Back in May we discussed four record pools in the article Top Online Record Pools for DJs: 2013 Edition and based on your feedback we’re back with Part II to round out the list with some of your suggestions. In this edition, we feature five more pools, from the exclusive low-profile ClubKillers to the extensive Direct Music Service. Read on for the reviews!
What is a record pool?
“The music industry sends its newest releases to the pool of DJs; in exchange, the pool provides feedback on each release as well as exposure in their clubs.” – Wikipedia.org
Most pools provide unlimited downloads of high quality digital music (MP3s) for a set monthly price. In return for the music, DJs are often required to provide feedback on either individual tracks or on a group of tracks before being able to download them.
Record pools are both a market research and promotional tool for record labels so they often have rules requiring the members to be working DJs (clubs, radios, etc) so that they get a return for their music in the form of play time in front of a wide audience.
Introducing the pools
Don’t have 10 minutes to read the whole article? Here’s quick summary of each – click on the titles to jump to individual reviews:
Direct Music Service: an extensive catalog (covers seven decades worth of music). Exclusive edits and remixes from their staff of producers, newly redesigned site.
iDJPool: offers FTP as a delivery method along with traditional HTTP, founded in 1985 originally as a vinyl record pool.
MyMP3Pool: serves both MP3s and videos, files on MyMP3Pool have been analyzed in Serato and have had cue points added, they have added key value to songs for those without key detection software, video is optimized for Serato Video.
BPM Supreme: another dual service MP3/Video pool, has an option to receive a monthly physical DVD with the hottest releases, files are prepped for Serato and video is optimized for Serato Video.
ClubKillers: another MP3/video dual service, both a remix service and aggregator. one of the more exclusive pools that likes to keep a rather low profile (until now).
ZipDJ, DJCity, Late Night Record Pool + Digital DJ Pool: see Part I - Top Online Record Pools for DJs: 2013 Edition
Direct Music Service: Exclusive Edits + Mixes
File format: MP3
Price: $64.95/mo (variable discounts for longer term payments)
Direct Music Service recently revamped their website from scratch. The new site features filtering and searching options on the left hand side, advanced searching and menus across the top, and a persistent preview player at the bottom of every page. The design is extremely clean and easy to navigate with virtually no clutter.
Powerful Search + Sort: There are no charts on DMS per se, but they have a powerful sorting tool for their “Top Downloads” section that lets you choose the genre, decade, and time period. For example, you could choose the top downloaded over the last six weeks from House tracks released in the 90s. DMS also has powerful searching options that let you specify genre, remix/edit type, release decade, BPM range, and how you want the results sorted. Combining powerful search with the sorting options makes it very easy to find what you want in their extensive catalog.
Exclusive Edits: DMS is an edit-based service – you won’t find standard radio versions, instrumentals, or acapellas. You will an array of edits for creative mixing, including:
- regular 8-bar full-length intros
- short edits
- acapella outs
- hype edits
- authentic-sounding custom re-drums
Most of the edits found on DMS are exclusive to their service- so in cases where you find popular remixes by the likes of Dave Aude or Jody Den Broeder, they’re often further edited by the DMS team to adjust the intro/outro, or add acapella outs, or other tweaks to improve mixability.
Timeless Tracks: DMS’ library is extensive – at publication they have 18,925 files in their catalog, spanning seven decades. The catalogue is solid for both open-format DJs and commercial club DJs. A quick click into the “1960s” section presented Steppenwolf, Aretha Franklin, The Beatles, and Johnny Cash -without even scrolling. It’s rare to see oldies like that in a digital record pool. (Note: The ones I checked were all edited with re-drums, or “short edits”)
Each track has a preview button- the previews range from 44 seconds to the entire track – always enough of a preview to get an overall idea before you download. The player itself is located at the bottom of the page and is persistent. The player also includes a history of songs you’ve previewed during your current session.
A Bit Pricy: This is one of the more expensive pools at $64.95/mo if you pay monthly for their unlimited download plan. Before getting hands-on with this pool it seems expensive for a modern record pool with the amount of competition available. But having used it and having seen the number of exclusive edits and the huge catalog, the price seems absolutely fair. DMS also has lower-priced membership options that comes with limits to the number of downloads you can make in a month, but any unused downloads rollover monthly if you keep your membership renewed.
iDJPool: Minimal But Impressive
File format: MP3
Price: $50/mo ($25/mo for urban-only, $15/mo for country-only)
Minimal Site Design: iDJPool has a strikingly minimal back-end; the layout of the music catalog is reminiscent of a file browser where you drill down from top-level folders to child folders to find the files you want. At the top level you see folders for American Top 40, Billboard 100, Country, Dance, Holiday, Latin, Megamixes, Remix Service, Rock/Pop/AC, Samples/Scratches/Beats/Loops, Special Mixes, Urban, and Wedding/Birthday/Anniversary. Clicking them expands to show the child folders, named by the week the tracks were added to the service. There are no frills in the design – it has one purpose, to get you music quickly.
For example, when opening the “2011″ folder under “Dance”, it’s one long list of tracks in alphabetical order, showing you every song added to their catalog in that genre for that year on a single page. I kind of like the lack of pagination, allowing endless scrolling and use of the browser’s find feature instead of the search feature of the website.
Simple Search + Loads Of Remixes: The built-in search, like the website, is no frills; it’s a search box with no checkboxes or filters, type what you want and hit enter. For my test I typed in Rihanna and was presented in a flash with over two pages of songs by the pop superstar (to be fair, nearly one whole page was remixes of Diamonds.) I like to use Rihanna as a search on pool reviews because it allows me to compare the producer names I see to get a feel for the type of remixes offered. With iDJPool, there’s exactly what you would hope to see from a pool for club DJs: the originals, clean cuts, remixers like Liam Keegan, Dave Aude, Peter Rauhofer, Edson Pride, and a healthy dose of lesser-known remixes.
Full Previews: Each track has a small play button that starts a preview and to download the track, click the filename and the download starts instantly (up to five concurrent downloads are allowed). The previews are high quality and seem to be full tracks. There’s no player to speak of, the music simply starts when you hit the play button. It’s an effective preview, but it means there’s no way of skipping around the track or viewing a history of your previews.
Downloading is quick, and with speeds of approximately 1.5MB/sec* on a 50Mbps connection. The files tested had complete and consistent ID3 tags for artist, genre, and year – although some of the older releases were missing the genre.
Overall: iDJPool is a work in progress on the design/functionality side (there’s a new design coming soon – in beta at the moment), but the catalog is impressive and at the end of the day it’s the music that matters. Part of the reason their website is so spartan in its design: they let you connect to their servers via FTP and download the files directly; using FTP my max download speed was hitting 3.5 MB/sec and the layout of the directories matched the website exactly.
*it is likely the 3.5 MB/sec seen in the video downloads is the actual speed limit
MyMP3Pool: Subgenre Central
File format: Audio: MP3, Video: MP4
Price: $19.95/mo (variable discounts for longer-term payments)
Site Design: MyMP3Pool features video alongside an extensive selection of music spanning multiple genres. For the amount of content they have across two different mediums the website is quite clean and very easy to navigate; there are a few items of unnecessary clutter like including the column headers above every day’s worth of uploads meaning the header bar can sometimes be repeated up to a dozen times on a single page (doesn’t get in the way but it adds unnecessary scrolling). The main content body of the website is two column with a menu of filters along the left and a list of tracks on the right broken in to pages of ~25 releases per page with a multi-field search area at the top.
Subgenre Heaven?: The website is broken down into All Audio, Mainstream, Dance, DJ Tools, Intros, Acapellas, Throwbacks, and Video.
The genres can be further sorted in to Acapella, Alt, Archives, Bachata, Blends/Mashups, Booty, Club, Country, DJ Tools, Freestyle, Hip Hop, Holiday, Intros, Latin, New Jack, Oldschool, Party Breaks, Pop, Quick Hits, Reggae, Reggaeton, Remix, Rock, Soul, and Transition.
Dance can be further sorted into Baltimore Club, Bass, Bootleg, Breaks, Club, Deep House, Drum and Bass, Electro, Electronica, House, Indie, Moombahton, Nu Disco, Progressive, Remix, Techno, Trance, Trap, and Tribal.
Major genres like “House” sport well over a hundred pages worth of tracks whereas others like “Breaks” which had a grand total of 6 tracks (3 of which were added this year) obviously don’t fare as well.
Library Size: Searching again for Rihanna as a benchmark I found 19 pages of releases, critical remixers like Dave Aude and Jump Smokers, and a number of edits as well. Also in the results were a number of “MMP Remix” tracks – the pool’s own exclusive edits are available for some of the songs on their service. The actual act of performing a search was easy, there are multiple boxes at the top of each page to search for artist, title, bpm, and/or genre and as you scroll down the page the main navbar of the website goes with you that contains a basic search box allowing you to search for artist or title.
The preview player is inline and automatically plays the next track preview when the 60 second clip you were listening to finishes. Preview quality on MMP is high and the one minute length gives you a good feel for the track before downloading.
When you click the download button or the title of the track, you’re directed to a separate track page, with various releases of the track (where applicable), the option to rate out of 5, and user comments. Downloading operates at speeds comparable to the other pools in this review. The sample MP3 files I downloaded had consistent file naming, were tagged properly, included the Key tag as advertised, and had already been analyzed in Serato – major time savers!
Video Options: The video page is presented as thumbnails of the videos with the artist, title, and BPM underneath. Unlike the music section you cannot filter the video page by genre or any other criteria, but you can search by artist, title, or BPM. Clicking a thumbnail or right-clicking and opening in a new tab takes you to a similar release page as the MP3s with ratings, comments, and downloads; the main difference is a 640×400 video player that allows you to preview one minute of the video in decent quality before downloading.
The video files are provided in MP4 format and downloaded faster than the mp3 files at an average of 3MB/sec. The videos are 29 FPS, have 316Kbps audio, and are 640×360. Despite the resolution size, they looked fine on my 1920×1080 monitor in full screen as they sport a high video bitrate. According to MMP, the videos are also optimized for Serato Video. [Upon further investigation, 640×360 but with high bitrate appears to be the standard for non-HD music videos provided by numerous pools.]
A Value Buy: Overall at $20/mo there’s great value in this service – and that’s ignoring the video section. There are a few minor things I would change in the design of the website but nothing that affects overall functionality of the service.
BPM Supreme: Batch Downloaders Welcome
BPM Supreme also offers video alongside their large MP3 library. Audio on BPM is broken down in to Hip-Hop, Latin, House/Electro, Dubstep/Trap, Remixes, Top 40, Pop/Rock, Loops, Country, Acapellas, R&B, Reggae/Dancehall, Club/House, and Exclusives, while video is broken down in to Video Remixes, Singles/Intros, Hip-Hop, Pop/Rock, Top 40, House/Electo, Latin, and Classic (throwbacks).
Site Design: BPM features a clean design and easy-to-use features. The website has a large search box with check boxes to restrict your search to either audio or video, a virtual “crate” where you can stick tracks for later downloading, new releases, recommended tracks, radio charts, and various category options for the audio and video. The release list is broken into cells for each release; each cell shows you the track and artist, the different versions available (clean, dirty, acapella, etc), genre, date added, the bpm, and a button to expand the preview/download section. The layout is consistent for both the audio section and the video section.
Previewing: When you expand the preview/download area you have a play icon to start a preview, three dots indicating how many downloads of the particular track you have remaining, a direct download button, and an “add to crate” button. When you start a preview on an audio release the play button turns into a pause button and a circular tracking indicator appears around the play button allowing you to click through the preview; clicking play on a video preview opens a small 320×260 video player in a lightbox with controls to go full screen, click through the track, and adjust the volume. Both preview types allow you to preview the entire song/video and while the audio previews are high quality the video previews are understandably of slightly lower quality likely to conserve bandwidth.
Downloading + Quality: Download speeds for both video and audio were good averaging 3.5 MB/sec while downloading video and getting up to 1.3MB/sec* while downloading MP3s. If you choose to add items to your crate they can be downloaded as a single zip file containing all items that you had stored. Of the sample audio files I downloaded everything was 320Kbps, had complete ID3 tags including genre, and had consistent and correct file naming. The video files were 640×360 at 23 frames per second, contained 319 Kbps audio, and looked great on my 27″ 1080p monitor.
Library Tests: Switching up my benchmark search and opting this time to search for Pitbull I found various edits of the originals (extended, radio, short edit, and so on), a number of remixes by artists I have never heard of, and a decent share recognizable names like Cahill, Bombs Away, Jump Smokers and Starkillers. Restricting the search to audio there were 10 pages with 20 releases per page (keeping in mind a single release could have multiple version when expanded) and restricted to video there were 5 pages of 20 (again with a potential for multiple versions per release).
Overall the library contains everything a club, open-format, or top 40 DJ could need, with similar selection for video DJs. Digging a little deeper into the selection I found in the “classic” video section a number of dancefloor fillers from when I started DJing many years ago like DMX – Party Up and Beyonce – Baby Boy still with multiple versions available (I was able to find the same songs in the audio catalog, but the audio section lacks a “classic” sort option).
Also A Value Pool: As another pool ringing in at under $20/mo offering both video and audio this pool definitely provides value for your dollar. The ability to batch download in a single zip file and the full length previews stick out as some of my favorite features on this particular pool and the website is extremely slick and friendly.
*again, it’s likely the 3.5 MB/sec seen in the video downloads is the actual limit
ClubKillers: Record Pool On The Down Low
File format: Audio: MP3, Video: MP4
ClubKillers is a pool that was mentioned a lot in the comments on the last article – and while talking with the ClubKillers team, I learned they like to keep a rather low profile – focusing more on brand, core members, and exclusive content rather than mass marketing but they graciously allowed me to include them in this roundup.
There’s limited mention of the record pool on the ClubKillers site – only after registering to the website does the option to apply for record pool access become visible.
What’s Trending: The pool is broken into two separate areas for music and video – both have views that allow you to see recent updates, charts, and a breakdown by genre. Focusing on the music section:
- the recent updates section is a list of releases broken sorted straight up by date added
- the charts section has “Last Week’s Most Downloaded” and “All Time Most Downloaded” for each of the main genres with 5 tracks per section expandable to 40
- the genres section shows the main headers Top 40, Electronic Dance, Hip-Hop, DJ Tools, Acapella, Old School, 80′s, Latin, Rock, R&B, Wedding, Instrumental, Reggae, Country, and Holiday each with multiple sub-sections.
Many of the sub-sections have a huge number of tracks while others like Electronic Dance->Trance only have a handful; the main focus (naturally) seems to be in their Top 40/Hip-Hop/Club areas.
Previews: When you click the preview button the row expands to show the download links for the various versions and a basic preview player with pause/volume/tracking. The audio previews are roughly 2 minutes in length and are of high quality.
Video: Clicking into the video pool, the track lists are replaced with a grid of thumbnails with the track title under them. When you hover over one of the thumbnails a little inline popup appears with the artist, video editor, and a download link; actually clicking on a thumbnail takes you to a new page with a YouTube style video player preview (also 2 minutes) and another download link. The video previews are full quality and the preview page has links to other related videos. The video files were 640×360 at 29 frames per second with 320 Kbps audio and again looked great on my 27″ 1080p monitor.
Downloads: Download speeds for me got up to 1.2 MB/sec for both audio and video so although decent there is some limiting at play. The sample audio files I downloaded had consistent file naming, had already been analyzed in Serato (including a cue point on the first beat), and had complete ID3 tags detected by Serato but not by Windows 8.
Still Exclusive: ClubKillers overall has a great selection of music and videos and although the site breaks down into lots of different sub-genres it’s decently easy to use. The site is somewhat exclusive right now; they’re accepting membership applications but not everyone will be approved. The price listed in this review of $35/mo is the current going price for early access members who are accepted to the somewhat exclusive ranks and the price may change when the site goes more public in the future.
On Selecting the Right Pool for You
When it comes to selecting which pool is the correct fit for your needs either based on our articles or recommendations from others, there are a number of key questions to ask yourself:
Things to consider:
- Does the pool have the music you need for your gigs? if a pool doesn’t provide the music you need then it doesn’t deserve a second thought
- Does the pool update frequently? The moment a song is released record labels plaster them across the internet, and patrons in clubs know about new music the night it’s released. If your pool doesn’t update frequently enough or with enough new content you’ll be left behind
- Is specialization or variety more important to you? Some pools clearly have a target audience. Which is the right choice for you depends on how much variety you have in your performances.
- Do you maybe need more than one pool? If it seems like you cannot decide between pools it’s possible you’d be best served by joining them both – or at least trying them both out. Every pool will have some overlap with others – so don’t take this lightly. I am personally a member of no less than three pools at any given time.
Things to consider but not base your final decision on:
- Price: Pools exist for working DJs who are getting paid and who need a lot of music. Every pool listed here is worth the price of admission for the target audience. For some people it makes sense to pay per track instead of joining a pool, but if you’re the type of person pools are made for, price should be low on your priority list.
- Design and aesthetics: Some pools that look like they were designed on the original Myspace (or worse) have blown me away with the content they offer and the service they provide. Sometimes the design budget is sacrificed to make sure the actual content delivery is top notch.
Have comments or suggestions, want to share you experience, or a review of your own? Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you. Also be sure to check out Part I - Top Online Record Pools for DJs: 2013 Edition.