You’ve got all the gear you need to tear up the club, and you’ve mastered every transition tutorial you’ve found online- but here’s a dirty little secret: No matter how fresh your gear is, it’s useless if you don’t have great music to play. In today’s toolbox, Meatman takes some time to share his process of crate digging in the digital DJ realm of the internet. We’ve written about this previously, so enjoy this update for 2012!
Now before we start dropping dope sets, it’s important to have a game plan. Just like a hunter stalks its prey, a DJ needs to understand and stalk the intricate web of old and current music scenes to find the music that best suits his/her needs. Thanks to the internet, there are several tools for that:
Discogs is arguably the most important tool for any musician or music lover seeking to explore new music. It’s a comprehensive library of practically any song, album or label you can think of all built by its vibrant, music-loving community.For DJs it’s particularly useful for understanding the relationship that labels, artists and releases have with each other.
Here’s a scenario that shows the typical Discogs experience:
I was listening to a dubstep mix on BBC Radio One several years back. About 20 minutes in I heard a track I really liked. I looked the mix up, found a track listing, and after cross-referencing some tracks on YouTube, I finally found this magical track. It was called “The Goat Stare” by a producer named Loefah. I immediately went to Discogs and searched for it – it turns out that track was on the the sixth release from a UK-based label called DMZ (or DMZ 006). I also found out that Loefah released this track with another track, called “Root“, giving me perspective about the release in context.
I also checked out Loefah’s artist page, which chronologically organizes every single one of his releases across a span of labels. Even further, Discogs has a feature that allows users to create lists of their favorite artists and releases. I happened to find this gem from DMZ 006’s page too, leading me to almost 100 more tracks to check out.
Just from that one single track, I was able to find not only the track that it was released with, but the label, related artists, and relevant releases. This gave me access to more than 100 quality tracks that made me excited to play out. The best DJs don’t play arbitrary tracks at the same BPM, there’s a meaning and a flow to their sets and with a tool like Discogs, you can understand what tracks can flow together and why.
A plan like this will help you give your mixes a deeper, smarter edge and is well worth the extra effort if done right.
TL;DR: You’re a music detective. Discogs is full of incredible clues. If you don’t use it when scouring for music, you’re actually missing out.
Last.fm, the unofficial encyclopedia of music: it’s a great tool for exploring new music and even stumbling upon new genres that you may have never heard of. Type in practically any artist, for any genre of music, and you’ll be rewarded with a wiki-style entry for the artist or band. Some have more info than others and it’s common courtesy to add or modify information about artists that you know about.
Probably the coolest part about Last.FM is their free on-demand radio station. Similar to Pandora, Last.fm radio allows you to search an artist, genre, or keyword, and generate a practically endless spring of music based on your keywords.
I really suggest you try it. Actually, go right now. Type in an artist or genre, and come back here. You can keep pressing next for other related tracks, or if you’d like, you can sign up for a Last.fm account and flag the tracks you dig so you can check them out later.
Mixcloud provides you with fantastic framework for following your favorite DJ’s and producer’s mixes. You can explore mixes from practically any major DJ on the planet giving you inspiration in not only song selection, but also mix technique. Plus, looking through sets can give you a really good starting point for finding new music. Mixcloud’s users are required to include a detailed set list along with their uploaded mixes, so you wont have to worry about going on a hunt for a track you like.
Blogs are another great way to find new music – but often times the process of finding blogs and keeping track of their new content and music posts can be exhausting, even with an RSS reader.
Music blog aggregators solve this problem by collecting content from tens of thousands of blogs and allowing users to vote on new tracks that they love, and Hype Machine has been the king of this process for about four years now. Be sure to check out the “top” lists once every few days, especially if you’re looking for great new remixes of more popular songs.
Lastly, I’ve found Wikipedia to be very helpful in my hunt for new music. Wikipedia is excellent for several reasons, and while Wikipedia’s music community isn’t as vibrant as Discogs’s, music-realted articles can be useful for understanding the historical background of genres. Understanding where the music came from, how it has evolved, and what artists were involved in building the genre is an instrumental part of finding good music.
For instance, a quick search for Drum & Bass finds us at a large article discussing the history, evolution, and current state of the Drum & Bass scene. You learn about the distinguishing features of sub-genres like jungle, jump-up and liquid, and the contributions that producers like DJ Hype and Roni Size have had on the genre. Understanding these details is really, really important to keep in mind as a DJ and can help keep your set consistent and well thought out.
Again, Wikipedia is not necessarily good for finding information on individual tracks, but more for understanding the complex evolution of music scenes, giving you a greater perspective of what exactly you’re playing and what you’re trying to find next.
Naturally, there’s an endless list of ways to find music online – some of the places we’ve covered in the past include Beatport (not to be missed: their DJ charts), Soundcloud (as mentioned in the comments below, the amount of groups around specific genres is incredible), Spotify, YouTube, Pandora, and digital record pools.
Here’s some links to articles about music discovery we’ve written in the past:
Digital Record Pool Roundup
2011 Guide To Music Discovery
Whichever tool you use, the DJ’s individual music discovery process is the most defining characteristics of being a DJ. It can be strenuous putting in all of the track digging work needed to make good, regular DJ sets – but think of it as the homework that pays off when exam time comes around. Using the above resources, it’s crucial to take some time regularly to freshen up your library and find new artists, genres, and tracks that make you excited about playing music.
What secret tools do you use when looking for what to work into your DJ sets next? Let us know below.
[…] Read more tips on finding great new music in this article from February 2012. […]
Some pretty good tips on here. Hype Machine is great, and I really like using MixCloud as a resource because they make it incredibly easy to identify individual tracks in a set.
A few other tips:
– Search randomly, using suggestive terms, like “groovy”, “moody”, “dark”. it’s interesting to see what can pop up when typing stuff like this in to Beatport or iTunes as a search.
– Pretty hefty list of ideas here: http://www.passionatedj.com/25-ways-to-find-good-music-online/
– Someone in one of the comments below mentioned Soundcloud, and while I don’t particularly care for their new interface, their “continuous stream” feature is super nice. You can let it play tunes for you while you’re working or doing other things at your desk, and when something pleasantly surprises you, you can often download or buy it on the spot. I’ve found lots of good stuff that way.
no mention of TRAXSOURCE? or did i miss it?? As you stated, there are a kabillion ways to get the music…my ears and eyes are always open
Another site is http://www.internetdj.com Since 1997, InternetDJ has hosted, promoted and surfaced some of the best underground electronic, rock and hip-hop music. Several InternetDJ artists have gone on to sign with labels and release hit tracks.
Shoutcast Radiostations —-> Pen and Paper —> Discogs —> Youtube (for re-listening) —-> shop/downloadsite.
Insanely helpful tip. Peep Junodownload.com. set the view to 500+ tracks on the right hand side. Install winamp (winamp.com/mac for non pc users) and under the “play all” tab on Juno, select “open .m3u”
You now have 500 previews of tunes to quickly and easily pan for gold with.
Now use the typical juno searches. Find an artist you like and never heard of? Find him in the list on the juno site and click the label he’s on to see all releases from said label. Repeat the above steps to load all those into winamp.
Perfect for people who wanna scour thru a ton of music very quickly without having to deal with music shop web players (which are typically bad including juno)
no mean of DJ without music.Music is work as blood in DJ system. By the help
of DJ tech tools we can find the music in online way. It works on the
internet and can find new and old music. In these days most people are use
this technology so I do welcome with open arms of this article.
http://www.gigacrate.com allows free downloads as long as you comment and rate music. That also means a very accurate library description if you’re looking for music based on a few keywords
google trackitdown! 😀
We crawl Soundcloud for the best tracks so you don’t have to. We started off as music to code to, but DJs are now starting to use us for music/artist discovery. Just pick a genre and go. Then connect with your FB account if you want and save favorites. We are on iPhone so you can take us with you wherever you go. Oh, and lastly we are F R E E.<3 DJTTCheers~!
I highly recommand http://www.whosampled.com to find the original track that later artist sampled from, especially usefull for Soul funk hiphop rap genre. This way you’ll get a feel of what the producer look for inspiration and you can explore from the original artist too.
Mixcloud.. good choice.. Discog.. another good choice.. Last.fm.. again again.. good good good.. right on target !
Another really useful music source – iTunes. The number of tracks to be found, while not as large as with things like Beatport and pandora, is still staggering. Not to mention the fact that, now with iCloud, you’ll always have your entire music catalogue at your beck and call!
Regardless of what the author left out, resources-wise, I think, the moat important tool, is the time spent as a DJ educating yourself about music. This is what separates the pros from the amateurs in this trade, imo. Digital DJing has without a doubt lowered the barrier to entry into DJing. This is not a bad thing, just a reality that more DJ exist now, but less educated than ever.
Before I went DJ, I was a vinyl DJ for 8 years and I spent soooo much time in record stors doing this same work, it made me better. I tried going to as many records stores as possible. But, it’s not the resources that matter as much as the art of digging, which has been sadly diminished due to the internet. But, the internet has even made researching soooo muh easier. No more dusty fingers! Articles like this, are awesome to see. Gear, efx, and algorithms mean nothing without knowledge and taste. Digging gives you those skills….digital digging!
I agree with your insights on the art of digging. Before the digital explosion, their was a smaller pool of resources when it came to finding/discovering music. One would think this certainly posed more of a challenge and would weed out the lazy and/or uncommitted. Really disagree about insinuating digital djing lowering the bar on the art of djing though. I remember some terrible DJs that spun vinyl!
I appreciate your opinions…cheers
Gilles Peterson, nuff said
My favorite and most often used tool is actually SoundHound. I hear a song on the radio, in a movie, in the club or anywhere else… pop up my phone, activate SoundHound and it gives me complete information about Artist, Title and Album in just a few seconds. The rest is easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Also, regarding the whole “build a set” thing. Am I the only one who steps into the booth, take a moment to feel out the room and crowd and take it from there? I’ve played for 50 people in a bar, and 4000 people concerts, I’ve never had a playlist.
no you’re not the only one
I remember not planning at all and you can sometimes mix yourself into a corner if you don’t pace yourself…
I’m guessing you didn’t mention all they awesome music blogs because they give out free dl’s?
OP here: Glad you all noticed I skipped out on Beatport and Soundcloud!
Beatport is a great resource, and it’s obviously doing very, very well, but I figured I would offer alternatives since every other DJ is buying off Beatport.
I also skipped out on Soundcloud, another potentially great resource, but because it’s quite hard to sift through the vast amount of amateur sounding tracks, I find it rather daunting and hard to recommend. I’m not necessarily looking for “KATY PERRY TOP40 320K DUBSTEP/ELECTROHOUSE/MOOMBA REMIX FREE DOWNLOAD”, but if that’s what you’re into, go hog wild because there’s a bunch of them.
Well, there’s a trick around getting served with shitty SC stuff: Find groups with good moderators! There are good groups in every genre who do the shitty filtering for you.
Following the right people and only checking your dashboard for their updates helps as well.
That’s what we are for. We crawl Soundcloud for the goods so you don’t have to. 🙂
sound cloud!!!!!! hello! also is it me but i feel like 8 times out of 10 hypmachine’s lil player doesnt work. links are broken, or just overall shittyness.
i end up buying lot of vinyl on discogs, it’s the best!
DISCOGS is the best thing that ever happened to buying and selling records. EBAY is a joke!!!! Nice plug – it’s about time someone gave DISCOGS props!!!
Don’t think the article should promote any aggregator type blog searchers…Buy your music and dig hard. I youtube stuff, then google it, then buy it,etc.
Support the artist’s efforts and buy their music. Don’t be a cheap sidebusting bastard!
Never heard of Mixcloud somehow.
YouTube is my personal fave by a longshot though.
Once in a while, DJTT drops the ball with these articles that try to sum it all up but end up as being an inadequate guidance because of key ommisions. I will never forget when they did the “ultimate” DJ headset showdown while completely ignoring the HD22.
As about finding music online, its hard to provide a good overview guidance for this nowaday’s. Tons of ways to do this as every music service let’s you share stuff for other people to discover.
If you do want to provide some guidance at least ad the following:
– SoundCloud (10 million users): Like deep disco? Do a search for it, subscribe to the top SC groups in that genre and you’re set.
– YouTube, almost all music can be found there and YouTube provides good ways to discover similar music: Use the suggestions bar or check the feeds of your favorite YouTube channels.
– Online music stores (Juno, Beatport, etc). Not only do they have ton of charts in every genre and from your favorite dj as well, they also let you share your own chart.
Thanks for your comment – This was less about being a completely comprehensive resource guide and more about suggesting places and styles of searching that aren’t well-known. We’ve actually covered all of the places you mention before, and I’ve added a note and links as such.
Well, the title kinda does suggest that it is a comprehensive guide. Something like “Some personal tips for finding music online” would be less confusing I guess.
Anyway, good to see that the article got updated. The author does have a point in the comments where he adresses the potential issue of having to digest through many amateurish stuff in SoundCloud. But if you follow the right groups (I’m moderating one myself, it’s not easy) and the right people you can get around that.
I do find Beatport extremely useful.
All very good suggestions. Of the ones you mentioned in the article, I
Yea I would agree with Andrew, Soundcloud would be one of the best for finding new music. With getting Track ID’s for sets etc. and previews of new tracks. Beatport also but it wouldn’t be number one.
Wait. So Beatport isn’t number one?
Indeed, Beatport is great for discovering new music (by the way I really like their new app Beatport Pro). But if you want to find something original you would probably want to find alternatives, as soon as you find out that all DJs pick the Top 10 tracks in their sets.
How could you forget about soundcloud?…
I have two soundcloud accounts. One is for uploading my own content and driving follower etc… the second one is just to follow specific artists/labels who post bootlegs etc
Combine the 2nd account with you iPhone app and listen to latest music in your feed when travelling and you’re all set along with all the points from above 🙂
You make a good point, SoundCloud is pretty valuable! We’ve covered SoundCloud quite a bit on DJTT, so we figured most of our readers would already know about it. In case they haven’t I’ve added a note for some of the other articles about finding music we’ve written in the past.