You are now reading
That feeling when you bring home your first piece of DJ equipment is like no other. You’ve finally unboxed your controller or decks, plugged everything in, and itching to get started. But wait… You need music, right?
Where do you start? What format is best? Where can I get exclusive tracks?
Back in the day, independent record stores were the best place to get all the latest tracks, including bootlegs, white label promos and US imports of forthcoming or new releases. Whilst vinyl sales have been on the up over the past few years, our focus for today is solely for the digital DJ.
In this guide, we’ll list a bunch of viable options to help you build your collection.
And no, the answer is not YouTube or Soundcloud rips. The quality is shocking, and you’re only doing yourself a disservice!
With that out of the way, let’s begin.
By far the easiest way to legally acquire new music. There are a plethora of digital stores out there that cater to a variety of genres, and offer delivery formats ranging from mp3 (always opt for 320kbps), to WAV & FLAC format (if you’re into lossless quality), and even Ogg Vorbis… although I haven’t heard of anyone using that format… ever…
Junodownload, Traxsource, Bleep.com, Boomkat, and Beatport are the major key outlets. Topped with monthly charts from established DJs and labels, staff picks, and sales charts, there is no shortage of starting points when it comes to digital crate digging here.
House DJs will definitely appreciate Traxsource in particular, whilst D&B DJs will appreciate Junodownload’s extensive collection, not to mention exclusive releases.
iTunes, or Apple Music as it’s now called, has pretty much every major release available to purchase digitally, across all genres and eras. Whilst their files may be .aac format, a 256kbps .aac will still be adequate enough for clubs and smaller sound systems.
We’ve all had to resort to purchasing from iTunes, and whilst not every release is available, you’d be surprised what is in the store.
Bandcamp is one of the best places for discovering underground artists. In an age where streaming services pay a pittance and digital stores take a cut on sales, artists are starting to exclusively use Bandcamp to release their music. The site is well curated, and you’re able to sign up for updates from your favourite artists, meaning you won’t miss a drop when it comes to new digital releases, merch or even physical releases like vinyl.
What’s also great about this site is that they periodically waive their fees for artists, meaning they will receive 100% of sales revenue. Not only can you bag yourself some awesome music, but you’re fully supporting that artist at the same time!
Without a doubt, record pools are one of the best ways to stay up to date on new music. In essence, a record pool is a membership of DJs that act as an intermediary between DJs and artists, producers and labels.
Pretty much all of them are subscription-based, and you have access to a variety of new music from House, to Hip Hop, R&B, Afrobeats, UK Drill and a whole heap of exclusive edits and remixes from their curators. What’s also great about them, is that each track comes with all the relevant ID3 tags, beatgrids and even cue points! If you’re in a hurry, you can always check out their genre charts to see the current top picks.
DJ City / DJ City UK
Beat Junkies Record Pool
Direct Music Service
If you have a regular radio show, live stream or club residency (they will open up again soon!), you might be able to get added to a radio plugger’s mailing list. They service radio and club DJs with the latest releases, and will either give you an advance promo, or hit you up on release day, so it’s fresh for your shows.
How do you get on the list? Simply contact them!
Ten Letter PR
Media 2 Radio
Soul 2 Streets
All Ears Promo
The Play Centre
Concrete Music PR
Don’t knock it. Whilst Soundcloud has become a graveyard of old DJ mixes in recent years, there are still a lot of producers and artists uploading remixes, bootlegs and original tracks for free download. Some may direct you to Bandcamp or iTunes to purchase instead.
One of the great things about Soundcloud is the “station” function. If you like a particular track, click that button and Soundcloud will recommend similar artists – a great way to start searching out new music.
The latest versions of Serato DJ Pro now incorporate streaming services such as TIDAL and the newly launched Beatsource – a partnership between DJ City & Beatport
All you need is a TIDAL or Beatsource account, a WiFi connection, and you’re good to go. Beatsource also operates as a store (users can use their Beatport login to access playlists and purchase tracks), but its LINK feature works with Serato DJ Pro, Rekordbox and more. Beatsource LINK is a monthly subscription, and allows a set number of tracks to be added to your offline locker each month, meaning you can use these without WiFi connection.
The best part about these is that you can curate your own playlists on the fly within the sites/apps, and simply add pre-existing playlists to your library. For new DJs who want to learn about the history of certain genres, or delve into new sounds, Beatsource in particular has top quality playlists to use as a starting point.
The downsides to this though are that you’ll need a very stable WiFi connection, and you’ll be unable to record your sets directly in Serato DJ Pro when using TIDAL due to licensing.
That aside, I personally think that as both DJ software and WiFi improves over the next few years, we’ll see more people opting to use streaming platforms… Especially as they require little to no hard drive space at all. At the time of writing this, Beatsource are still negotiating deals with labels to allow remixes, edits, and DJ tools on their platform. It’s only a matter of time before they have pretty much everything on there.
It might sound daunting at first, but one thing about collecting and organising music is that it all takes time. Yes, it’s easy to go to Beatport or DJ City, download the top 100 tracks and play those. However that’s not going to separate you from the rest of the millions of DJs out there. Preparation is key when it comes to building a unique music collection.
The more effort you put in at this stage, and throughout your DJ career, the more you will stand out. Ask your favourite DJ, they never stop digging and if you need any help check out the courses available here.
2 students maximum
Time: 1 day work shop - dates and times on application
This is a comprehensive beginners workshop to scratching and is a complete introduction to trick mixing and beat juggling. It covers the origins, core techniques and examines the relationship between the two art forms. The aim is to provide you with the tricks and techniques, but also a knowledge and understanding of how and why they work together. This workshop is suitable for all, but for best results you will need to have good fundamentals of the basic principles of DJing.