So you want to be a DJ? You'll need vinyl to put on that shiny new pair of Technics.
This writeup assumes that you'll be buying records of the standard electronic dance music
variety, namely one or more of the following: house, trance, drum and bass, techno,
The most important thing that you'll need to help you in your quest is a notebook. This
should have in it nothing more than a list of records that you want to buy.
You know those Global Underground, Ministry of Sound, and other mix CDs that you have in
your CD changer? Dig up the jewel cases and liner notes for them. Find the artist name,
track name, and most importantly, the record label of your favorite tracks from those CDs.
Write those down in your notebook.
Try to listen to as many live and pre-recorded sets as you can, including John Digweed's
show on Kiss 100 FM London, and the Essential Mix on Radio 1. Pick out the tracks that
you like. When a tracklist isn't attached with a set, the guys over at the GU message board
(www.globalunderground.co.uk) will help you out with trainspotting - identifying the names of
tracks. Write these down in your notebook.
From mkb:For more help with tracklists on the 313 list and the dirtylist are often helpful as well.
Hit the online record stores every week, when the new releases come out. Make sure you
visit at least three or four, as some stores might not stock certain labels. The
better online stores have 2-3 minute decent-quality samples of each track on the record, which
is usually enough to help you make a decision. Make sure you listen to all off the
releases in your genre of choice - having an open mind for every artist and track can lead to
some truly great finds. Also, do searches for the artists and labels you have written down in
your notebook, and see what else they've put out, as they usually put out similar material (in
content and quality) from release to release. Buy the ones you like the most (10 is a good
number), and write down the artists and labels of the records you've just bought.
From mkb: another good place to look for producers is to check out the "Thanks to..." section of an LP.
Now to the best part of the process:
Pay a visit to a dance record store in your area.
If you live in a major metropolitan area, it should usually be no trouble to find at least
two within an hour drive. Also, most of the big online shops have brick and mortar
counterparts. When you make your first visit, make sure you allocate at least three hours to the
trip; the art of buying records is definitely not one to be rushed. Set a budget, and don't
expect to walk out of there without being at least $100 poorer.
The first step is to run over to the new releases section of your genre(s) of choice. This
is the heart of it all, folks. Grab a bunch (more than around 15 or so is considered bad
etiquette) and listen to them on one of the in-store turntables. If the record store you're
at doesn't let you listen to the records before you buy, take your business elsewhere. As you
listen to each track, get a feel for the build-up, the breakdown, and the come-down of each
record. Make three little stacks for Yes, No, and Maybe. After going through all of the
records, hang onto your yes and maybe piles, and put your no pile back. Cycle through the rest
of the new releases in this fashion.
Most record stores usually have racks and racks of non-new release inventory, sorted by
label and/or artist. Now get out your little notebook again. Find those favorite artists and
labels of yours, and look through the racks (also called the bins) for them. Once you have
your ten or 15, sort through them.
Finally, talk to the guy working there and ask him for any suggestions. Tell him the kind
of sound that you are looking for, and show him your picks. He will often have glowing reviews
for a few pieces of music that you probably wouldn't have even given a second glance at. If
you're really nice, he might let you have a record or two from the secret under-the-counter
To wrap up your trip, of course, you gotta whip out the plastic and pay for the damn
things. You'll often find that you've exceeded by two or three times the budget you've set for
the trip. This is when it hurts... having to leave behind your maybes and some yes's as well,
fully knowing that when you come back with enough money to buy them, they'll be long gone. Give
your records one last spin and make your final purchase.
NOW GO HOME AND ENJOY THE MELODIES :)
A few things to keep in consideration while you buy:
- In the United States, records are usually $6 for a domestic release, and $10 for an
- Expect to pay as much as ten times this for a rare, classic, or unreleased record on
- "Promos" are limited pressing releases of tracks that are to be released in the next couple
of months. They're meant to go to big DJs in order to help promote the tune; hence the name.
Often times, however, you will see a promo on sale at a shop. Don't fall into the trap of
buying it just because hasn't yet gotten a full release. However, if you like the record, by all
means, buy it, and then thank your diety of choice for such lovely material.
- "White Labels" are also limited pressing records, with white labels that usually are sparse on information. These are a mixed bag: some are simply badly-labelled promos, some are tracks from quality producers with unclearable samples, and some are horrid quality bootlegs. Be careful.
- "Test pressings" are super-limited pressings of material that is usually six to eighteen
months away from release. Maybe fifty are made for any given record, and they are given to the
biggest of the big name DJs, eg Sasha and John Digweed.
- Make sure you buy music for the beginning, middle, and end of your DJ sets. You
can't just play peak-time, banging tracks all night; you need slower, mellower stuff for
the beginning, and closer type tracks to bring and end to your musical journey.
- On a big order of new-ish releases (10+ records) it is often cheaper to buy the records
from the UK and have them shipped. The cost will usually average out to $8 or so a record on a
big order, which is a substatial discount from the $10 + tax you'll pay at a US-based store. The
place to do this at is Juno, described below.
Good online record stores:
I wish you the best in your DJ endeavours! Good luck!
thanks for everyone's suggestions, please keep sending them on over, and i'll keep making additions.