, you’re supporting the artists by buying and it’s a tough industry out there – we must all do our bit. Finally, purchased tunes come with all the correct metadata, like cover, release, genre, duration, even the key in some cases. This makes browsing your collection much easier. ALWAYS BUY YOUR MUSIC!
9. Vinyl and CDs
Vinyl is the classic format of music alongside tape but vinyl is the classic format for DJs. There’s something about vinyl that tickles the senses, the crackle of the needle on the record as you line up a track. Vinyl was an integral component in the formation of DJing as a practice. By using two decks to juggle two tunes, DJs could keep music running continuously for people to dance to all night.
Vinyl is still very popular these days. It’s held in high regard and vinyl mixers are a talented bunch. Vinyl also enables scratching in the ‘proper way’.
Vinyl is pretty expensive and top rare records can fetch hundreds. Also, since it’s hard to hunt them down, you might be limited with where you’ll find records.
CDs were meant to kill vinyl but they didn’t and have probably regressed beyond vinyl for DJs. If you’re using CDJs then you’re likely using digital music on a USB stick.
10. Record Shops/Markets
Record shops are back on the rise again. In the 80s and 90s, the record shop was the prime location for DJs hunting tunes for their sets and though they’re less common now, you can still find excellent record stores in cities and towns. Record shops also typically have CDs ordered into categories per genre, etc.
Many record stores go to markets and meetups, or even represent their stores at music events and gigs. Hunt down a record market in your city and see what they’ve got!
11. Second-hand/Thrift Stores/Charity Shops
Charity shops often have a great selection of records and you might be surprised. Obviously, the chances of finding electronic music are pretty slim but for scratchers or DJs looking for classics, second-hand shops are a great bet. CDs are also a common sight and you might be more likely to find modern music, particularly compilation CDs.
12. Online Shops
There’s a huge variety of online shops that sell CDs and vinyls. eBay is an excellent choice as there are so many dedicated music selling enthusiasts that post internationally. You can often find eBay sellers or shops that specialise in certain genres, e.g. house or drum n’ bass, etc. eBay is easy to browse and the feedback system is awesome, allowing buyers to quickly ascertain the trust level of a seller.
Amazon is another awesome option, especially for brand new releases directly from labels. You can preorder releases too and have them delivered when they’re available. Amazon Prime is ideal for getting those last-minute deliveries in the night before a set!
13. Digital Downloads
Digital is the number one format for DJs, there’s no doubt about it. Digital music is suitable for controllers, CDJs (via USB sticks) and DVS (digital vinyl system). It’s always best to have a database of digitally downloaded tunes as this format is reliable and so long as you have them backed up on a hard drive then it’s permanent. CDs or vinyl won’t last forever – they’re prone to damage and scratches, etc.
We mentioned Beatport for finding music but it’s one of the best platforms for buying it also, and this is its primary purpose. Beatport offers all releases from existing labels that post on the site. You can find most commercial music and a lot of underground stuff too and most is available as MP3 or uncompressed Wavs.
It’s simple and easy to add tunes to your cart and download them to your computer, and you can use Beatport’s software client also to help you organise your music. Beatport can connect to RekordBox and some DVS software to make it even easier to prepare your sets. You can even stream directly to your controller using Link with some Pioneer controllers!
Juno goes a bit deeper with underground music and if you want to find more obscure music, it’s probably your best bet. Juno also does vinyl and CD sales too, as well as merchandise and other bits. For digital downloads, their catalogue includes many smaller and independent labels – their site is more specific to electronic music.
Traxsource is a bit more niche for house music and house DJs should check it out for both major releases and releases on independent labels and self-released music. It’s an awesome resource for the very latest cuts.
Bleep is a download and vinyl/CD site dedicated to independent artists. They have a curated selection of awesome artists and rate an excellent choice for DJs looking for eclectic and niche music styles.
18. Amazon Music
Amazon music is great for large releases from well-known artists. It’s a great resource for older tunes though, so if you’re looking for 70s and 80s classics for weddings and anniversaries, etc, it’ll rate as a better choice than Beatport, Juno and other trendy or modern download sites.
Last.fm has developed hugely and their gorgeous site rates as an awesome choice for DJs looking to find and buy music. It has a massive selection of music from all around the world including cutting new releases and classic tunes from the past and present. Its site features an awesome categorisation system that allows you to quickly browse related artists, it’s an often-overlooked resource for DJs but it really does rate as one of the best sites around for buying and selling music.
iTunes has been around for a while now and many who have been downloading music for years will already use it a lot. iTunes still rates as a top resource for all music releases and it’s highly unlikely any artist would release music without publishing it to the site. iTunes synchronises with lots of DJ software including RekordBox and Serato which makes it a highly convenient tool for connecting your libraries directly to your setup.
DJs are nothing without their music! Famous for huge libraries crossing genres and eras, DJs need the service of thousands of tunes throughout their careers. Having a big library is always an asset. It gives you freedom of expression, choice, diversity and variety. This matters for both you and your audience.
Music is memorable and if you think you can get away with playing the same stuff each time you play, think again! Also, you might be playing out, at parties, streaming live to social media and releasing mixes to SoundCloud and/or Mixcloud. This means you simply need to mix it up to avoid repeating yourself each time you play.
There are tons of options for finding and buying music so there’s no excuse! Beat hunting or crate digging will broaden your music horizons and help you find your signature sound. Once you’ve found music, always make a note as there’s nothing more frustrating than forgetting and being unable to find a track again.
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