Probably the most common question when starting to DJ is ‘Where do DJs get their music?’. Now, depending on what type of DJ you are planning on becoming could determine what music you want and where you would get it from. Either way, you will want a decent catalogue with a lot of music to get you started, and then look to keep up to date with your chosen genre or genres.
For example, as a Mobile DJ, playing a range of venues and events, I would start with at least every number 1 single from the 1960s to the current date. From there you can add particular popular artists, genres and albums as you see fit.
What I did when I first started was to look at some famous artists over the years and buy their Greatest Hits albums. I would look at compilation albums for ‘Best Tracks of the 70s’, ‘Best of Motown’, ‘Best Wedding Songs’, ‘The Ultimate Christmas Album’ ‘Queen: Greatest Hits’ (these are just examples, not actual CDs).
To make things easy for yourself – when you take your bookings, offer some kind of advanced requests system. I ask all my clients for at least 40 tracks or artists that they would like me to play (and some that they don’t). From this, I can usually create a playlist for a 5-hour gig of around 100 tracks. If they give me a favourite artist or choose two or more tracks from an artist, I can then check a) if I have those tracks, and b) if I need to get their Greatest Hits album. You can assume that, even if they have only requested a few of that artist’s tracks, they may want at least another one or two playing on the night, so be prepared.
Don’t assume you can just download tracks at the venue – many I’ve been to don’t have Wi-Fi that you can use (if you would even want to connect to a public network), and some venues have a really poor internet signal. It is an option, but not one you can rely on.
One huge tip I will give you is to get the clean/radio edit versions of your tracks, especially if you are looking to be a mobile DJ, playing to families and children. The only time you could consider using the original, explicit versions is in a club environment.
Even if a client asks me to play non-edited versions of tracks I often decline. One complaint from another guest could affect my reputation.
One of the popular options for keeping an up-to-date music library from a variety of artists and labels is record pools. You have to declare that you are a working DJ to sign up, but once you do, you can have access to their huge database of records. They are subscription-based and you usually sign up to a mailing list, but this option can save you big compared with buying tracks individually.
One of the best DJ record pools around, BPM Supreme offers an extensive library of both audio and video files – perfect if you are looking into DJing with videos (or VJing). Their music covers a range of genres and eras.
Cost: $19.99 per month
Possibly the biggest and most popular record pool is DJ City. They add music pretty much daily, and they guide you through what works in various countries in the world.
DJ City boasts access to “five DJcity record pools for the price of one”, namely DJcity, DJcity UK, DJcity Latino, DJcity Japan, DJcity DE
The subscription model is $150 for six months, though new users can try the service for $10 for the first month.
Cost: $30 per month or $150 for 6 months
Beatsource is a leading DJ subscription service that caters specifically to DJs, offering them an extensive collection of curated playlists, tracks, and tools to enhance their performances. Launched in 2019 as a collaboration between DJcity and Beatport, Beatsource has quickly gained popularity among DJs of all levels.
At its core, Beatsource focuses on delivering a diverse and comprehensive music library tailored for DJs. The platform offers an extensive catalog of tracks spanning various genres, including electronic dance music (EDM), hip-hop, R&B, Latin, and more. DJs can easily explore and discover new music, access exclusive remixes, and find trending tracks to keep their sets fresh and exciting.
One of the standout features of Beatsource is its integration with popular DJ software and hardware. The service provides seamless compatibility with leading DJ applications, allowing DJs to easily access their music and playlists directly from their preferred DJ software. This integration streamlines the workflow for DJs, enabling them to focus on their performance rather than managing their music.
Beatsource offers flexible subscription options to cater to DJs’ preferences. DJs can choose from different membership tiers, including a basic plan and a premium subscription that unlocks additional features and benefits, both with a 30-day free trial option. The service ensures regular updates and new releases, ensuring that DJs have access to the latest and hottest tracks in the industry.
Cost: Beatsource $9.99/month, Beatsource Pro+ (includes Exclusive DJ Edits and Offline playback) $34.99/month
One of the best DJ pools for current music in most genres; from Top 40, Dance and Urban to Country, Latin and Christian. Another record pool offering both audio and video tracks. The service they offer is based on a monthly digital delivery – you choose the genre or genres you wish to receive, either individually or in various pack options.
Cost: From $12 per month
Tidal Music is a popular DJ subscription service that offers a comprehensive platform for DJs to discover, stream, and showcase their music to a wide audience. Launched in 2014, Tidal has gained recognition for its high-quality audio streaming and its emphasis on promoting artists’ rights and fair compensation.
As a DJ subscription service, Tidal provides DJs with a vast library of music from various genres and artists. The platform offers an extensive catalog of songs, including popular tracks, exclusive releases, and a rich selection of underground and independent music. DJs can easily explore and discover new music to incorporate into their sets, ensuring a fresh and diverse playlist for their audience.
One of Tidal’s notable features is its commitment to high-fidelity audio streaming. The service offers lossless audio quality, delivering music in CD-like sound quality (FLAC format) to ensure an immersive and pristine listening experience. This focus on audio quality makes Tidal a preferred choice for DJs who prioritize delivering the best possible sound to their listeners.
As a subscription service, Tidal offers different membership tiers, including a premium option and a higher-priced HiFi subscription that includes lossless audio. Subscribers gain access to Tidal’s full music library, exclusive content, and features tailored specifically for DJs. Their website boasts “100M+ songs and 650K+ videos”. They also offer a 30-day free trial.
Cost: HiFi (Up to 1411 kbps) – £9.99/month, HiFi Plus (Up to 9216 kbps) – £19.99/month.
Digital Download Stores
There are times when you just need that one, original track to add to this weekend’s playlist. Or maybe a new album release to add to your collection. Whatever your requirements you are bound to find what you need in the mainstream digital download stores – It isn’t the cheapest option though.
Apple Music and Amazon Music
For original, unedited tracks, you cannot go wrong with the main two. Both Apple Music (formally iTunes) and Amazon Music have pretty much every genre and decade you would want. Search for and buy a single song, album or compilation, and you will also find similar artists suggested while you’re there.
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Many electronic music DJs use Beatport for their large selection of House and Dance tracks, including remixes and edits. You can also find new tracks in their charts.
Beatport Link features the Beatport electronic download catalogue, a more niche electronic dance music collection.
Beatsource Link gives a more mainstream library from major labels, from dance, pop, hip-hop, R&B, reggae, dancehall and Latin music.
SoundCloud is a popular music streaming platform that offers a unique space for DJs to showcase their mixes, original tracks, and remixes to a global audience. While SoundCloud is primarily known as a free platform for user-generated content, it also provides subscription options that cater to DJs and music creators.
As a DJ subscription service, SoundCloud offers features designed to support DJs in sharing and promoting their music. DJs can upload their mixes, tracks, and remixes to their SoundCloud profile, gaining exposure and reaching a wide audience of music enthusiasts. This enables DJs to establish their presence, build a following, and connect with fans, fellow DJs, and industry professionals.
One of the key advantages of SoundCloud is its community-driven nature. DJs can interact with their audience through comments, likes, and reposts, fostering engagement and feedback. The platform also encourages collaboration and networking among DJs, allowing them to connect with each other, share ideas, and discover new talent.
While SoundCloud offers free access to its platform, it also provides subscription options for DJs who seek additional features and benefits. SoundCloud Pro and SoundCloud Pro Unlimited subscriptions offer advanced functionalities, including enhanced upload time, detailed analytics, and the ability to schedule releases. These paid subscriptions cater to DJs who require more storage space, advanced promotional tools, and greater control over their content.
Cost: SoundCloud Go $4.99/month
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What do DJs do for music?
Traditionally, DJs used turntables (record players) and a mixer, on which they would play vinyl records. Later, Compact Discs (CDs) were used in a more digital format known as CDJs. At the time it was a better option, though it still required carrying large cases full of discs.
Nowadays, DJs use media files such as MP3s as they can be stored in smaller devices like Hard Disk drives or USB sticks. Though many carry their music library on their laptops. It is even possible to stream music from a subscription service – which is great to have access to millions of tracks from their DJ laptop, but it does rely on an internet connection.
Do DJs need permission to play songs?
Generally speaking, a DJ does not need any kind of licence or permission to play recorded music legally. The venue owner (Bar, Club, Nightclub) has the responsibility to hold the licence.
In terms of a private event, such as a birthday party or wedding, a licence is not usually required.
Do DJs have to buy their music?
Legally, DJs have to pay for any music they plan to play to an audience. Although they don’t need a licence themselves, the club, bar or other type of venue holds the responsibility to have a licence to play recorded music.
They can buy tracks or albums individually from places like iTunes/Apple Music, use a Record Pool – where a selection of music is sent weekly or monthly, or they can use a music streaming service – a catalogue of millions of tracks can be available to play instantly, providing the DJ has an internet connection.
Is it legal to use Spotify to DJ?
With the advance of technology, many DJ Software developers integrated the use of Spotify in their apps. Though not illegal per se, the use does violate Spotify’s Terms of Service.
Recently, however, Spotify has been removed from most DJ Software. Though there has been no official announcement from Spotify itself, other software companies have stated that the music subscription service will cease to work from July 2020.
Where do DJs download their music from?
DJs have access to music the same way anybody does, through legal music stores, either in physical format (vinyl, CDs) or digital (mp3s).
DJs also have the option to subscribe to Music Pools or Record Pools, where they pay usually a monthly fee and a selection of music from their chosen genres gets sent to them on a regular basis – either weekly or monthly. This enables them to keep an up-to-date music library.
There are also music streaming services that a DJ can subscribe to, where they can have access to millions of tracks anywhere they have an active internet connection.
Where do DJs get their music for free?
DJs get free music from promotional platforms, remix contests, artist websites, DJ record pools, SoundCloud, YouTube, and royalty-free platforms. However, it’s important to respect copyright laws and support artists by purchasing music.