Your Questions: Moving From Vinyl To Digital Music

Phil Morse | Read time: 3 mins
icloud iTunes itunes match music library
Last updated 3 August, 2017

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Switching from vinyl to digital can be a minefield for the new digital DJ. Today we answer some common questions for one reader.
Switching from vinyl to digital can be a minefield for the new digital DJ. Today we answer some common questions for one reader.

Digital DJ Tips reader G writes: “I am an old school DJ, a vinyl man who’s been out of the game for around seven years. As you can imagine the whole digital DJ thing is alien to me but I do like the sound of it and will shortly be taking the plunge. One area that confuses me, and the most important, is the music side. With vinyl it is simple (records in boxes), however with digital music what is the best way? I currently have a lot of music on my laptop and access it with a media player. All software and controllers seem to be compatible with iTunes. So do I need to tranfer all my music to iTunes in order to access it with DJ software? And should I keep all of my music on a separate hard drive for back up / performance reasons?”

“Also, all software seems to have crates or similar that allow you to organise your music. Does this mean that I can select just what I want from iTunes or elsewhere, adding or deleting from crates as and when needed? And finally, once any crates are full of my chosen music where are they best stored on the laptop? With the software, or as mentioned earlier somewhere else like an external drive? Apologies if I come across as a bit of a dinosaur but this is a whole new world to me!”

Digital DJ Tips says:

You don’t come across as a dinosaur, these are common issues and I’ll try to help.

Firstly, you don’t need to transfer all your music to iTunes to use with digital DJ software. All digital DJ software will work fine with music just on your hard drive. (You have to “import” it which means the software makes a note of where to find it when it needs it, analyses it for BPM etc among other things. However, the music doesn’t physically move – it stays on the drive and in the folder it was originally in.)

iTunes Match
With iTunes Match or a similar backup service, you can keep a copy of your music in the cloud as a backup.

If you do decide to use iTunes to organise your music (and I recommend you do, as it’s much better than any of the file organisation tools in DJ software, and as you state, all DJ software works with iTunes anyway), then it makes sense to tick the box in the iTunes preferences that says “Copy files to iTunes Media Folder when adding to library”.

That means once you’ve added something to iTunes, it makes its own copy, and you don’t have to worry about where the original was – but more importantly, you can very simply back up all your music by making a copy of that one folder each week. Note that with iTunes Match you can back up to the cloud – the ultimate solution, and what I do. My rule is that if isn’t in iTunes it doesn’t really exist on my computer.

There is usually no advantage to keeping your music on an external hard drive; your computer will cope fine with it on your internal drive and it reduces any issues of your software being unable to find tunes if the hard drives unplugged. For simplicity’s sake, I’d always keep it on internal, and just have a backup solution externally as I suggest. (Also, locate your DJ software’s database and back that up too – if you ever got your laptop nicked, you could then restore any cue points etc. you’d saved with your files.)

Regarding crates in DJ software, yes you could only add what you wanted, and organise tunes within crates how you like. But if you follow the iTunes route I suggest, you’ll not use your crates in software at all, as you can do all the crating in iTunes at home and when you open your music software all your iTunes crates are there too – tonight’s set, all your house tunes, all your old school music, your party favourites, everything you’ve bought in the last month etc. It’s a bit like spending hours packing record boxes at home (in iTunes) – as soon as you get to your gig, your virtual record boxes are “just there” (in your DJ software).

But as you ask, any DJ software crate information is stored in your DJ software’s database on the laptop, alongside the other stuff I’ve mentioned (any cue points etc). Hope that helps!

• We spend a lot of time going over simple, effective techniques for planning and organising your music library in How To Digital DJ Fast, along with much more stuff of relevancy to vinyl guys converting to digital. Good luck!

Are you a vinyl DJ who struggled when you first converted to digital? What did you do that helped you? And more advice to add to what I’ve offered to our reader? Please share in the comments.

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