Before the advent of MP3s and streaming, the only way to amass a collection of music was to buy vinyl, cassettes and CDs. Not only were they expensive compared to today’s US$0.99 downloads, but they were finite too: travelling to swap meets and digging through piles of dusty records to look for gems and rarities were rites of passage for many DJs and turntablists (they still are to some extent today).
Being friendly with the record store owners meant you could call dibs on new records days before the official release date – and since stores only carried a certain amount, once they were gone, they were gone.
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Digital changed all that: music files are infinite, don’t require shelf space, and cost next to nothing to distribute once the music is made. Everyone has access to pretty much the same music and the same charts thanks to online stores, and thanks to advancements in technology, it’s more affordable than ever to get into DJing and to build a music collection that you can be proud of.
If you’re new to DJing, maybe you’ve tried downloading DJ music legally for free but are now ready to spend a little. Or maybe you just want to bulk out your library with as many tracks as you can for as little money! Here are four ways to build a DJ collection “on the cheap”:
Where To Get Cheap Music
1. Buy from the iTunes Store (it’s cheaper than the rest)
Apple’s iTunes Store is one of the biggest online stores around with the widest catalogue of music. Pioneered by Steve Jobs back in 2003 as a complement to the iPod, the nascent digital music industry was forever changed because fans now had a legit way to buy MP3s instead of downloading them from peer-to-peer file sharing sites like Napster and Limewire. It also made a ruckus back then because of the pricing: US$0.99 for a track.
If you’re looking to buy individual songs, check the iTunes Store first – there’s a big chance they will be cheaper here compared to specialist stores. (You need to have iTunes on your computer to access it, but it’s available for Windows as well as Mac.)
You’ll want to check if the song you want to buy is included in a compilation – sometimes they’re priced even cheaper as a result. Luckily, the iTunes Store is quick and intuitive, and you’re able to see all the available versions of a particular track when you do a search. Note: Also take a look at the Amazon store.
2. Join a DJ download pool
An evolution of the pro / working DJ record pools back in the days of vinyl, DJ download pools are membership sites where you pay a flat fee every month to be able to download to your heart’s content (or at least until you run out of hard drive space). It’s a great way to build a collection quickly and for far less money than paying for tracks individually.
Another great thing about DJ download pools is that you’re able to get DJ-friendly versions of songs, meaning they’ve got intros and outros (usually eight or 16 bars of music) to help you mix in and out of tracks cleanly. You can also get exclusive remixes as well as “short” versions of songs – these are essential for clean “quick mixing” which is a popular mixing technique for club DJs.
Read this next: 13 Places To Legally Download Free DJ Music
The thing with DJ download pools is that most of them don’t have an extensive back catalogue because of the various licences / copyright rules involved, so this is more for DJs who gig / perform regularly with current music or who download a lot of tunes every month.
you have to be a “working” DJ, but frankly the criteria are pretty low – most DJs get accepted upon sharing the flimsiest of proof of their working DJ credentials, such as a link to a Facebook Page or Instagram account.
3. Hunt for used CDs and vinyl online and offline
There’s no shortage of folk unloading their physical music collections in favour of digital / streaming, and this is especially true for those who are moving houses or just want to declutter (thanks Marie Kondo). Their loss is your gain: you can buy CDs for very little these days on sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist (you can buy them in lots, too).
Also, don’t forget to check out vintage shops and flea markets in your area. Just make sure you’ve either got a CD player hooked up to your laptop so you can rip them to iTunes, or even better, a proper computer CD/DVD drive.
Vinyl tends to cost a bit more because it is more collectible than CDs (some say vinyl is also more of an archival medium than compact discs) but there are still lots of cheap records to buy online. Again, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and local listing sites are your main sources here, and while we love Discogs for filling gaps in our collection, it’s not the place you’d go to buy cheap records mainly because it’s a portal for collectors (so expect collector prices).
As with buying music files, you’ll want to check old compilations from record labels and brands that you trust – it’s a quick way to get a wide range of artists for a particular music genre, often at a bargain price. I built my DJ collection in the late 90s by buying compilations from Ministry of Sound, Renaissance, Godskitchen and Hed Kandi, and I still play music from those compilations to this day.
4. Build DJ playlists in streaming sites that work with DJ software
Finally, it’s also possible to build playlists in streaming sites like TIDAL, SoundCloud and Beatport / Beatsource LINK and to spin with those playlists using your DJ software. Of course you don’t actually “own” any of the songs (you’re streaming them from the service) but since you built the playlist yourself, you’re still exercising a bit of ownership here.
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The first thing to do is to check whether or not your DJ software has any built-in streaming integrations (almost all of them do) and to figure out which streaming services are available. For example, at the time of this writing Serato DJ lets you stream from TIDAL and SoundCloud, while Rekordbox DJ lets you stream from Beatport / Beatsource LINK and SoundCloud.
Once you know what’s possible with your DJ app of choice, you can then sign up for the streaming service and then make playlists there, which are then pulled into your DJ app.
It is great to know ways to build a collection quickly and cheaply, especially when you are just starting out, so we hope you’ve got some ideas from this article.
Just remember though that more is definitely not best: Only buy music you are sure you want and that you think you will play. Just because you have music in your possession doesn’t mean you truly “own” it in any way if you don’t play it, you haven’t practised mixing with it, and it’s in reality just clogging up your DJ software.
Where do you think offers great value when buying DJ music? Let us know in the comments below.