Over To You: How Should I Organise My Playlists?

Joey Santos
Read time: 2 mins
Last updated 5 April, 2018

Are your DJ playlists all over the place? Keep them organised on your hard drive with our three tips in today’s article…

Digital DJ Tips Reader JL writes: “I have seen lots of different ways to organise playlists and pack crates, and I was wondering what your take on this is? I know it’s subjective and it relies on one’s personal taste, but I’m looking for more methods because I want to try out different approaches.”

Digital DJ Tips Says:

It’s a great question, because knowing your music properly and being able to lay your hands on exactly what you want, when you want it, is a cornerstone of good DJing. When it comes to organising lists, DJs take various routes, but they can generally be divided into three main methods. They are:

1. Physical folders

Physical folders
Adding folders in Windows Explorer or Finder is a simple way to create basic playlists.

The simplest way to organise your music this is to create folders on your hard drive using Windows Explorer or Mac OSX’s Finder. This is a truly “old school” way of organising files on a computer, but for some, it’s all they need. It’s simple, and it’s a default that some people have never felt the need to mess with.

Of course, a huge limitation here is that if you want a song to appear in multiple folders, you’re going to have to duplicate it, plus operating system browsers are really bad at handling metadata well, much of which is essential for DJs.

2. Playlisting in iTunes

iTunes Playlists
iTunes has a comprehensive smart playlists feature for powerful list creation.

This is the method we prefer because iTunes gives you powerful smart playlist features for your collection, which can whip your library into shape quickly and keep it organised. Your iTunes collection also shows up in just about any DJ software out there, so you aren’t software-dependent when it comes to accessing your playlists. Using iTunes also makes it very easy to transfer music to your iPhone or iPad for on the go listening or DJing on an iOS device.

You still need to consider where you physically keep your music though, and past that you do need to set up iTunes carefully for DJ use, and it can get confusing when iTunes is also used for non-DJ purposes such as podcasts, cloud music, videos, and so on.

3. Playlisting in your DJ software

Using your DJ software’s library features keeps all your crates in one place.

The final method is to use the playlist / crate function in your DJ app. The advantage to using this is that it keeps playlists right where you use them, and nowhere else. However, that also means that it’s harder to transfer playlists and metadata like cue points to other DJ software (although a third-party app like Rekord Buddy can). Also, no DJ software is as good at smart playlists as iTunes, plus it’s harder to transfer playlists out of your DJ software to smartphone or tablet this way.


Your system primarily needs to be simple enough that once you decide on it, you can stick to it without thought. Where you really need to put your efforts is in deciding on your shortlist of tracks for each and every gig. If you pack some kind of crate / playlist / folder with about twice the music you actually need, and try and play from that selection rather than your whole collection in your hard drive or USB stick, your sets will always be better; limiting yourself this way pushes you to be creative with what you’ve got, sharpens your DJ mind, and makes for freer flowing, more natural programming.

I’m sure many reading this have their own methods too, so I’d like to turn over this question to you.

So, how do you keep your playlists organised on your hard drive? Any tips you’d like to share with our reader? Please do so below.

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