If you are a DJ, deciding what music to add to your repertoire can be tricky. Fortunately, I did some research to find out the different ways in which DJs get their music.
So how do DJs get their music? DJs get their music through music pools, an organized system where DJs receive promotional music to be played in nightclubs in exchange for feedback on each track and exposure in clubs. Most pools provide DJs with unlimited downloads of high quality digital music for a fixed monthly rate.
Music pools have been around for a long time, and there is actually quite a lot that goes into choosing a music pool and how DJs get their tracks from these pools.
The Specifics of Music Pools
According to Beatmatch on Reddit, Music pools began in 1975 in New York City as vinyl record pools, then became CD distribution networks, and later online sharing of music between DJs. The person who runs the pool is generally known as the “pool director”, and often requires DJs to provide feedback on either individual songs or groups of songs before being able to download them and play them in nightclubs. Music pools serve as both market research and promotional tools for record labels. Thus, they generally have rules which require members to be working DJs (radios, clubs, etc.), so that they get the most bang for their buck in the form of playtime in front of a large audience. A music pool may have an actual storefront, or may be entirely digital. Below are some examples of quality online pools for DJs looking to add new music to their playlists.
Choosing the Right Music Pool for You
It’s no secret that everyone has different taste in music, so it can often be difficult to pick the right music pool for you. As mentioned in DJ Techtools, There are several factors you should consider when choosing a music pool, such as:
- Monthly cost (pools I’ve seen range anywhere from $20-$65/month). However, some pools give you unlimited access to their catalogue for a monthly fee, and allow you to keep anything you’ve downloaded even after your membership expires- this is a great option for those on a budget.
- Site design/aesthetics (how easy is the site to navigate, is there any unnecessary clutter, etc.)
- Whether a pool has the music you need for your gigs
- How often the pool updates their music
- Specialization/variety of music- which is more important to you?
- Whether you need more than one pool- it can’t hurt to try more than one, and decide which one you like best
In addition, I recommend checking music pool sites on a regular basis. This way, you can get a feel for if a pool you are already using is worth continuing to use (based on things like site design changes, new music or lack thereof) or if you should change to a different one. Taking advantage of online reviews, subscribing to newsletters and interacting with fellow DJs on forums and message boards will also give you advice to help you choose the right pool.
Digging for Music
So you’ve found a music pool that works for you — congratulations! You may think you’re ready to rock and roll with new music for your next gig. However, there’s just one problem- there’s a plethora of music on there, and you don’t know where to begin. This is where digging comes in.
The term “digging” harkens back to the vinyl days of music, where people actually had to dig through tons of record crates in stores to find the tracks that were actually worth listening to (remember- back then, music was expensive, and it was impossible to buy everything). Nowadays, though, digging often means doing your due diligence to sift through digital tracks on music pools to find the music you actually want to incorporate into your playlist. Beatmatch has a great section on how to do this, but here are a few things to keep in mind when searching for that must-have track:
- It’s helpful to use tabs when searching for music- browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox work best for this
- If you like a certain song, follow the link(s) to the artist and record label, as this will likeIf the preview is too short, a simple YouTube search of the song name is likely to give you the full song
How to Get DJ Music the Right Way
While acquiring new music can certainly be exciting, you do have to keep the law in mind, and obtain your tracks legally, so as to avoid piracy (copyright infringement). Wikipedia defines piracy as “the use of works protected by copyright law without permission, infringing certain exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works”.
Always make sure to purchase music legally, and prioritize obtaining the quality of music over the quantity of music. When I was a DJ in college, our station manager always told us to make sure we downloaded the music legally, and did not play anything that had yet to be released. If a DJ makes music using work that has already been produced or hopes to make money off of the recorded works of others, they should pay for those works beforehand, so as not to commit piracy.
Are Music Pools Credible?
In school, teachers and professors always told you to make sure you got your information from credible sources. The same goes for music pools. Always make sure to check the credibility of music pools before downloading new tunes. Here are a few tips to make sure the site you’re using (or planning to use) is credible:
- Does it have an “about” section?
- Does it have dates at the bottom? This will tell you how long it’s been around, and can give you an idea of when the site was last updated. If it looks sketchy or like it hasn’t been updated in a decade, I’d suggest moving on to the next one.
- Does it tell you what they give you for a membership?
- How much content does it offer? Many sites, such as Franchise Record Pool, list the number of audio and video tracks they’ve released up to the current date.
- Does it offer tech support or the ability to interact with other members?
Of course, there is no “one size fits all” method, as each digital pool is different. Yet, keeping these factors in mind will help you determine whether a music pool would be worth using.
What are the Downsides to Music Pools?
It’s true: nothing is perfect, and music pools are no exception. While they can be a great way to acquire that hot new track you’ve been searching for, they are not without their downsides. These include file quality, where the pools get their music, and potential lack of selection. The bottom line? Be conscious of your budget and business needs, and do your research before deciding to spend your hard-earned cash on a music pool.
How Else Can DJs Get Their Music?
Besides music pools and digital sources like iTunes, Soundcloud and Traxsource, there’s always more old-fashioned ways of gaining familiarity with songs. These include records, listening to the radio (whether digital or not), and talking to friends. Yes, it’s true that I got a lot of my music from iTunes, but I also got it from the radio, asking friends about their musical taste, and being part of my college’s radio station. For all you college students who aspire to be DJs, see if there’s a way for you to get involved with your school’s radio station or music club (and if there isn’t one, make one!). It’s also important to pay attention to the kinds of music you like, and seek out those genres. Subscribing to online newsletters from sites like AWAL, Music Ally and SynchTank Weekly will also keep you up-to-date on trends and key events in the music industry.