How To Get Started Organising Your Music

Last updated 28 March, 2018

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Music library
A well organised music library can make your digital files come to life, make your DJ sets more fun to play and richer in content, and become a positive joy to use. But how do you get started, especially when you already have thousands of tracks?

In 5 Reasons To Organise Your Music Properly, you learned the importance of organising your music library. But where do you start with such a task? Well, your approach should be determined by your immediate and future needs as a DJ, as well as the amount of time and effort you are willing to invest. But first, it pays to know which type of collector you are. Most of us fall into one of the following groups when it comes to the relationship with our music collection. Which are you?

The three types of music collector

1. The “new” collector

You were born in the internet era where the thought of physical media is archaic and all your music is gathered or accessed online. You have a small local collection of tracks but rely more on streaming music rather than downloading.

You realise that streaming music currently has its limitations for DJing so you’re keen to organise and grow your library pretty much from scratch. You’re welcome to new ideas and to trying methods out so you can find the one that works for you – it’s easier to get it right now and build on it as you develop, right?

2. The “passive” collector

You remember CDs and vinyl records as the “original” DJ media and may still use them from time to time. You have built up a varied collection of music that includes physical and digital media, but your purchases have been sporadic and isolated. You welcome the transition to digital-only DJing and music listening, and use streaming as an alternative to listening to your collection, or to support your acquisition choices. You’re buying duplicates of your favourite physical media just because it’s easier than converting them!

Your digital collection has reached a point where you’re losing touch with music you bought a few years ago because it’s got lost in the few thousand tracks you have. When you try to DJ with your collection, you stick with the most recent purchases because you know where they are, and you occasionally miss the tracks that were important to you when you initially had the desire to DJ. Your library needs organising and structure, but you don’t know what to tackle first.

3. The “active” collector

You have always loved music and it’s almost become an addiction to have the latest track and constantly refresh your musical taste as a listener or DJ. You’re pretty sure you know your music well, and although your collection is mostly made up of digital media, you’ve spent time converting some of it from physical sources.

You’ve always recognised the need to have your collection organised and you already have a system in place – but if you’re honest, over time it’s got unwieldly due to changes and inconsistencies in your approach. You stream music primarily to research new tracks before downloading them into your personal collection. You may also choose to separate your library into DJ and non-DJ music based on your preference or needs.

First steps in organising your music

It’s natural to move from one group to the next. But regardless of the group you are currently in, one rule can be applied to organising your library:

Start as you mean to go on!

It sounds simple enough but it’s easy to get lost in the bigger picture of your whole music library. You understand the desired end state of your entire library as being this wonderful free-flowing, search-friendly, auto-playlist generating, dynamic music revival machine, but you forget that in order to get to that state you must start somewhere!

There is no magical “one button” solution to reorganising your library, because in most cases it has grown organically, as that’s the way you’ve added to your collection.

Starting with baby steps

But unless you fall into the first group, or you can afford to scrap your collection and start again, or you are willing to invest the time in “artificially” starting again, you will instead need to make small but defined steps to reorganising your library. It will still take time but the rewards will be more immediate and useful. So where exactly do you start?

At the beginning of this article I stated that your approach depends on your “immediate and future needs as a DJ”. But do you know what your musical needs are? “Yes” you might say, but when you break it down you’ll start to see why you should prioritise those needs. Take today, for example. What are you listening to while you read this? (Nothing? come on, rule #1 for a DJ – always have music playing… 😉 ) What are you expecting to listen to later today?

Maybe you’ve chosen a playlist that includes new or recently added tracks to your collection. There may be some tracks that you haven’t got round to listening to yet. There may also be tracks that are on your current DJ playlist, those you’ve been using in your sets for the past couple of weeks and that you expect to use for the next month or two. Your immediate need is therefore to organise the tracks that you’re listening to now, or will need access to in the very near future. So this is where you start!

You cannot predict all of this but a large proportion of your current musical usage will be “known”, so start organising here, whether you have 200 or 20,000 tracks in your collection. Once you’ve made a start, the ongoing process of reorganising can be incorporated into your workflow alongside dedicated clean-up sessions that can be focused on particular groups of tracks, import dates, genres, release years, artists, albums etc.

Next time:

So that’s the big idea. We’ll look into choosing the right file format for your music library in the next article.

Check out the other parts in this series:

Tell us which type of DJ you are in the comments. What’s the biggest issue you have with organising your music collection? Again, please let us know so we can make the forthcoming articles as useful as possible for you.

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