Updated: Feb 13, 2021
This is episode 4 in my series of DJ Tips, Tricks and Hacks. Today we’re going to be talking about Organising your Music Library. My library management is completely developed through trial & error so it’s totally unique to me (as far as I know). This whole system or just parts of it might work for you. I’m going to be talking about everything from Playlists, to colour coding Hot Cues to Energy Ratings.
Ok, before we get into talking about how to organise your music, we have to talk about where you keep it. If you don’t have an external Hard Drive, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! You absolutely have to back up all of your Music. Hard Drives only last 3-5 years so it is definitely worth doing a digital backup too.
I bought some velcro strips to attach my Hard Drive to the back of my laptop screen when I'm working so that it's tidy and there's no risk of it being damaged from spills or falling.
I looked extensively for a Cloud solution that would sync with my DJ software, but so far no luck. There are a couple that claim to do it but I wasn't convinced by the quality of the service for the price. I use iCloud and pay 6.99 per month for 2TB (same size as Hard Drive). It works well for me as it's a simple drag & drop based on sorting my files and just copying the files that I've downloaded since the last date that I did a backup. I also save other files (like videos) to my iCloud and I love that I can access everything from all of my devices as I use Apple products. Google Drive is another good option.
I think that it's a really good idea to have a Cloud/digital backup as well as a physical one in case the Hard Drive fails.
I use Rekordbox & Serato. I personally way prefer the interface of Rekordbox but Serato is what is compatible with my Controller. When I’m doing a gig or residency I always just use USBs so do most music management in Rekordbox. You can’t sync the playlists between the two because it’s a bit like Samsung vs Apple- they're competitors so they won't work together. You have to manually drag & drop playlists to make the two libraries mirror each other. I’m gonna show you my Rekordbox Library because that’s my primary library and my Serato Library needs quite a bit of work.
My library management is completely developed through trial & error so- as far as I know- it’s totally unique to me. I've never seen what other DJs do or searched online for solutions. I’ve used different methods in the past but I’ve found that this is what works best for me. I’ve talked about some of these ideas with other DJs before and they’ve been so interested and started doing them themselves so hopefully you feel the same!
Although I'm not doing a Rekordbox tutorial, I will mention a few things that I think make life easier. Firstly is changing the skin to light mode [Settings > View > Skin]. This is so much better for when you are organising/DJing outside or somewhere that there's a lot of light reflecting on the screen of your laptop.
The Columns/Categories that I use are:
• Track Title
• File Type
• Date Added
Right Click on Column Header to choose other columns to add or take any away.
Playlists & Tags
When I download new music, it gets copied from my Downloads folder onto my External Hard Drive and then I’ve actually got my Rekordbox sourced to my Hard Drive [Settings > Advanced > Database Management]. Doing this means that my laptop doesn’t get completely filled up so it crashes as I only keep a portion of my music collection stored on my laptop.
After it has copied to my EHD, I then drop the music into the ‘New’ Section. From there I analyse it and do the Tags [menu on the right side of the screen > My Tag].
Using Tags makes it so much easier to filter your music- both on the CDJ and laptop. You can have so many different Tags (click the + symbol at the bottom of each list] so you can really tailor the options to suit your needs. I have Tags by Genre, Record Labels, components of the Tracks and more.
If you were to just organise your music into playlists- what happens if you accidentally delete a playlist? All of that work is lost. I think this way is just so much tidier and easier to work with and I like to keep updating my Playlists so I don't lost certain information about a track if I remove it from a playlist but want to find it again in the future.
After I’ve done the tags, I then create the playlists.
My old playlists were a bit hectic because I tried a few different things. By event, by genre, by residency. Now in my DJ folder (the one I export) I have music folders by genre, then subfoldered by ‘energy’.
The energy of a track is the intensity of it- it's not just about the BPM.
Some DJs use the Rating Stars to show the “Energy’ of a track but I found that if you have the same track in different playlists, then the energy rating by stars might be different for each of those playlists, so I Playlist by energy. Then it’s really easy to sort by BPM/Key on the CDJ.
I do have playlists for specific projects that I’m working on, but then I drop them into the ‘Misc’ folder when I’m done with them. Sometimes it’s useful to revisit them so I prefer to save them rather than delete them.
I love a colour-coded system! So I came up with setting cues to different colours ages ago and have memorised the key of them, using the same system for about 4 of 5 years now.
I used to sit on flights and do all of this editing (because there's no wifi, lots of time) but then.. Covid happened! Obviously you can just do your cues on the CDJ on the fly but it’s no nice to know that you’re fully prepped and there’s no surprises when it comes to mixing e.g. vocals clashing.
I will scroll through the track, choosing where to set a Cue Point and then click on the next available Hot Cue Marker. I'll then right click on that to change the colour. Some examples of my Key system include:
• Orange - Vocal
• Dark Pink - Drop
• Purple - Break down starts
• Light Blue - 4 bar phase leading to Drop
• Dark Blue - 8 bar phrase leading to Drop
Doing this makes Phrase mixing SO much easier. Spending the time on each track doing this means that I know my music really well and I often come up with creative ideas while I'm setting this up. As you can see in the video, I haven't done this for all of my tracks as I haven't had time to. You can pretty much tell from a waveform what is coming up in the track so I don't stress if I haven't done it- but sometime something can sneak up on you and that's where it's important to know your music.
Let me know in the comments if you found any of these tips useful or if you have any more to add. How do you organise your music? Do you think there’s any ways that I can improve? As I said, this is just what I’ve worked out and fits with my workflow but I’m open to other ideas!
Thanks so much for watching, please don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel, if you haven't already. I’ll be back with a Vlog on Tuesday and a Tutorial on Saturday!