Traveling and endless groupies aren’t the only perks to being a DJ, getting endless free music is another one of the draws. Which is why I’m often asked how do DJs get unreleased tracks? In this article, I’ll run through the various ways of how to get free music as a DJ.
The only way to get unreleased music, legally, is to prove your worth or need for it to a record label or PR company. Also, realize that the DJ community can be very cliquey. Therefore, free unreleased music is often passed it around just by being friends with people in the industry, in particular, DJs and producers.
Direct from Labels
All decent record labels will give out promotional, unreleased tracks to a select list of people. This helps an artist get wider exposure and media coverage, as well as earning feedback, prior to release.
Getting on a record label promo list isn’t as hard as some people think. Often it is just a case of finding the right person to speak to within the label. Generally, there will actually be a dedicated media relations person, certainly in the bigger labels.
In this case, you simply email them explaining that you’re a fan of the artist/label already and that you would like to be added to their promo list.
Sometimes it can take a bit of time, and a bit of nudging to actually make it on the list. But I have found that labels are not as restrictive as you first might think. Especially when you make it clear that you understand the level of respect and discretion that is needed i.e that you will not be sharing the tracks with anyone else or putting them online.
You will also need to show why you being on the list will benefit the label. I will discuss the ways you can do this further down the article. But first to go over some other places that have promo lists…
Many labels also employ a PR company to manage everything from their music releases through to event promotion. Making them another answer to how do DJs get unreleased tracks.
When it comes close to new music being launched PR companies will send out promo tracks to their entire lists. This is again to get pre-promotion and generate interest in the music before it actually comes out.
As with the labels, the way to get on these lists is simply to establish contact and build up a relationship with the relevant person. Again you do this by proving you have an interest and a need for their music.
Keep reading to learn a couple of ways of quantifying this the PR companies.
You may see the term ‘Promo services’ but these are simply still PR companies that are dedicated to music promotion. These include places like Label Engine and Infyte who’s lists tend to be invite-only.
However to get that invite starts with, yep you’ve guessed it, contacting and building a relationship with someone within the company…
Make Friends With DJs & Producers
As I mentioned above the DJ industry is essentially one large community. So a great way to get free music is to become friends directly with DJs and producers.
This does not mean you have to know the DJ personally or know them face to face. You can instead nurture and build relationships simply by being a regular commenter on their social media. You can also engage them in useful, but not annoying, private chat.
It is important not to go in asking directly for music in the first messages. Instead, build up some connection by first showing that you have an interest and a love for their music. Overtime share what is it you do yourself and where you play.
By doing this there is then a high chance that the DJ producer will offer free music, or at very least, be more responsive when you do eventually ask. You can also ask indirectly by framing your question along the lines of “Is there a promo list somewhere that I can apply for so I can receive and preview your music?”.
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Follow a DJ/Producer on Every Platform
Further to the above. One way to ensure that you are effective in nurturing relationships is to make sure you follow your favorite producers on every platform that they use.
Then simply be active and comment whenever they post. This does a couple of things:
- 1 – It means that your name will pop up in their feed regularly in multiple places. And the more times you do this again (by being helpful, not annoying) then the more they will remember and get to like you.
- 2 – It is common for artists to release tracks, or offer exclusive downloads via their email list or by limited SoundCloud download, for example. So, by following a DJ on every platform you maximize your chances of seeing those offers and being able to download free, unreleased music.
DJ Record Pools
These are a good idea for any serious DJ to be a member of anyway, regardless of getting unreleased music. For a flat monthly fee, you are able to download from a library of thousands of tracks every month.
On top of that, DJ record pools will often have exclusive tracks or access to music before they are released to the general public. Meaning you will be able to play music in your set before any of your other DJ friends.
How to Get on DJ Promo Lists & Get Unreleased Music
As I mentioned above, when it comes to getting on label and PR promo lists you have to prove that it is going to be worth their while for them. So let’s go over a few ways to prove your worth, including a couple that you may not have thought of.
Starting with the most obvious.
Be DJing Regularly Better Yet… Have a Residency
When it comes to promo lists, the label and PR companies want to know that the music is actually going to get played and heard by people. Therefore, when you apply to be on a list make sure that you include:
- How often you DJ
- The type of music/sets you play
- The type of venues you play at
- The type of audience you play for (i.e their tastes)
Of course, the more people you play to and more gigs you do on a regular basis then the more inclined they will be to add you to their list.
Therefore, it can be really beneficial to mention that you have a residency at a club that plays exactly the type of music that the label releases. This tells them that you will be premiering the tracks to audiences that genuinely love, and are interested in, the music that they’re trying to promote.
Now for a couple of options you may not have thought of…
How Do DJs Get Unreleased Tracks? By Having a Radio Show
With the proliferation of internet radio stations, there is now more opportunity than ever to have your own show. And it is nowhere near as hard as people think it is to get one.
Lots of underground and online stations fill their roster with volunteer DJs. Therefore, spend some time making a list of every station you can find on which you would like to have a show. Then contact them one by one, requesting to have a slot. When doing this it helps to have a cohesive online presence that you can link when submitting your application.
Aside from being able to get free DJ music this also has the benefit of keeping yourself accountable. In that, you will be creating new mixes every single week. And therefore, you’ll always be honing your skills and finding new music.
Once you have had your show for a short while then you can include it when applying to be put on a promo list. Still include your regular gigging schedule of course.
Radio DJs are more beneficial to label/PR lists than solely club DJs. This is because, aside from actually playing the tracks on-air you are also able to state their name and release date, and even include links on the radio station’s website. Making it much easier for anyone to find, identify and find the music to purchase.
Write for a Magazine / Online Publication
Similar to the above there are now many opportunities to write for a lot of different music sites or online magazines. With this method, it helps if you enjoy the writing process as it means you’ll be spending less time on the decks (see our recommended decks here) than you would by having a radio show.
However, it can be a great way to get unreleased DJ music regularly. As labels, and in particular PR companies, actually want to send them to you in order to get reviews. Even by writing for a small local magazine I was able to get one major label promo lists so you don’t always have to target the big publications.
This method does require you to be consistent and disciplined, however. You will not only have to meet deadlines set by the publication but also send those articles back to the label and PR companies. This is to prove that you are actually doing something with the music they are sending you.
Another benefit of writing reviews is that you can also cover events. Both before (previewing them) and after (reviewing them).
This makes writing not only a good answer to ‘how do DJs get unreleased tracks?’ but also ‘how do I get free guestlists’. This is because you can request media passes to any number of events.
I did this for years when I first started in the industry. Essentially meaning I didn’t pay to go to clubs or festivals for approximately four years before I stopped writing to focus solely on DJing.
You can, of course, apply for press passes via a radio show as well. However, it does tend to be easier if you are actually writing previews/reviews as these sit online, and therefore provide coverage, for years.
Can You Use Unreleased Tracks in DJ Mixes?
While many people consider this a bit of a grey area, the answer is fairly simple.
If you have obtained those unreleased tracks legally, i.e direct from a label, then yes, you can use those tracks in your DJ mixes. As, again, this helps to actually promote the track (especially if you include a full tracklist of your mix).
However, if you have obtained them illegally, from a torrent site for example, then no. You should not use these mixes in your tracks in your DJ mix.
While there is a fairly low chance of you actually getting in trouble for using unreleased tracks. If the wrong person notices then, at the very least, you may get blacklisted from ever receiving music from that label, or PR company, again. And, because the DJ industry is such a (relatively) small community, it is simply not worth having that blot against your name. You simply never know when it might come back and bite you.
Soundcloud’s copyright info is detailed here.
Conclusion How Do DJs Get Unreleased Tracks?
People tend to overcomplicate how to get free music and think it is harder than it actually is. Like anything worth having it simply requires a bit of work on your part. This can include, as mentioned, booking regular gigs, or going the extra mile and securing a radio show or contributing to an online publication.
The truth of the matter is, you just need to prove to the label/PR company proof that you are worth sending unreleased music to. Once you do this then they simply will not be able to wait to put you on the list and be happy to give you unreleased music.
If you have any questions about how to achieve any of the above or have other (legal) ideas of how DJs get unreleased music then drop them in the comments and I’ll reply to every single one.