How DJs Find New Music [A Discovery Process]


When I started DJing there wasn’t so much choice on how to find music, let alone new music. Record vinyls are what I started DJing with, ah I miss a good old record shop “crate digging” session. Sure there was Napster and Limewire to download illegal music but that didn’t last the test of time in my eyes.

How Do DJs Find New Music?

DJs find new music by researching streaming service websites, download websites, record pools, following artists on social media, joining record label mailing lists, creating playlists with friends and networking with producers. There are multiple ways that suit various DJs and it really depends on the methods that suit you most.

The digital age has massively progressed and given DJs a wide range of platforms and methods to stumble across new music. Here are some ideas and methods you can adopt if you’ve not thought of them before for finding new music for your DJ sets.

The Definition of “New Music”

Let’s define what we mean by “New Music”.

Coming across “New Music” is not necessarily new to in terms of a piece of music in relation to how new its release date is.

It’s about the ‘Discovery‘ of new music that you as a DJ has not heard before, irrespective of the release date.

It could be a tremendously old school music track, or it could be a remix of a really old track launched on vinyl on a ‘B’ side about 20 years ago. Or it might be a forgotten track featured in a compilation album that is some artists one hit wonder. Music artists that are just becoming more mainstream might have some amazing tracks that you come across too.

So don’t let the article title fool you, it’s NOT all about newly released music but the discovery in which you as a DJ are crafting a DJ set to artistically suit the nature of your DJ set.

Let’s face it, you may be required to curate a DJ set that features a mixture of 80% modern music tracks with a blend of 20% old classic bangers that everyone loves, not just the older generation at the time.

The Goal or Audience

I touched on the audience slightly above which brings us on to a great couple of points.

The goal of your searching for new music to suit your DJ set playlists is key to matching the audience in which you are intending to play to.

The types of DJs vary:

  • Radio DJs
  • Wedding or Mobile DJs
  • Club / Bar DJs
  • Festival DJs
  • Podcast Presenter DJs

From this list you can see there are a wide range of DJs that play music in different formats and ways but more importantly, different audiences.

The point being is that different ways and means to find new music may suit certain types of DJ. Especially in how much influence they may have, for example a Radio DJ may have some quite large influene over gaining new pre-released tracks from record labels or artists

In comparison if you starting out as a DJ you may have little influence in your specific genre or niche, but you will likely have some great friends that may be able to help and inspire you.

The Process

Let’s briefly look at the process in which you could in theory adopt for yourself to discovery new music tracks you’ve personally not heard before.

Hopefully this helps you in your discovery process. Some of which may be obvious to you but also you’ve not thought about before due to being part of your daily life.

  1. Listen & Research – Listen to Music from various platforms. Keep in mind that trends and platforms may change over time so you really need to adapt along with those changes to stay on top.
  2. Keep Track of Music – Record and make a list of those tracks that you like.
  3. Acquire Music – Buy & download, stream or subscription download music that you newly discovered.
  4. Organise Music – Curate and categorise your music tracks into relevant folders on your computer and/or DJ software.
  5. Craft a DJ Set – Experiment and DJ with tracks to get ideas of which tracks merge and mix well together for your audience. Segment music into groups of 20 to 40 minutes to allow for creating segments throughout the event you are DJing.
  6. Finalise DJ Setlist Ideas – Create a final playlist or a folder with related sub-folders (genres) that you are going to play at the time of the event.
  7. Play Live – Have a good idea and plan of how you want the set to pan out. Read the crowd and go with it on the night or time of the event. Remember the ultimate goal is to get people boogying on the dance floor and moving their bodies with a smile on their faces.
  8. Reflect & Analyse – You will benefit from recording your DJ sets and analysing them after, hearing which music tracks worked or didn’t work well together and which tracks got the crowd worked up.

This is a process in which I adopt broadly speaking. There are many ways in which you can take to get to the final DJ playlist, I hope the above provides some inspiration for both beginner and seasoned DJs.

Not all the steps above relevant to the discovery process, but you can see where the process ends up.

Methods to Find New Music

Shazam (Live Club Events / Radio Shows)

Out and about? On the move and out clubbing? I’m sure you’ve heard of Shazam. Best invention ever and bit of technology that’s created from a music discovery point of view in my opinion.

My personal experience with Shazam is that I use it mostly when I’m in a bar, club, restaurant, coffee shop or a passenger in a car.

You may have different places in which you can use Shazam, but it is certainly beneficial if you’re on the go and are desperate to know the name of an absolutely banging track you’ve just heard for your DJ set.

Not only do I get the name of a new music track that I’ve not heard before but I can listen to it again after I’ve recovered from my night out and it records a list of all the tracks I’ve Shazam’d.

If you’re into buying tracks off of iTunes for example, then this is a great way to build your music collection up quickly because you buy the music directly from there.

Spotify

Spotify is another brilliant way to find and discovery music that you’ve not heard before, especially to add to your DJ sets.

Here are the ways in which I use Spotify to achieve my goals of identifying and discovering music:

  • Curated playlists by genre / mood by Spotify
  • Curated playlists by Spotify other users (found in the search bar)
  • Playlists created by your friends as a collective
  • Artist curated playlists e.g. Disclosure’s Record Bag
  • Compilation albums featured e.g. LateNightTales <– Search on Spotify
  • Record label playlists
  • Club/label night event playlists
  • Spotify playlists:
    • Made For You
    • On an Artist Page > click on ‘Fans Also Like’, find related artists and new music this way
    • Friends Activity – hear what your mates have been listening to

If you haven’t had a shot at Spotify then I’d highly recommend it.

Finally, by far my favourite method of discovering new music is by finding a genre specific playlist – by genre specific I mean super specific sub-genre (mostly curated by Spotify).

Sometimes I forget that a playlist has run out and Spotify automatically starts playing music tracks that are related. And from there I start adding music into my own specific playlists ready for my to devise into my own DJ set list.

SoundCloud

SoundCloud is another platform that is super similar to the process of identifying and discovering music on Spotify.

The part that I like the most is finding related artists, listening to their music and then following the artists I like the sound of their music.

From there I usually check my ‘Stream’ and see what new music is added to the stream on a weekly basis. This gives you a great way to curate your own playlists within SoundCloud and link up to your DJ software later on if you have SoundCloud Go+.

YouTube DJ Sets

There are many a DJ set available on YouTube, for example:

All of the above YouTube channels showcase the amazing crafted DJ sets from many a DJ and genre.

Get on YouTube, start exploring DJ sets on there. Play them in the background while you’re cracking on with your day and make a note of the music tracks that peak your interest and start making you nod your head.

A lot of the YouTube videos list the tracks that they play in their DJ sets. If they don’t then the next best step to achieve this is by looking on the website of the company that hosted the event or a search engine might be able to help you. Type in the DJ name, event and date/year.

A lot of music aficionados (geeks) list out DJ set lists on their websites, and in some cases YouTube videos / playlists.

Lastly, look out for music producer artist DJ sets that are classic DJ sets. Some of the tracks on there you would never of heard of, and some might even be the originals before some other producer decided to remix the hell out of it. Recently I stumbled across this classics set by Daft Punk, some really unique tracks in there I’ve never discovered before.

Podcasts & Radio Shows (Blogs Too)

Podcasts and radio shows are great to follow and discover music you’ve not heard before.

They do feature a lot of newly released tracks that you may of not heard before

Here are few Podcasts to follow if you’re into Podcasts for discovering new music:

Follow channels like these on a monthly basis and draw upon some inspiration to add into your DJ sets.

Compilation Albums e.g. Late Night Tales

There are an abundance of compilation albums out there, in various formats including old formats such as CDs and also new formats for example Spotify.

Depending on your style or music that you play as a DJ, or the type of DJ you are, then there are different types of compilations that you may want to sift through. Here are some ideas.

Record Label Websites & Blogs

There are so many record label websites out there on the internet, you can easily follow their websites for actual new releases of singles and EPs to broaden your DJ playlists.

I follow certain record label websites such as Hospital Records and Defected because I love the music they put out. Every once in a while I will check out their websites and see what new music has released on there.

Another inter-connected point here is that music related publications and blog websites usually feature newly released artists or music tracks. So my advice is to follow those blogs on a regular basis to find new tracks that way too.

Record Shops & Record Label Markets

Yes I’ve added it in here. I’m not going to be all digital. There are record shops still out there and also one my favourites, although far and few between, record label markets.

If you’ve still got a soft spot for new music on the wax, then record shops and label markets are a great way to get stuck in. Discovering music this way can be highly expensive and time consuming, but a very therapeutic process.

There may be some limited edition tracks in the crates that you’ve dug through that may not even exist in the realm of the internet. You will certainly have the edge in your DJ sets if you find some hidden lost gems.

A favourite record label market is the ‘Independent Record Label Market‘ that features a lot of markets around Europe. I’ve spent many a time in the one in London, and have spent a shed load of cash too on a lot of old and new tracks I love.

Computer Games

Believe it or not, I’ve stumbled across some great music tracks while playing computer games.

And before you judge, not they are not completely irrelevant, they are super relevant to some DJ sets that I’ve put together in the past.

Let me provide you with the evidence…

I love Drum and Bass music, and one time I was playing a game called ‘Driveclub’ and come across a remix of a track that is produced by Noisia. I loved the game even more and played it for like a day because I loved the track. Check it out here: Hybrid – Power Curve (Noisia Driveclub Remix)

Another driving game I use to play all the time was ‘Dirt 3’, a brilliant game. Danny Byrd, a DnB producer on Hospital Records, had two tracks on there that I eventually grew to love and ended up adding to my DJ playlist. One of those tracks was: Danny Byrd – Judgement Day.

Who said computer games are bad for you, well at least not for DJs that is 😃

Related Questions

Where do DJs get their music?

DJs get their music from a variety of websites and platforms. The most popular and commonly used methods are from music download websites e.g. Beatport, record pool websites e.g. DJCity and music streaming services e.g. SoundCloud.

Do DJs have to buy their music?

Not all DJs have to buy their music. Certain DJs may have relationships with record labels or artists who may supply the DJs with new music releases, remixes or bootlegs of new tracks.

How do DJs organise their music?

DJs can organise their music in their folders on a laptop or DJ software. These folders can then be categorised by genre, sub-genre style, decade, record label, key or harmony and tempo.

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