Time has flown in the world of technology, but for the DJ it has always crept at a slightly slower pace. When CDs became mainstream, it was the 12” single that reigned supreme in the DJ booth. The excitement of the iPod era was met with DJs packing their CD wallets full of bangers. And now? As DJs plug their USB sticks of pure fire into the decks, the world at large is streaming their favourite tunes. But, as professional DJs begin to contemplate streaming, is the bridge between DJs and the music-consuming world finally narrowing? Has the DJ industry finally caught up?
No. But the future does look promising!
Streaming vs Owning DJ Music
Streaming is definitely shaping up to be a viable option for the DJ industry, but a few things are holding the movement back. The biggest of them being reliability. Not that support from the big players isn’t there. There are legitimate streaming service offerings on pretty much all of the DJ platforms out there, as outlined in our music streaming guide, however, the core of the problem can be summed up with a single word: Wi-fi!
With the UK not scheduled to be fully fibre connected until 2030 at the earliest, we have a long way to go before we can expect DJ booths to offer a reliable internet feed to their equipment as standard practice. Service corruption of the music streaming sites is another major threat to consider as they could close without notice, delete part of their music library or simply go offline owing to technical difficulties. Imagine trying to convince an audience that your streaming site just needs a little time out for maintenance at the peak of your set! Streaming partners such as Beatport and Beatsource have higher-tier subscriptions which allow an offline locker storage facility of up to 1000 tracks but you will never own them outright. Having locally stored music is, therefore, still essential for DJs.
So where do DJs download their music in 2022?
iTunes was a great starting place for DJs, serving the widest range of general commercial tracks. It needn’t be spoken about in the past tense, however, because Apple still has a music purchasing store tucked behind their music streaming service, Apple Music, with the same access to the colossal iTunes back-catalogue! Don’t have an Apple ID? Amazon Music offers a similar service. These digital music stores are perfect for getting ad-hoc tunes in a very convenient way, but for the working DJ, there are far more effective, time and money-saving methods of sourcing and downloading fresh material.
A solid recommendation from us is to join a DJ pool. Gain access to an all-you-can-eat buffet of tunes for a monthly or quarterly fee. This is by far the best value proposition for DJs as paying for music on a track-by-track basis quickly outstrips the cost of any pool membership!
Pools are great places to get a wealth of material and bulk out your music library. A real incentive to use them is that most will offer multiple versions of tracks, including clean and dirty versions, acappellas, instrumentals and exclusive edits and remixes, often put together by in-house teams who tailor to a certain type of mixing. It is, therefore, crucial to find the right DJ Pool for you, one that compliments your style and sound as an artist. This can take a little time but the investment is crucial as your chosen DJ Pool will be the place you go to get the majority of your music, plan your mixes and essentially build your sound as a DJ. It is not unusual for DJs to subscribe to several Pools to get a wider scope of styles, sounds and exclusive benefits.
Some examples of the pools making a splash on the DJ scene are as follows:
DJ City: As one of the longest-running pools, DJ City know a thing or two about catering for DJs who want exclusive and fresh remixes of top 40 and popular tracks. With extensive playlists and tracks curated and hand-picked by specialists in the US, UK, Germany, Japan and Latin America, there is a real authenticity to their selection. However, they do have strong leanings toward hip-hop, R&B and Latin music. Although most genres are represented, dance DJs may find that DJ City’s offerings come up a little short, especially considering that the majority of their library has a time-limited life span with many tracks only being up for six to twelve months before deletion.
Whilst this does give the pool a record store-like charm, it can be limiting if you are looking to bulk out your back catalogue. The advantage of this, however, is that the store has more real estate for new material, and this is an area where DJ City shines. With daily uploads and curations, this is a proven pool for getting exclusive edits of new material plus you won’t be caught wanting for any resurgent old-school anthems as they frequently upload throwbacks, especially if they are making waves in the industry.
At £90 quarterly, there’s not much flexibility when it comes to financing your subscription to DJ City. For those wanting a trial first, they do often run promotions where your initial month costs £10.
BPM Supreme: At nearly the same age as DJ City, BPM Supreme has cemented its reputation with many DJs, ourselves included, as a reliable pool. They have a healthy breadth of music genres with superb track availability and include a comprehensive back catalogue for collection bulking. To their credit, they are endorsed by countless household name DJs and have a great pricing structure which can be paid monthly, giving you more flexibility over your subscription.
BPM Supreme’s broad representation extends to most sub-genres of dance music and hip hop and their extensive catalogue is not time restricted, unlike with DJ City. What they do have in common with DJ City is their expert back-end team of music editors. You will find no shortage of exclusive re-rubs and edits to give your crates a dash of secret sauce!
Track sorting is fully taken care of with filters for BPM, genre, key and more. All tracks are 320kbs MP3s and are quality tested and edited where necessary so you can be sure that everything is DJ friendly.
BPM Supreme costs £19.99 per month or £29.99 per month if you want access to their music streaming service. If you choose to join their service use the code ‘CROSSFADER’ for 20% off your first month subscription.
Zip DJ: Zip DJ are directly affiliated with many major record labels so if it is upfront access to the freshest sounds that you want, this is the pool for you! A good all-rounder, ZipDJ has a huge back catalogue and a great mobile app which allows you to download your chosen tracks as a zip file for unpacking later when on a more appropriate machine.
Self-proclaimed at providing the best promotional music for club and radio play, this pool really delivers on the latest sounds. It’s the closest thing to grabbing a white-label or test press of a tune before its general release back in the heyday of vinyl DJing!
All tracks are fully ID3-tagged ready for your DJ software of choice and are 320kbps MP3 as standard.
ZipDJ is $50 per month with an initial 30% discount for your first month and further discounts if you commit to multiple months’ service upfront, for example, if you sign up for 12 months of service, the price drops to $35 per month.
Digital DJ Pool: The main strength of this pool is that you get a personalised feed based on your followed record labels, artists and DJs so you can gain inspiration for your own crate building by checking out what music they are downloading. As one of the cheaper pools, this is a popular choice for DJs wanting a more budget-friendly option.
All tracks are 320kbps MP3s and are tagged with Serato cue points and overviews meaning the time-sensitive DJ need just drag and drop their files into Serato.
Track sorting is fully comprehensive with filters for BPM, key and genre and even record label, plus all tracks have mixing suggestions to inspire exploration. The amount of DJ charts and genre charts etc is exemplary with daily updates. Users also get access to a social media platform via the inbuilt DJ network.
Digital DJ Pool has over 40 genres to browse and has a strong emphasis on their DJ network, showcasing daily top download charts and biographies of their heavy-weight users.
Pricing is $20 per month with an initial trial of $1 for 5 days of access to see if the pairing is right for you. The cost gets lower if you commit to more upfront, for example, their yearly cost is $180, saving you 20%.
Finding the right pool for you may take some time as there are plenty to choose from, all with a unique angle. It’s worth considering what your needs are; do you want your pool to specialise or generalise? Will you join more than one pool to get specialised content whilst also having access to a healthy selection from across the board? Use the trials to get a feel for the pools’ vibes and value propositions and see if they align with your needs.
You may come across some DJ pools that don’t have the same polished interface as the bigger pools. It’s worth giving these a look as some host exclusive material. A good example of such a pool is the seriously niched Crooklyn Clan Vault. They specialise in house remixes of hip-hop tunes. Despite their dated user interface, they have a loyal following of DJs as the music hosted on their pool cannot be found anywhere else. For those who want the material, forgiving the dated UI of their website is easy. The DJs who subscribe to Crooklyn Clan Vault have perhaps joined in conjunction with a more mainstream DJ Pool for accessing more commercial offerings.
No matter the DJ pool, or pools, that you join, there will always be tracks that you can’t source so will need to look elsewhere. This is where the DJ music sites come in; to help you get those elusive tunes for a one-off fee!
DJ Music Websites
Beatport: The biggest name for dance music downloads. Responsible for informing of the clubland top 10 for multiple dance genres, Beatport’s best-selling charts are looked to as a benchmark by many other DJ music sites and pools.
As the largest digital DJ music store in the world, Beatport is a convenient one-stop-shop for all of the dance music you could possibly want. Track browsing is intuitive with plenty of search options and features for filtering. The tracks cost roughly 99p for a 320kbps ID3-tagged MP3 file and £1.69 for a lossless WAV or lossless id3-tagged AIFF file, pricing is also subject to VAT.
Junodownload: Similar to Beatport in its breadth of music coverage but also includes an extensive hip-hop and r&b selection. You may find that navigating Junodownload bears more fruit than that of a typical music download website as they have invested heavily in promoting music through expertly placed blogs, podcasts and artist/DJ charts which all encourage exploration of their site and its music. Although the cost per track is amongst the highest of all the music sites, it bears noting that discounts are available to members who shop with them frequently, plus the downloads are not subject to taxes as with Beatport so tracks can work out cheaper than on Beatport depending on the region that they are being purchased. The typical cost of an id3-tagged 192kbps MP3 file is 83p, an id3-tagged 320kbps MP3 file is £1.16 and for their lossless files (WAV, FLAC, ALAC and id3-tagged AIFF) are £1.65 per track.
Trackitdown: As Specialists of dance music, their representation of sub-genres is good, but not the biggest we’ve come across. Their track selection is strong for historical releases but upfront music takes a little while to trickle onto the site. This is easily overlooked when considering that they are the cheapest music download site of their kind! The cost of a lossless WAV file is 99p and the cost of an ID3-tagged MP3 file at 320kbps is 79p. The savings don’t end there as they have a great membership scheme where WAVs become 79p per track and MP3s become 63p per track. Membership costs £10 per month in the UK.
7Digital: Fills the lossless, high-fidelity void that iTunes used to suffer from. Here you’ll find MP3s at 320kbps costing around 99p per track, or at a discount if you commit to an entire album. The star of this show, however, is the lossless FLAC options. FLAC files can be downloaded in 16-bit and 24-bit. The cost is £1.59 for a 16-bit FLAC file and £2.39 for a 24-bit FLAC file with discount available for purchase of an album. It is worth noting that not all tracks have both FLAC options. Most popular music is represented here and the breadth of the selection is similar to iTunes, but with an emphasis on buying albums, preferably as 24-bit FLAC with PDFs of supporting booklets.
Bandcamp: A treasure trove of independent music where the artists get paid directly for every purchase. Bandcamp allows artists and independent record labels to publish directly to their site. In doing this, the middle man is removed meaning the music reaches you without any major record label involvement. Rest assured the tracks sound professionally polished and can be purchased as both 320kbps MP3 or lossless FLAC files, and, in some cases, on physical formats such as vinyl and cassette. The cost is paid as a ‘donation’ and varies between each artist as they have their own donation suggestion but the prices are reasonable and in line with other music downloading websites. Most music genres are covered and include most electronic dance genres, plus hip hop, r&b and jazz right through to rock and metal.
Alongside joining a DJ pool and purchasing music from various music download websites, a lot of DJs source great material for free!
Billed as the industry-standard professional promo platform, InFlyte is a very useful tool, used to get early access to future bangers for established DJs. DJs subscribe to InFlyte for free track mailouts from record labels. You need an invitation to join InFlyte and before your membership begins you will be verified as a professional DJ so will need to provide your social media details to their admin. Once a member, simply approach the record labels of your choice and ask to be added to their InFlyte mailing list to receive promotional material before it is released commercially for some exclusive road testing.
Free download links
With a little dedication, you can find some absolute gems by scouring the web to look for free music download links. The most popular website to do this with is SoundCloud. Search your favourite artists and check their uploads. Many are offering at least one of their tunes for free with a download link embedded underneath the track waveform. There is a knack to finding these; the free download links are usually time or download frequency limited so it takes becoming a true scout to find and obtain the good stuff!
Take inspiration from your favourite artists and explore who they are following for alternatives that may have escaped your attention. When you find anything that takes your fancy, simply repeat the above step and watch your music collection build.
A forthright but equally effective method for getting hold of free, and sometimes even exclusive, music is to contact artists directly. This comes with a major asterisk and it reads as follows: Make sure you have something to say and something of value to offer! For example, you may really admire an exclusive tune or ‘dubplate’ you heard a DJ drop. Reach out and tell them that you think it’s awesome. If it’s not still in the battle-weapon phase of its life, you might suggest that you’d love to drop it in your own sets. Let them know if you intend to put it on your socials in some way. You may find that all they want in return for sending you the tune is that you credit them. That’s it! You now have an exclusive dubplate only being played by one or a handful of other DJs.
Taking into account just a couple of these suggestions will see your music library multiply in no time, and, as you gather momentum, you may find that sourcing tunes becomes addictive!
Streaming your secondary source of music is of great advantage, too, as it is a fantastic resource to cater for on-the-fly requests and the like. When technology allows, perhaps the script will flip and your core music selection will reside with streaming services and your locally stored tracks will serve purely as a backup for any worst-case scenarios that may arise. Until then, unearthing those gems to download, many would agree, is a DJ’s duty; a time-honoured practice integral to the DJ experience.
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