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Organizing music library

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Hi Daniel, I’m an up and coming DJ, and it seems my music library is getting out of control with all those countless songs and folders. Beatport Pro app looks attractive, but I found it more confusing rather than helpful. What is the best way to organize music library?

Eric H.

According to the entropy law, everything in the Universe goes from order to disorder. From structure to chaos. And we need to put some effort to keep things organized. I’m kind of obsessed with music and order, and especially when both things come together.

As a DJ myself too, I have plenty of incoming music: from stores, promo pools, demos, and so on. Also, I like to listen to podcasts and various ‘non-format’ music (the one I didn’t play, but just enjoy listening), so in total, it’s a huge amount of new music every week.

Eric, I don’t know the best way to organize music library, but I’ll share the way how I do it, and it’s works just perfectly.

Basically, I’m using iTunes. This is the essential. It’s flexible, free, cross-platform app, made to be synced with mobile devices (needless to say how important to re-listen your playlists on the go) , and easily integrated with pro-DJ software, like Traktor or Rekordbox.

Apple iTunes.
Free, OS X, Windows

First things off, iTunes organizes entire music library structure for you. No more need to create folders and move files across your hard drive. Let the smart machine do all dirty job.

To make sure it works this way, go to Preferences → Advanced, and turn on the “Keep iTunes Media folder organized” option.

From now on, Just drag-n-drop files to iTunes, and it automatically put files in the right place on your hard drive according to ID tags:

~/Artist Name/Album Name/01 Track Name.wav

Probably, the only thing that missing on iTunes is BPM matching. What is a DJ’s collection without BPM information, right? To solve this, I’m using Mixed In Key software. This app made for harmonic mixing, but it also matches BPM of the tracks. And what’s most important, again, you don’t need to do anything with files on your hard drive, like move or rename it. Just drag-n-drop files right from iTunes to Mixed in Key, and that’s it — you’ve got BPM information for your songs back on iTunes, automatically.

Mixed In Key
$58, OS X, Windows

Now let’s get back to iTunes. Having numerous new tracks on a regular basis, it’s not an easy task to remember all of this. Which track makes you thrill, and which one is decent, but you won’t play it on a peak time? What was its title? Here comes the rating.

I’m using star rating system to measure such parameters as production quality, a richness of musical content, and energy level. These matters are subjective, but what’s most important — it helps to sort out the tracks. To give an example:

Read also: Production quality vs. musical content

Rating system

Another great feature that helps to sort out music is Smart playlists. In fact, it’s dynamic playlists that updates automatically when it match the criteria you’ve set. Think about it as a filter. For instance, you would like to find Psy-Progressive tracks, in tempo range of 135–138 BPM, rated as 4-stars and above, and added to your collection in the last 4 weeks? Easy:

At last but not least — instant search. This is not a marketing trick, it’s really instant. The secret is following: all information about your entire music library is just a small text file. So once you type a search request, iTunes search inside this text file — not across all your hard drive — so you get search results in a blink of an eye. Do you looking for tracks from a specific label, let’s say, Digital Om Productions? Here we go, 33 releases found even before I finished typing:

Instant search

I tend to agree that iTunes isn’t perfect, there are plenty of room for improvements. But I’m using iTunes for nearly 5 years, and it solves the task excellent.

Dear readers, if you know viable alternatives, feel free to share your experience in the comments below.

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2015   Advice   iTunes   Management

This post is a part of the “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as music production, sound design, performance, management, marketing, and career advice in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.

2 comments
Dave King

I use MediaMonkey on Windows. It has all the features of iTunes, plus FLAC support which was a bit of a deal breaker for me (neither iTunes nor BeatportPro support the FLAC format). It has a pretty solid sync feature which works with all major devices so I can sync with my Android phone. Even though Traktor doesnt have native MM support, you can run a script to export to an iTunes library which Traktor can read.

The smart play lists and tagging features in MediaMonkey are as good, if not better than iTunes, definitely more customisable as MM allows user created scripts and extensions so you can really bend it to your will.

Daniel Lesden

Thanks for your input Dave. As an Apple ecosystem user I never used MediaMonkey, but seems it might be a solid option for Windows/Android users out there.

FLAC is a winner in terms of disk space usage, however, WAV is the industry standard for DJs due to better support of pro software and gear, so I don’t think it’s worth to store all files in FLAC format for a professional DJ.

By the way, I prefer to use AIFF — it has exactly the same audio quality as WAV (same PCM method), but as a container it can include additional information such as extra ID tags and cover image. Beatport store has an option to download purchased tracks in AIFF format instead of WAV, and iTunes also has a built-in converter WAV→AIFF.

Dave King

Oh yeah if youre already in with Apple then iTunes is the way forward, but MM is a great alternative for Windows users. I cant quite remember why I plumped for FLAC, I think it came down to tagging options and Traktor being FLAC compatible.

One of the good things about MM is that it can identify a USB stick as a portable device and do a sync operation, which can include a file conversion. So I have a playlist of about 100 favourite tunes in MM that syncs with a USB stick I have on my keys and converts them all to wavs (although Ill now change that to AIFF!) so its ready to use on Pioneer gear in an emergency.

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