“The mp3 era is over! Streaming is the future!” Is that right? While it is kind of right, and while a lot of beginner DJs can fall into the trap of believing that they can use their DJ controller with Spotify, unfortunately that might not be true because, a couple of years ago, Spotify stopped working with any DJ apps. Luckily, there are other options, like Tidal, Beatport, Beatsource, Soundcloud Go+ and Amazon Music, but all these streaming services still pose the same question: is it actually allowed?
DJ-ing with Spotify
Using Spotify with a DJ Controller: Alas…
Since the 1st of July, 2020, you can no longer use Spotify with any DJ controller model. This means that streaming a Spotify playlist to a controller or DJ app just isn’t an option any more, because Spotify has stopped collaborating with any DJ software and controller developers.
But You Can Still DJ on Spotify, Right?
Sort of! There are three ways you can do a little DJ-ing on Spotify. The simplest is to just make a playlist and play it back, but that’s not really mixing, since the tracks just play one after the other, rather than mixing smoothly into the next thanks to your unrivalled beat-matching skills.
You can feel a little more like a DJ by dipping into the Spotify settings and using the Crossfade function, just note that this only works when playing back an actual playlist. However, with this function, you can still set the transition length between tracks so, when you play them back, the first track smoothly fades out as the next track fades in. Whether or not this actually sounds any good depends on your track list order.
You could also play around with the Automix function, which creates more musical, actually mixed transitions between tracks. To use it, simply turn the Crossfade off and turn the Automix on in the settings. The big downside of using Automix is that it only works on playlists generated by Spotify, so it can be a case of ‘suck it and see’. Having said that, I really recommend having a listen to the ‘Bass Arcade’ playlist.
DJ-ing with Other Streaming Services
So Spotify is no longer an option, really. But luckily, there are plenty of other streaming services that do work with DJ software.
DJ Pools: Beatsource & Beatport
DJ pools are not quite like the other services like Spotify, since they offer a limited range of music that’s specially focussed on DJing. You can read all about them in our other blog, ‘Where Do DJs Get Their Music?’ If the benefits sound good, then definitely check out Beatsource and Beatport. Both services support most DJ software and use the same technology, which is great, but it can make it difficult for first-timers to choose between them. To sum them up: Beatport is more for EDM DJs, so is a better deal if you’re familiar with those kinds of artists and tracks. Beatsource, on the other hand, offers up some really inspired, curated playlists and, while it has a more limited EDM library than Beatport, it does have a wider range of different genres going on, so you can stitch together more varied sets.
Compatible DJ software (as of 2022): rekordbox, Serato DJ, Traktor, VirtualDJ, Engine DJ, WeDJ, Algoriddim Djay ( Mac/ iOS only), DJuiced, Reloop
The streaming service Soundcloud Go+ also does things a bit differently from platforms like Spotify. It’s also different from Beatport and Beatsource, because it’s not actually designed specifically for DJs. Soundcloud Go+ is more based on a ‘music community’, which dictates the music that’s available. Here, you can discover tracks by unknown artists, custom editions of popular tracks made by fans, exclusive remixes, and so on.
Compatible DJ software (as of 2022): rekordbox, Serato DJ, Traktor, VirtualDJ, Engine DJ, WeDJ, Algoriddim Djay (Mac/ iOS only), DJuiced
TIDAL is much like Spotify and Apple Music, but what makes it unique is the combination of a gigantic music library with the option to stream tracks in high resolution, like uncompressed FLAC files. Whether you can actually hear the difference between low and high resolution tracks when you’re playing live is up to your ears. In any case, it’s a good idea to use a good set of speakers, otherwise you won’t stand a chance at noticing any difference anyway.
Compatible DJ software (as of 2022): rekordbox, Serato DJ, Traktor, VirtualDJ, Engine DJ, Algoriddim Djay (Mac/ iOS only), DJuiced
Amazon Music Unlimited
This is another alternative to popular services like Spotify and Apple Music. Amazon Music Unlimited is a new fish in the streaming pond, and at the moment of writing, is only compatible with Engine DJ, which is supported by Numark and Denon DJ controllers. But, considering the gigantic array of tracks in the library, the popularity of the service and, of course, the Amazon stamp, it’s a noteworthy option – providing you have the right hardware, of course.
Compatible DJ software: Engine DJ
So, Which DJ Controller Should I Go For?
Above, we picked out a few DJ-friendly streaming services and listed the DJ software they’re compatible with. All you need to do is check which DJ software supports the DJ controller you’ve got or the model you want to get. That’s your first option. But, of course, you might want to use specific DJ software, so if you really want to use Algoriddim Djay, for example, just check the Algoriddim website and you can easily find out which DJ controllers are supported by Algoriddim Djay. Of course, you can do the same with any DJ software you want.
Use Spotify Playlists in Another Streaming Service
There’s almost always some free or paid tools you can find to help you import your Spotify playlists over to another streaming service (or the other way around). This can save you hundreds of hours spent ‘liking’ thousands of tracks to remake your playlists. Via Google, for example, you can simply search something like ‘export spotify playlist to tidal’ to find what you need.’
Good to Know
Is it Worth Using a Streaming Service to DJ?
In my personal experience, the sound quality between tracks on streaming services can vary quite a lot. This heavily depends on the quality that a streaming service offers. There are record companies that actually have their releases mastered specially for streaming services, and you can really hear the difference. The other downside of using streaming services is that you’re going to always need a reliable internet connection. At home, the WiFi is always stable, but if you’re in a club or on a festival stage, the risks of your connection dropping out are just too great. Of course, you could just make a hotspot with your phone and couple it with your laptop, but that eats up tons of data, so if you’re going to do it, you’d better make sure to add the biggest data bundle to your phone contract. If possible, the best idea is to use a cabled connection in the club, at the venue, or even the festival you’re playing at. Next to that, I recommend getting a family account on Spotify. It can be pretty annoying when your significant-other sticks on his favourite chill-out playlist to take a bath while you’re busy perfecting a banging techno set!
Can You DJ at Festivals Using a Streaming Service?
Where does the law lie on this? Streaming services say in their terms & conditions that the music provided by their services is only for private use, so it can’t be played at the kind of parties you have to pay to get into. So, it doesn’t actually matter if you pay the copyright organisation of the country you’re playing in, you can’t legally use streaming services.
What Does This Mean for Me?
If you’re throwing a free party for your friends and family, then you won’t have any problems. In all other cases a) you can’t use any streaming services*, and b) you need to make sure you make all the necessary arrangements regarding copyright. This last detail is something that a festival organiser usually takes care of, so make sure to ask about it ahead of the gig! Even though the DJ doesn’t carry the responsibility for copyright violations, it would still be a shame if you had to stop mid-set because an official from PRS has turned up to shut everything down.
* For the sake of clarity, it’s worth saying it again: has the club or organiser sorted everything out that they should with PRS? That’s great, but that still doesn’t mean that it’s legal to use a streaming service at any paid or public event, because if you read their terms and conditions, it’s strictly prohibited.
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