13 Places To Legally Download Free DJ Music

Joey Santos | Content Creator
June 22, 2020

Want to legally download music for free for your DJ sets? There are still plenty of places you can do just that, whether to build a collection without spending much money, or to discover something cool that nobody else has got…

Once upon a time, all DJ music was bought, in physical formats. Then along came digital and DJs could suddenly download music for free, with first Napster then a rush of similar sites becoming a huge opportunity for DJs wanting lots of music for nothing, and of course a huge problem for the music industry.

But the music industry has changed fundamentally since then, with the big streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music largely replacing the download sites, for consumers at least, who are happy to pay their $10 a month for anything they could wish to listen to. Streaming services are even finding their way into DJ software, offering DJs this option too.

But most DJs still want to own their music. And while torrenting or other ways of illegally ripping music certainly haven’t gone away as sources for building a quick DJ collection, they come with legal, ethical and technical pitfalls. And even though download stores are still hanging in there, the specialist dance music download stores of interest to DJs can be expensive, especially for those who are just starting out and want to build a relatively large collection quickly.

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Plus, there’s also the question of whether you’re really finding anything particularly new and interesting when you shop in the same places as everyone else. If being a DJ is about having better music than the next DJ, surely you should be casting your net wider than the obvious places to look for that music?

That means that not only for new DJs, but also for established DJs looking for that set-changing banger they can be pretty sure nobody else has found yet, finding more obscure alternative places to get music from is a good idea. And happily, a lot of those places also don’t charge you for that music.

On such sites, you can often find unsigned/underground acts, or music from up-and-coming producers that hasn’t made it to the iTunes Store or Beatport’s catalogue just yet. Going through these sites and spending time on them lets you build a unique DJ library that isn’t reliant on charts or other easily accessible tools (like curated playlists from online shops) which helps you set your song selections apart from other DJs. Part of a DJ’s job is to break relatively unknown songs to an audience, and many DJs build a name doing just that.

So whether you’re brand-new to DJing and just want a bunch of tunes you can get started with, or you want to cast your net wider to find some obscure track others don’t have, or you just want to save some money, here are 13 places to start your search:

1. Free Music Archive

As the name suggests, FMA is a place to legally download free DJ music that you can use in your sets. You can even chop the tracks up and sample them for beats or productions that you’re making depending on the kind of licence attached to the music that you download, without repercussions.

FMA has thousands of songs in different genres including electronic music, hip-hop, and even experimental, plus it has its own charts and tagging system that lists the most popular songs of the week, so it’s quite up to date.

How to get free music on FMA

While there’s a search function on the FMA site, the best way to quickly find music is by using the Genres link at the top of the page. This lets you pick from 16 main genres, and when you click on one, you are brought to a page with further sub-genres related to it.

For example, if you click on Electronic, you then go to the Electronic page which has 19 more sub-genres, and you can click on them to further refine your search results.

Another way to find music on FMA is to go through the Curators list. Curators are like playlisters on FMA and, as the name suggests, they curate and even upload music to the site. Bookmarking or following a handful of curators whose selections you trust makes it easier for you to find what’s good without having to go through Genres section of the site.

Pros: Lots of different types of music genres to grab from, even old-timey tunes and spoken word tracks (great for sampling!)

Cons: Search interface can be a bit clunky since you’re literally going through a long list of tunes per music style

Go to site: Free Music Archive

2. SoundCloud

Once the de facto platform for mixtapes, bootlegs and unofficial remixes, SoundCloud has remade itself into a music streaming platform for DJ/producers and beatmakers.

While it wasn’t the dominant force in DJ culture that it once was, there’s still a lot of music being released on SoundCloud. It’s also easy to hop from artist to artist (or label to label) in any genre thanks to its tagging system, so music discovery is as intuitive here as it’s ever been. Worth a look if you’re hunting for edits and remixes.

How to get free music on SoundCloud

The quickest way to get free tunes on SoundCloud is to use the search bar at the top of the page and type in “Free Downloads”. This gives you tons of free music results from different artist and labels pages. You then click on the track you want to get, which will have a “Download” link below it, or in the description box.

Sometimes you also see a “Buy” or “Free Download” link that takes you to a different page where you have to either like the artist profile on SoundCloud (or another site, like Spotify) before you can proceed to download the song for free.

DMing producers for free music

Remember that SoundCloud is social networking platform – that means people get on it not just to share music, but to make connections with others too. It’s acceptable to reach out to a DJ/producer (“sending a DM” in internet speak) to ask for a track that isn’t available as a free download, but you’ve got to do it in a way that isn’t spammy and, more importantly, presents something of value to the DJ/producer in exchange for the free tune.

You can send a DM by going to the artist’s page and clicking on the mail icon. Here’s something you can say:

“Hey (insert name of DJ/producer)! Was going through my feed and came across your page. I really like (insert name of track) and I’d like to ask if you’d be willing to give me a high-resolution WAV file copy of it so I can play it in my DJ sets. I’ve been DJing for (x) years now and play (x,y,z) styles of music, and your track is a great fit for my sets. Let me know :)”

We recommend waiting and only following up after a week has passed without a reply. If the person doesn’t reply (or replies with a flat out “no”) then don’t pester him or her any more. The creator has the final say as to whether or not to give away his or her work.

Pros: Community of music producers and listeners, lots of free originals, remixes and bootlegs to be had

Cons: Not as essential as it once was, strict policies regarding copyright material

Go to site: Soundcloud

3. Bandcamp

Out of all the sites on this list, Bandcamp is the most artist-friendly when it comes to setting up a page. It’s a favourite for independent musicians, DJ/producers and bands because of its flexible pricing (eg “pay what you want” schemes, or prices set by artists).

This is where you’ll want to look if you’re after music downloads from tiny record labels, obscure re-releases and micro genres that are well off the beaten path. Some cult-favourite brick and mortar record stores, such as Rush Hour Records in Amsterdam, operate their download store entirely in Bandcamp.

Furthermore, as streaming royalty payouts continue to be miniscule (rumoured to be US$0.005 per stream) artists without a large global following are urging fans to buy their music too as a form of support. Bandcamp is currently the best place to do this as artists get to set pricing and keep a larger chunk of the download cost. So with or without free music, it’s definitely worthy of your support.

How to get free music on Bandcamp

To legally download free DJ music on Bandcamp, the first thing to do is to sign up for a “fan” Bandcamp account. Then look for artists with tracks or albums that have “Name your price” beside the Buy Digital Album or Buy Track links. These let you specify how much you want to give the artist, which of course includes zero.

To make searching easier, you can try to search for tunes with the “free music” tag associated with them. This gives you a roundup of all the songs tagged as free, and then you can simply go through the results and look for the tunes that you want to get.

Read this next: 4 Ways To Build A Great DJ Music Collection For Very Little Money

Since there are lots of small independent labels on Bandcamp, you’re also likely to find EP giveaways and album samplers that they give as promotions, so it’s worth signing up to be notified of any new releases from artists or labels on the platform.

And do consider giving at least something if you love and can use a track!

Pros: Plenty of independent DJ/producers and record labels, simple store design makes it easy to preview and download tracks or even full albums, lots of free / pay what you want tracks

Cons: Major label artists are less likely to have a presence on it

Go to site: Bandcamp

How did music downloads start?

Music downloads are so common these days that we take for granted the fact that they didn’t exist a little over 20 years ago. Music downloading became a thing in the late 90s thanks to the advent of the MP3 file format. MP3 compresses audio files to make them smaller and faster to download over the internet, which was important then because internet speeds were crawling: 56kbps compared to today’s 10mbps standard (100kbps = 1mbps, for those keeping count at home).

When this happened, another internet technology was gaining traction: peer-to-peer file sharing. This enabled anyone to download files from other computers that are connected to the same peer-to-peer file sharing network online. Napster was the first one to create a P2P network just for music files, and it became so big that it was shut down a few years later thanks in no small part to million dollar lawsuits from record companies and major label acts like Metallica.

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Even if Napster was shuttered, the spread of MP3s could not be stopped: the technology that enabled music to be shared had been adopted by other P2P networks, and it became commonplace to download MP3s illegally. This, together with the rapid adoption of MP3 music players and CD burners, was how music piracy became a thing, and was the death knell of the traditional music industry.

Steve Jobs and Apple saw a problem with MP3 downloads though: they were hard to get and often you got lousy quality and rips. They released the iPod in 2001 and the iTunes Store in 2003, which introduced the idea of a US$0.99 music download that was revolutionary at the time. It made buying music easier and faster, plus you had a nice app that let you organise all the music you bought as well as let you rip all the CD music you had into it.

4. Bensound

Bensound is a site that’s popular with content creators and music supervisors because most of the tracks here are royalty free. That means you can legally download free DJ music from here and use the tracks in your sets or mixtapes. The added benefit here is that you can use the music found here for your online content such as YouTube, Facebook and Instagram videos too.

Since it’s primarily aimed at folk looking for background music for their videos or podcasts, that means there’s a wide variety of music available in the catalogue which also means you’ll have to dig deep to find stuff that’s relevant to your DJ library.

How to get free music on Bensound

There are eight main genres found in the Bensound page, and clicking on any of them gives you a list of the releases. Clicking on a release shows you more info about the music, a preview and download link, plus more details about any licences that may be attached to it.

More importantly, there’s a tag cloud underneath the preview button that lets you search for tracks that have similar characteristics to it: for example, if the track you’ve clicked on has the “chill” tag in it, clicking on that will pull up other songs that have “chill” as part of their tags. It’s a quick way to look for tracks by characteristics instead of just by musical style or genre.

Pros: Lots of royalty free music downloads in different genres, no need to sign up to download tracks

Cons: Site looks dated and could be more intuitive to use

Go to site: Bensound

5. CCTrax

CCTrax is an electronic music-focused download site that features songs with Creative Commons licences (hence the “CC” in its name). This means that you can legally download free DJ music from here, but with varying degrees of usage designated by the producers.

For example, you may be able to download the songs and play them in DJ sets, but that doesn’t mean that you can use them as background music for a YouTube video. Creative Commons, then, is a different licence compared to music that is absolutely royalty free.

How to get free music on CCTrax

There are a lot of different electronic music genres on CCTrax such as house, techno, dub and even experimental, making it a good place to dig for gems you won’t find on the big, mainstream download stores. The first thing to do would be to pick your genre of choice at the top of the CCTrax homepage. This lets you visited the page for that style, and you can see the releases that are available to download along with their associated ratings.

Clicking on a release brings you to the release page that has further information on the song / album, plus the available file formats (lossless compression files like FLAC are available if you’d like to spin high quality music files).

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You can also click on the tags in each release to find more music similar to it: this is useful because while there are only seven main genre categories, there are dozens of sub-genres that you can click through in the tags section of a release.

Pros: Catalogue focused on electronic dance music genres, free downloads without giving away an e-mail address or signing up for an account

Cons: Site looks old, not a huge updated catalogue of music

Go to site: CCTrax

What is the Creative Commons licence?

The Creative Commons licence is a kind of copyright that lets creators keep their rights to and ownership of the work, while at the same time allowing others to copy, distribute, and use that work for free. When applying for a Creative Commons licence, the music producer chooses whether or not the song can be used commercially, and whether or not the song can be used in a derivative manner (eg a remix, or as a sample).

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So while a song bearing the Creative Commons licence can be downloaded for free, you may or may not use it for commercial applications such as a mixtape that you sell or a song that you produce and upload to streaming and online stores.

What’s the difference between Creative Commons and royalty free?

Creative Commons means that the creator of the music still retains ownership of it, and so there are limitations attached to how the music is used or manipulated. A royalty free licence means that you can use the music without having to pay a royalty or licence fee each time you use it, and you can make derivative works of it and use in commercial settings too. There still are a few limitations though: for example, for some royalty free sample packs you can’t sell the sounds and pass them off as your own creation.

6. Facebook Pages

While “like for download” apps on Facebook Pages have been banned, DJ/producers who have a strong Facebook presence still use their public Facebook profiles to post free music download links as well as links to mixtapes

And though the significance of an active Facebook Page has dwindled for DJs who don’t do paid ads, there are still a lot of DJs who use it as a way to build a fanbase, and as such it is still a good place to wait for announcements and links to free tunes.

Facebook Pages are also great places to hunt for new exclusives that DJs drop as part of their Facebook Live DJ sets – though they rarely give them away for free, sometimes they drop a link as part of the livestream.

How to get free music on Facebook

Since Facebook itself doesn’t host any music files, you can’t legally download free DJ music directly from it. What you’ll find instead on DJ and record label Facebook Pages are posts that have links to where you can download tracks from. Try bookmarking your favourite label and DJ/producer Pages and make a point to check them out regularly for posts or announcements of free downloads.

You can also try getting in touch with your favourite DJ/producers and asking them for a free download, similar to the process we outlined for SoundCloud. Just bear in mind that you’re more likely to get a positive response from DJ/producers who aren’t part of a big dance label (think Defected, Ministry Of Sound, Drumcode, Hot Creations) simply because they aren’t tied to any contractual obligations when it comes to giving away their music.

Pros: It’s likely that you already have Facebook, so you don’t need to sign up for a new service. Almost all DJs have a Facebook Page, which makes looking for them easy

Cons: Facebook doesn’t host any actual MP3 files, so you’re like going to be clicking a link away from Facebook to download those songs

Go to site: Facebook

7. Jamendo

One of the newer sites on this list, Jamendo is a platform that lets you legally download free DJ music from independent artists, and it also gives the artists an opportunity to upload their music for music placement consideration in TV, film, and online content by music supervisors.

It’s similar to Bensound, but with a fresher interface and more robust community and chart features. If you love digging through music from indie producers and enjoy the music discovery experience, you’ll want to check Jamendo out.

How to get free music on Jamendo

A great place to start on Jamendo is by going to the Explore section in the home page. This brings up the different music genre tags available on Jamendo, known as “Communities”, and you can just click on the music style you want. For example, if you want to look for house music just click on the #electronic Community and you’ll be brought to a page that lists all the latest tracks that fit that style.

All songs are free to download for personal use and come with a Creative Commons licence, which means you can spin with it during your DJ sets (more on Creative Commons above).

Read this next: 4 Ways To Build A Great DJ Music Collection For Very Little Money

Another good starting point is the Selections section in the home page. This acts as the “blog” of the platform, and you get to see what new playlists, charts and Collections have been posted chronologically.

Pros: Easy search option lets you go through its large collection, music downloads are free without the need for signing up

Cons: Since it’s a “portal” mostly for music supervisors you won’t find big DJs here, as most are composers and bedroom producers putting their music up for licensing

Go to site: Jamendo

8. BeatStars

BeatStars is one of the biggest and most popular sites for DJ/producers looking for beats because it’s an online marketplace for hip-hop and bass instrumentals. Budding beatsmiths and professionals upload their music here looking to sell or license them to MCs and vocalists looking for instrumentals to rap or sing over.

It’s hot right now because there are a lot of respected producers and beatmakers on the platform selling quality beats for cheap. One story is of the young rapper who bought a beat on it for $30, recorded a vocal at home and put the song out on the internet. The name of that rapper is Lil Nas X and the beat turned out to be Old Town Road, which became the defining chart single of 2019.

How to get free music on BeatStars

The best part is that while the beats here are cheap, there are also lots of free downloads to be had. The quickest way is to go to the Tracks menu at the top of the screen, and then click on “Free Beats”. This brings up a big list of all the tracks you can grab for free in exchange for an email address or a follow on BeatStars (it has a social feature similar to SoundCloud).

Another way to go about it is to just click on a playlist you like: the BeatStars interface feels like browsing through Spotify (smart!) so you have different playlists based on mood and genre. Once you pick a playlist, the beats will show up and you can pick out the ones that are free because they’ve got a download icon beside them. All you need to do is to click it and enter an email or follow the beatmaker on BeatStars to grab the instrumental.

Pros: Hot site now for hip-hop beats and instrumentals, thriving marketplace and community

Cons: Hip-hop and bass music-focused selection may leave those looking for house / techno and EDM out in the cold

Go to site: BeatStars

9. ReverbNation

One of the longest running sites on this list is ReverbNation. Launched back in 2006, it’s a social networking platform that was seen as an alternative to MySpace (remember that?) but this time with a focus on being primarily for musicians, producers and artists.

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While it isn’t as popular as it once was, some DJ/producers still release music on it, and it still has a catalogue of tunes from artists who have signed up in the past. A good place to spend time digging through, if only for the nostalgia of the platform.

How to get free music on ReverbNation

ReverbNation has a team that curates music on a regular basis, and these tunes show up in playlists on the site. Once you’ve signed up for an account, head on over to the “Discover” tab to access these playlists. You can go through the songs in the playlist and see which ones have a free download option by looking at the ReverbNation music player at the bottom of your screen.

We recommend joining the mailing list of any artists that you like here and building rapport with them because the ReverbNation community is much smaller than SoundCloud, so it’s easier to get noticed here by other DJ/producers if you take the time to sign up and reach out to them.

Pros: Large existing community of artists, musicians and DJ/producers, which means there’s a big back catalogue of indie releases to go through

Cons: Not top of mind for new DJ/producers when it comes to putting out music, dated interface

Go to site: ReverbNation

10. SoundClick

Similar to ReverbNation in that it gained prominence during MySpace’s heyday, SoundClick is still alive and kicking. Originally launched back in 1997 as a place for bands to release music online, SoundClick has since pivoted to being a platform for streaming and selling electronic beats.

It’s not getting a lot of eyeballs these days so releases from big artists are practically non-existent, but if you’re looking for hip-hop instrumentals and tracks from bedroom producers, this is a good place to legally download free DJ music of this type from.

How to get free music on SoundClick

If you want a quick win on SoundClick, use the search feature and type in “free download”. You’re going to be given tracks that have the “#freedownload” hashtag in them, and the cool thing is that you’re able to sort through them by genre using a dropdown menu on the site.

Can’t find the genre that you like? Type in the search field (eg “tropical) along with “free download” to get music results with those tags. A caveat: you still get some results that aren’t free, so you’ll have to do a fair bit of scrolling depending on the kind of music you’re after. The cool thing is that for the tunes that are free, you can get them without having to create an account or signing in.

Pros: Free music downloads once you sign up. One of the oldest music sites around with a large library of different types of music

Cons: On the verge of irrelevance for DJ/producers, plus it looks like it really is one of the oldest music sites around

Go to site: SoundClick

“Hold on… why can’t I just rip music from YouTube?”

While P2P music piracy got the boot thanks to legit online music stores and the widespread adoption of music streaming services, the past decade saw a new kind of illegal download known as “YouTube rips”. These come from sites that allow you to copy and paste a YouTube link in order to extract the audio as an MP3 file. These sites even let you rip the video too!

You cannot legally download free DJ music from YouTube. Indulging in YouTube rips to build your DJ library is still illegal: it’s just a newer form of music piracy, so you’re still stealing and ripping off the artist who made the music. But apart from that, there’s another reason why you should avoid rips: they sound bad, especially compared to the other MP3s that you acquired legally.

The reason for this is because whenever a video file is uploaded to YouTube, that file is compressed and transcoded. This shrinks the file size of the video: that’s great for streaming because it doesn’t eat up too much data (imagine streaming a 3GB video – yikes) but that also means the audio is compressed.

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This quality is generally acceptable when you’re streaming on YouTube from your phone, but in a club or a big sound system? It can sound “squashed” compared to your other music, like the bass isn’t deep enough and the highs aren’t open enough. And that’s the best case scenario – because YouTube ripping sites just extract the audio from the already compressed video, sometimes they compress that even more depending on the conversion quality, so you’re really not getting the best sonic representation of the music you want to download.

Skip YouTube rips if you respect dance culture, the artist, and yourself as a DJ.

11. Last.fm

Last.fm is a service that tracks the artists and music you played and liked (called “scrobbles”) and gives you recommendations based on them. It was huge in the 2000s because of its then-revolutionary song discovery and user-generated chart making features.

Though it’s not a music streaming service anymore – it ended its “internet radio” broadcast back in 2014 and now just pulls YouTube videos – it’s still alive and kicking today. It’s also a place to legally download free DJ music, though the selection is quite limited and, frankly, dated. Still, you might find some good ones in there if you do enough digging.

How to get free music on Last.fm

While there aren’t a lot of new tracks, going to the Free Music section of Last.fm gets you a mix of hip-hop, dance, acoustic and electronic music. It’s not the best repository, but there are some good picks in there to fill in a few niche gaps in your DJ library (eg Death Grips, Nils Frahm, The Glitch Mob).

You can also use the search box in Last.fm and type in search queries like “royalty free” to pull up a list of results that have the royalty free licence attributed to them. You can then click the download link beside the track you like to see if you can download the track.

Pros: Deep music discovery and charts, decent social networking features (though a bit limited)

Cons: Not a wide variety of free tunes to grab from the site

Go to site: Last.fm

12. Record label sites and YouTube channels

Once in a while, record labels giveaway tunes and samplers as a promotion or if they’re trying to build buzz for a new artist. Labels also announce contests and prizes to members of their newsletter, so it’s a good idea to sign up to your favourite labels if you’d like to join such promos.

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Free downloads from label sites are getting rarer these days though as most have simply shifted to putting music up on music streaming sites.

How to get free music from record labels

What you’re more likely to see are YouTube channels that these labels have set up specifically for giving away free music. Spinnin’ Records (EDM, future house) and Majestic Casual (chill, lofi house and electronica) for example, are big labels that have a royalty free music channel with releases from their artists that you can download.

There are smaller labels too like Tasty Records and Argofox that publish their own royalty free music for you to download. The reason these labels are on YouTube is because these songs have been cleared for use in YouTube as well as Twitch streams, and content creators are encouraged to download and use them in their videos.

Apart from visiting your favourite labels and checking if they have any free music samplers to download, do a Google or YouTube search if they have any royalty free music channels or microsites where you can grab songs from.

Pros: Straight from the source of your favourite producers and DJs, a chance to get exclusive music and samplers through contests and promos

Cons: Giving away music isn’t the number one priority of a business-minded record label, so expect free downloads to be few and far between for such companies

13. Amazon Music

Similar to the iTunes Store, Amazon Music has a massive catalogue of tunes. Though not as popular as Apple’s store, people who shop on Amazon and own Amazon’s Echo devices find it convenient to be able to look for MP3s using a familiar interface (almost everyone has bought something on Amazon at one point). And you can legally download free DJ music from here too – over 40,000 tracks at last count!

How to get free music on Amazon Music

Amazon Music has a ton of music for sale, but it has a little corner where you can check out the free tunes the site has to offer. The quickest way to do this is to visit this link, which takes you to a page with search results for songs that are free. You can then go through the search results and sort them according to release date, artist name, and so on.

The only downside is the free music search results tend to be a hodgepodge of music, audiobooks, and spoken word MP3s. Since there’s no way to refine the search by genre, it takes a bit of time going through all the results to find the ones that you like.

Pros: Familiar online shopping interface

Cons: Free MP3 results are a mix of music, spoken word pieces and short audiobooks. No way to sort free MP3s by genre

Go to site: Amazon Music

Finally…

Our DJ sets are only as good as the music we select. While music streaming in DJ apps is starting to proliferate thanks to software integrations like Beatport LINK, Beatsource LINK and TIDAL, the fact is that an overwhelming majority of DJs still download their music, and will do so for the near future. This is especially true for songs that don’t show up on music streaming sites, as in the case for “download-only exclusives”, bootlegs and remixes.

Though download sales are on the decline, it doesn’t mean that the MP3 download will go away any time soon, at least not for DJs. And so for now, it’s good to know where you can legally download free DJ music, for all the reasons we’ve discussed.

We’ll just have to wait and see whether music streaming becomes the de facto way that DJs get their music for spinning. For now, it’s still worth seeking out those free gems where you can find them; after all, where there’s effort there’s often reward…

Last updated 29 June, 2020

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