How many tracks does a DJ need to start playing sets? 50? 100? 500? The cost of buying music to start building up a DJ library starts to stack up very quickly, especially for beginners without regular gigs. In part two of a series dedicated towards budget-conscious DJs, contributor Steven Maude rounds up the options for legally acquiring music to start DJing.
Getting DJ Music Without Spending A Fortune
If you read the previous part of this guide, you’re ready to start mixing on your low-cost DJ software. Eagerly, you’ve installed it all and are about to press play, and… all you can do is enjoy the silence: you’ve no tracks to mix. Let’s look at the ways of getting music into DJ software, whether physical media, buying digital downloads or even streaming, to see how it’s possible to save cash while building a music collection.
CDs are a little under-appreciated these days. The small, shiny disks have certainly lost their luster, lusted after less than vinyl, which is undergoing a resurgence, while the convenience and near-instant delivery of digital downloads has bumped CDs from their position as the music distribution format at the start of this century.
All that said, Amazon do sometimes offer you the best of both words with their Autorip service. When buying CDs from them, you get MP3 free with copies of certain CDs. The trick here is that in many cases, the CDs are also priced lower than the digital download. The downside is that the selection is relatively patchy, no underground dance music here, but if you need current pop selections, it might be an option.
As we discuss below, note that you can often save by comparing prices across digital stores, likewise you may find a cheaper download deal elsewhere that beats Amazon’s CD price.
For older releases, CDs can be particularly cheap, and you can often purchase these offline, if you have local thrift stores and don’t mind spending time digging around, or online via the likes of Amazon or eBay at little above the cost of shipping, with searching for titles made simple. Continuing online, Discogs is a great source for underground classics, but since collectors congregate there, sellers there are likely more savvy about pricing. A downside to buying CDs is that you have the chore of ripping them, but for small numbers, you could do that in parallel with working on something else on your computer.
We’ve already mentioned on DJ TechTools that it pays to shop around with digital.
As was helpfully observed by DJTT commenters, there may be price comparison sites or comparison apps that can help depending on where you’re based. For the UK, DJTT reader Ian Williams suggested MP3puzzled where you can compare the mainstream store pricing (Amazon, iTunes, Google). The only downside is this doesn’t cover the specialist electronic music stores. We haven’t found any US comparison sites – let us know in the comments if you know of any!
Some stores will make you pay more for lossless formats. Having a lossless format that you can convert to other formats without degradation is nice, but MP3 has been around for over two decades, is supported everywhere, and isn’t disappearing anytime soon. If you’re spending something like 20-30% more per release, that’s another way you can get more music for the same money.
Music Subscription Plans / Record Pools
An alternative is paying a monthly fee for access to music, which may offer better value in terms of access to a larger selection and at least helps keep your spending fixed each month.
Algoriddim’s djay software allows Spotify integration if you have a Spotify Premium account. And, if you’re a student, Spotify offers a considerable discount. However, there’s no offline mode, so you wouldn’t want to entirely rely on this being available if you were DJing out somewhere.
VirtualDJ offers an integrated DJ pool subscription plan, ContentUnlimited, for providing access to tracks at $9.99 per month. According to their description, this does allow you to cache tracks offline.
Serato DJ and Rekordbox DJ both offer Pulselocker integration – which is a unique online locker solution for DJs. Read how it integrates with DJ software in this review of it in Rekordbox DJ.
The software independent option is to use a record pool; if you’re a working DJ, they’re another option to dive into. DJTT has done a number of articles on record pools, check the most recent round up review here.
Free Promo Music From Labels, Individual Artists
Barriers to music production and distribution have fallen to the point where there is likely more music being made by unsigned producers than ever before, particularly in dance genres. Tomorrow’s big names often begin as today’s bedroom producers. Releasing tracks, or even entire albums, as free downloads is one way of establishing a name. It certainly worked for PC Music who put just about everything they released for free, built up a dedicated following and got a Columbia record deal.
With there being so music released on the web, searching around SoundCloud, YouTube and Bandcamp is a modern take on crate digging. And I’d say it’s as rewarding, especially if you stumble across something by some unknown, talented producer. It’s where a lot of my listening is done these days, and it’s easy to build up a big selection of music that’s likely unique to you.
At the same time, big names give away tracks too. Maybe because of sample clearance problems, perhaps because they’re promoting a release or tour, or just because they want to get music they’ve stashed away out there for listeners to enjoy.
Plenty of music regularly gets shared for free by established producers, DJs, or labels giving away underground hits for you to find. Here, it’s a question of tracking down those posts, watching out for upcoming artists and labels that are building a name for themselves by sharing, and generally keeping eyes and ears open for blogs, communities, or SoundCloud profiles that regularly highlight new producers or post up free music.
Over to you in the comments: have a place where you get great tracks for free or cheap? A label that you love that gives out promos? Share your best finds and let everyone enjoy.