DJ Music For A Budget Beatmatcher

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.

Read Part 1: DJ Software For The Frugal Musician

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.

Digital Stores

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.


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Comments (27)
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  • Dusan Dule Rep Tesic

    I dont understand what is the problem with getting any song??? youtube got everything….just download video and convert it to any format you want. end of story.

    • R. Contreiras

      are you serious? i recommend you to research a little bit about file compression and formats.

      • Dusan Dule Rep Tesic

        Diferents in sound that u and me hear, most people don’t. So the sound Is allways good enough! Song u play Is more inportant than the quality of sound. It’s never that bad that it can’t be played.

        • guigal

          You never played at a club or with an important PA system dont you?

    • Raoul Biervliet

      lol I hear you. Samething here ! Youtube is a perfect provider, when you start out or when you just love to dj ones in a while !!

  • King Porteous

    Personally, I love Bandcamp for the fact you a paying the artist direct but you can also pick up some bargains. Some independent labels sell their whole back catalogue for less than $5 Great if you want to stock up on a specific genre.

  • Kineada

    Out of curiosity, what are folks’ opinions these days of using music streaming services as a source of music for DJ gigs? Does the opinion change if it’s for a typical mobile gig rather than a club gig? Does your yea or nay change if someone wanted to rip the songs from the stream to an MP3 file?

  • Dominik

    You wrote in article about iTunes etc. But i think that somewhere in their Terms and conditions is something about it that of you buy via iTunes you can use their tracks just for your personal use not as a DJ. Do u have some experiences with it? Thanks for answer!

    • Ezmyrelda Andrade

      The experience I’ve had is that it depends on the venue you are spinning at.. Some venues require a list of tracks you may possibly play because they (the venue) are under industry contract to pay for airings of specific tracks.. On the other hand.. You are probably in the clear if it’s a little local bar or certain underground events.

    • Lawyer

      The “personal use” clause is included in nearly all types and sources of media purchases. But fear not, Ezmyrelda Andrade is correct that the venue is nearly always going to be responsible for any further licensing.

  • Lee S

    Will Amazon Prime and/ or Amazon Music Unlimited files work in Traktor and Serato? My question is to specific to files accessed soley through a subscription and not mp3 purchases.

  • ?The Other Denzel?

    Benzi’s live dj service has been the best investment i’ve ever made. I caught one of his lifetime membership specials, and the 3.5 gig’s of music i’ve downloaded since has paid for itself an infinite number of times…

    Hitting producers / dj’s up on soundcloud is also a time honored approach to getting exclusives. Just let em know you’re trying to spread their music, and they’ll hook you up 1/2 the time

  • Max Perrot

    Is pulse locker available in Australia yet?

  • Oddie O'Phyle

    The Google Play Music store isn’t that bad for low cost 320k MP3 for those starting off. Bandcamp is pretty reasonable too and offers lossless.

    • StevenMaude

      Yeah, lots of talented producers putting good stuff out on Bandcamp as pay what you want, or at a relatively low price. Good value too when you get choice of format at no extra cost, unlike some other stores that want to charge you a premium for lossless.

      • Oddie O'Phyle

        I’ve also found that a few artists like Pheek have a subscription and some Labels have discographies at a heavy discount. It’s probably the most cost effective music retailer for lossless files.

  • StevenMaude

    After I’d written this article, I had another couple of ideas, posted on my own blog:

    1. Amazon Prime’s No-Rush delivery offers you digital credit for slower deliveries if you have a Prime account, which you can use to buy music. This applies in the UK, not sure geographically where else.
    2. Compilations can be very good value purchases (especially in conjunction with AutoRip).

    • Oddie O'Phyle

      Just wondering if you used a stock image for the title image? I grew up with a 4270 Quad.

      • StevenMaude

        My guess is stock, but you’d have to ask Dan for sure as he’s the one who most likely made everything look nice.

        • Oddie O'Phyle

          I saw the Marantz on the shelf. I love the old Quads, they were so warm sounding.

  • tehk

    Quality over quantity…. having a few dozen killer tracks is worth so much more than owning several thousand so-so tracks.

    • Jyve

      I would disagree to an extent – using the same tracks over and over in your DJ sets will diminish the creativity and can become monotonous. I think having an extremely diverse and wide music library can improve your DJ sets!

      • zendoo

        That’s true, sometimes. I might substitute a less good song because “I always play that song after this song.” But OTOH, there are many, many, many mediocre songs. Late 70’s Italian disco comes to mind; a few demand to be danced to, and a lot are pretty listenable, but also very forgettable. I hear that stuff at clubs a lot, but I don’t particularly remember any of those specific songs, or the DJs who played them at 11:30 all up and down the block. Who do I remember? The guy who closed the night out by playing Das Racist’s Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. It’s not even that I hadn’t heard it before, it’s that it was the right song, at the right time. Without that song, his set was meh. With that song, it’s 5 years later, and I’m still thinking about that guy.

    • deejdave

      This all depends on what type of DJ you are. Having only a few doze sets will guarantee failure in most types other than performance or club. Even in regard to club DJ’s you never know where the night may take you………….. unless you are the safe type.