Let’s face it: the main thing you will need as a DJ is good tracks. And buying these tracks is expensive on the long run. You can count on spending about 1.99$ to 2.49$ per track and with an average of 100 new tracks per month, you will need to put aside quite a budget even before getting any paid gigs to cover it.
So before getting these tracks, let me share with you a few ways commonly used to get only the best ones.
Finding the Right Tracks
Finding the right tracks means two things:
- Finding the tracks that your audience will love to listen and to dance to
- Finding the tracks that will define you as an artist
And here comes the most critical dilemma of any DJ: should I play the music that people want or shall I play the music that I like. Well, this topic will be the subject of an upcoming post but let’s just say for now that you would be better off playing a mix of both.
1. Where to Find the Music That People Want?
Radio Charts / Billboard Charts / MTV Charts
Nowadays, pretty much every radio station has a website with a chart section. Just visit the top 3 radio stations from the country your are living in to get the list of the most aired tracks.
For example, in Malaysia:
– Hitz FM charts
– Mix FM charts
– Fly FM charts
– Red FM charts
The people you will be playing to are likely to be very familiar with all these tracks and those will be your floor-fillers.
Billboard is the industry leader in terms of charts and you will find many categories depending on the music genre and on the channel of distribution (internet sales, radio airtime, etc.). The BBC radio is also a reference in terms of music. You will also find plenty of charts on the various MTV websites.
The website 1001 tracklists hosts many tracklists from the sets of all the biggest DJs in the world. The mainstream DJs like David Guetta, Hardwell, Avicci, Calvin Harris and more often play at festivals and having a look at their festival playlist can definitely help you figure out the main current tracks. If you only want the best tunes, just focus on the festival playlists or dig deeper into the radio shows and private mixes to find hidden gems.
Another great way to get directly to the main tracks of the time is to head over to amazon.com and to check the season’s compilations. Titles like Ibiza Anthems 2015 or Ministry of Sound Clubbers Guide to 2015 or search keywords like “compilation”, “greatest hits”, “best of” or “party” will put you on the right track. Just listen to the track snippets one by one and get the ones you need.
2. Where to Find the Music that I Like?
Now that you have the main tracks that everybody will be requesting during functions and commercial gigs, it’s time to develop your own flavour to it. We often call it crate digging, a reference to the vinyl days when you had to dig through the crates of records in stores or in flea markets to get the best ones. You can search by artist and discover new tracks of an artist you like, you can also dig by genre or even by music label. Cooking the same tracks as all the other DJs in town won’t get you noticed unless you add up some spices to it.
BeatPort, the Supermarket for Electronic Tracks
The Beatport Top 100 charts are probably the most famous charts in the electronic music scene. Sorted out by genre, this is definitely a great way to start digging for your favourite artists and tracks. Once again, since so many DJs are looking at these charts on a weekly if not daily basis, these tracks won’t help you stand out from the crowd but will definitely help you discovering new artists. It’s also a great way to discover new music genres. You will quickly realise that the same particular artists, sound structures or labels will attract you most of the time and that when you know that you need to dig deeper. Don’t forget to follow the artists you like to be notified about their new releases.
DJ Mixes & DJ Charts
Once you are familiar with a few DJ names from whom you enjoy the music, you can start crate digging. Crate digging means listening to thousands and thousands of tracks in order to find the hidden gem that will set you apart. DJ regularly post their charts on BeatPort or ResidentAdvisor and their mixes on Mixcloud, Soundcloud and Youtube. The track list is often published in Mixcloud and updated on the player in real time and if not, Shazam or SoundHound will help you finding the ID of a track. If none of these technics works, then consider asking politely for the ID of a specific track in the comments section.
LastFM similar artists
LastFM has a “similar artist” search option that allows you to find new artists based on a producer of your liking. That’s a great tool to expend your musical horizon.
DJ pools like DJcity are also a great way to have access to thousands of tracks each month. We will do a review of the main DJ pools currently available shortly to let you know which ones are the best.
Lastly, we need to mention services like Spotify. It will analyse the tracks you like and suggest something in the same style. Curated stations will also give you a collection of the best hand-picked songs. For genre specific radio stations, head over to shoutcast or follow some blogs or stations in iTunes. Note that Pandora and Google Plays All are also very good alternatives if you are living in a country where they are available. Unfortunately, they are not supported in Malaysia.
3.To Buy or Not To Buy?
Once you have figured out the tracks that you can’t miss for your next set, it’s time to consider buying them.
Why to buy?
Buying tracks, on top of helping artists and making sure that they can continue producing good music, ensure that you have the best quality possible (lossless, .aif or .wav formats). A good quality track will definitely make the difference when played on a good quality sound system. Unfortunately, many Asian clubs tend to cut cost on the sound system side and value big bass more than crisp sound.
Of course, some Russian websites likes freemuzichka.com will let you search the whole web for a particular track but you won’t be sure of its quality and you may even download a track with tags (i.e. with the name of a DJ or of a radio show during which the track was recorded). So make sure that you listen to the tracks before playing them live if you don’t want to receive rotten tomatoes when playing a track in front of a big crowd just to hear the jingle of a radio show right in the middle of the drop 😉
Of course mixing the tracks properly together matters but believe me, I’ve seen many DJ with poor mixing skills and good track selection killing it on the dance floor! So spend time on finding the right tracks, and most importantly, enjoy discovering new artists or new music genre!
And if you have another way to find music that other DJs don’t have, feel free to share with us in the below comments section!