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Uncovering the sources of music for DJs: A in-depth guide to digital music discovery and preparation for club performances in 2023

Thanasis | January 13, 2023

In 2023, DJs have more options than ever before to discover and acquire new music for their performances. Some DJs purchase tracks from online music stores such as Beatport, while others have access to private collections. Additionally, many DJs also produce their own music, which they play in their sets or share through promotional channels.

The takeaway is that music is more readily available than ever before, which can be both exciting and overwhelming for those just starting out as DJs and building their music library. With that in mind, this guide will cover all the essential information on where DJs source their music and how they prepare it for their live shows.

WHERE DJS FIND NEW MUSIC TO PLAY

Before anything else, DJs need to find the music they want to play. This is the first step of the entire process, and by the end of the initial curation process, DJs likely have hundreds of potential tracks to sift through to find the ones they plan on purchasing and downloading for their gigs.

It’s not necessary to spend all day in record shops listening to records to find a few tracks to add to your collection. Instead, you can use digital tools to speed up the process and find hundreds of potential tracks in a short amount of time.

Here are some of the best places to find music online and maximize your music discovery.

RADIO SHOWS

Many professional DJs host regular radio shows featuring a collection of new and current music. These DJs often have access to the hottest tracks before they are officially released. Listening to their radio shows can be a great way to discover new music and stay up to date with the latest tracks supported by your favorite DJs.

Additionally, radio shows allow you to hear how a track sounds when it’s mixed with other tracks, giving you a better idea of how it might work in a live performance. Many DJs also include tracklists in the show descriptions, making it easy for you to save and purchase the tracks you like for your own gigs.

FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES

Another great way to discover new music is by getting recommendations from other DJs who play similar music and are active in your local or regional scene.

Even with all the modern tools and techniques for finding new music, it can still be overwhelming to sift through all the new releases that come out every day. But, by getting recommendations from other DJs, you can save time and energy and discover hidden gems that you might have missed otherwise.

Furthermore, making friends with fellow DJs can also give you access to unreleased demos and work-in-progress tracks that your producer/DJ friends are testing before their official release.

PODCASTS

Another great way to discover new music is through podcasts. Like radio shows, podcasts often feature a rotating roster of DJs and can be a great way to discover new music from a wide range of curators. For example, if you’re a fan of a specific label, like Anjunadeep, you can follow their podcast and discover new music from different artists and DJs releasing on the label, in their weekly podcast episodes.

This is a great way to find music that fits a certain niche without being too limited to the music of a single artist or DJ.

TRACKLISTS

Here’s a little-known secret that can help DJs discover new music: websites like 1001Tracklists. These sites constantly update the tracklists of DJ sets from top DJs and their gigs around the world. This is a great way to find out what your favorite DJs are currently playing.

Just search for the DJ you’re interested in, and scroll through their setlists. You can then copy and paste the songs into Spotify or Beatport, and preview them to see if you like the main ideas of the songs. You can save the ones you like for a deeper listen later. This is a great way to discover a lot of music quickly, especially when you’re in a rush to find new and crowd-tested selections for an upcoming gig.

HOW DJS GET MUSIC TO PLAY IN DJ SETS

Once you’ve collected a large number of potential tracks that caught your attention, it’s time to start narrowing down the ones you want to purchase. While there are a few main marketplaces for electronic music, there are also other sources to find, purchase, and add new music to your library.

BEATPORT

Beatport, is one of the most popular platforms for DJs to purchase and download new music for their gigs. It offers a wide range of resources that make it easy to find new music and support the labels and artists you love.

You can follow your favorite artists or labels to stay updated on their newest releases. Artists can also curate charts of their favorite music, so you can see what they’re playing. They also host charts of the week’s top-selling tracks in different genres and styles, so you can stay up-to-date with the latest trends.

Beatport also allows you to download music from a single label easily. With thousands of labels available on the platform, it becomes a very streamlined process for DJs to get high-quality tracks onto their hard drive and ready for their next gig.

ITUNES

iTunes remains one of the best places to purchase and download music to add to your DJ library. Unlike Beatport which primarily focuses on electronic dance music, iTunes sells almost every genre under the sun. So if you are an open-format DJ looking for a wide range of genres, from hip-hop to dance and beyond, then iTunes is the best place to purchase your music.

iTunes also has various music organization tools such as playlisting, tagging, and metadata functionalities that allow you to find and access songs from your collection quickly and easily. The playlisting feature alone makes iTunes still today the preferred music platform for many old-school DJs.

RECORD POOLS

Record Pools are a powerful way for DJs to access a large collection of music instantly, and are particularly useful for newer DJs who are building their music library. There are many record pools that you can join, usually requiring a small subscription fee.

Once you join a record pool, you have access to thousands of tracks that you can rate, download, and use for your next gig. Many record pools also function as a community, allowing you to connect with other DJs, discuss music, and share demos and other resources.

However, not all record pools are created equal, and some have not kept up with the times since they were first popularized. BPM Supreme is a great service that offers a fast and easy interface, allowing you to quickly and easily find the perfect tracks to add to your collection and play at your next gig.

PROMO SERVICES

Promo services like Inflyte are an excellent way for DJs and record labels to share early copies of their releases. Most promo services allow you to download these promos for free, but there is a catch.

Most labels and artists require you to be added to their promotional list before you can access the free music.

It’s more likely that you will be added to these promo lists if you are a professional curator yourself, have a popular radio show, Spotify playlist, or are an actively touring DJ who is likely to support the free music you receive.

FREE APPS AND PLATFORMS

If you’re new to DJing or looking to start building your music collection on a budget, there are several places where you can find free music. Here are some of the most popular options:

Soundcloud: Many DJs and producers share their music on Soundcloud for free.
YouTube: Many DJs upload their sets on YouTube, which can be downloaded and used to find new music.
Free Music Archive: A library of free and legal music downloads that you can use for your DJ sets.
Bandcamp: Some artists and labels offer their music for free on Bandcamp.
Internet Archive: A digital library with a wide range of free music downloads, including old jazz and blues tracks.
CC Mixter: A community music site featuring remixes and samples licensed under Creative Commons.
It’s important to note that not all the music from these platforms are legal to use for commercial purposes, always check the terms of use and the rights of the artist before using the music in a gig or for commercial purpose.

PRO TIPS FOR DIGITAL CRATE DIGGERS IN 2023

DJing has come a long way, even in the past couple of years. And while it might feel Romantic to spend your entire day scouring the dusty vinyl shops for an underground micro-house groover to play at your next gig, living in the digital world afford us many luxuries.

Here are a few fast-and-easy tips for digital crate digging along with some things to avoid in the modern age of DJing.

ONLY COLLECT WHAT YOU LOVE (…AND PLAN ON PLAYING)

It’s important to remember to only collect the music that you truly love and plan on playing in your sets. With so much music readily available, it can be tempting to download every track that catches your interest. But a digital record collection can add up quickly, and it can be easy to outspend the money you make from one gig on records for the next.

That’s why it’s crucial to be selective about the music you invest in. This will make you more critical about the music you purchase, and it will make your sets more memorable. It will also force you to get more mileage out of your tracks, by playing a few of your favorite records multiple times over a handful of gigs, rather than having to learn new music and transitions for each set.

LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE SONG BEFORE YOU PURCHASE IT (…DON’T JUST PREVIEW THE DROPS)

It’s important to listen to an entire song before purchasing it, and not just preview the drops. Even if a track has an amazing drop section, there are other factors that can affect its effectiveness in a set. The break might be too long, or the vocal sample used might turn off some of the crowd. These issues can only be identified by listening to the track in its entirety. It’s essential to not commit to purchasing a song based on an 8 or 16 bar loop within the track without listening to the entire song.

KEEP PLAYLISTS (…BOTH OF YOUR REAL GIGS AND YOUR HYPOTHETICAL ONES)

It’s essential to keep playlists of your real gigs and your hypothetical ones. As you accumulate a large collection of music, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep them organized. Creating playlists is a great way to compartmentalize your music and make it more manageable.

For a standard hour-long gig, it’s normal to prepare a couple of different playlists of songs so that you’re ready for any situation. Be sure to save the playlists that worked well so that you can return to them later and find your favorite songs from the past when you’re looking for throwback music. This will help you to keep your music collection organized, and make it easier to find the perfect tracks for your next gig.

In conclusion,  DJs and producers have a wide range of resources available to them for finding new and exciting music to play in their sets. It’s important to not limit yourself to traditional methods of crate digging and to explore all the options available to you. The most important thing is to have a collection of amazing music that can connect with the crowd and make them move. It doesn’t have to be the latest or freshest music, what matters is that it’s an extension of yourself as an artist. With a curated collection of great music, the rest will fall into place.

Written by Thanasis

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