This simple DJ tip will change the way you organize your music forever
Label your tracks in a way you will remember their ‘tags’ and put those words in place where you can read them. This holds true from vinyl origins where you could write notes on the sleeve, but with metadata fields we now have access to much more space for descriptions and the ability to sort your crates programmatically.
tldr; Why you should make and apply unique tags: makes your library easily searchable by keywords
The list of ways to organize your music library: in order of effectiveness
- Comments field of ID3 tags using unique adjectives or keywords *** (this is the best way, described below)
- Playlists ** (treat them like a record bag/crate)
- Smart playlists are your friend. Combine multiple keywords for specificity or genre overlap.
- Multiple words in the Genre field – djtechtools article
- It’s better to keep the Genre to the standard categories though (see below)
- Good for if you manually organize things, or use command line scripts
- Automate folder sorting or it’s too much work
- How to organize a setlist for a specific DJ gig: see this post my facebook page
I was introduced to this method in 2006 and it’s evolved into an indispensable part of my DJ workflow. I can build playlists on the fly, find effective bridges, layers, intros – any sort of situation where a type of song is required, and one simple search will provide me with a handful of songs that I can choose the best option from.
How do you choose keywords?
In order to be able to quickly find songs they need to be descriptive and unique. They can be emotions (joy, happy, melancholy) or labels, or instruments, or just a related feeling (western, deep, acid, dreamy, vocal) and subgenre or style (purple, skwee, wonky, tropical, garage, chicago, detroit). Pay attention to what overlaps and can be confused (ragga in jungle vs reggae in dub). I also avoid using names that are already in use by older genres. Electro and House together find things like this song (Detroit Grand Pubahs – Sandwiches) whereas the unique tag I’ve created Elektrohaus brings up the modern style better represented by this (Burufunk, Carbon Community, Deadmau5 – Community Funk). Modern electro house does not sound like the original detroit electro funk. Check the extra image below for some more examples with Tech House songs some of you may recognize.
You may think this labelling is a lot of work as you have to comment on each one individually, but it saves you time when you need it most – on the decks, in front of a crowd. Usually 1-2 extra tags per song will help you find them in the hay pile. When you’re sorting a bunch at once, select multiple by album/compilation (holding shift click first and last). There’s positive feedback too: those songs with more tags will show up on more searches, so you can preferentially tag your favourites with more detail.
Why not Genres?
It’s really common for people to disagree on what a genre is. Or whether a song is House or Techno. Sometimes it feels like only the DJs and journalists have any sort of coherent agreement on what they are. But, there’s a few very functional reasons for keeping them general. Restricting a song to one Genre immediately provides a quick column to sort by, which is easier to read than an assortment of terms. Having a ‘bottom line’ field like this(genre) and a details field (comments) allows you to apply a hierarchy (e.g. Search where Genre=Techno, rather than all matches of the word techno, which might be better defined as some other genre but is noticeably techno-influenced). Additionally there’s already a science on how to name things so they’re organized. It’s called taxonomy and it was invented by 18th century natural historians like Carl von Linné. The advantage of a nested tree approach means that you can construct relationships of musical Genres in your library. Basically, I’m arguing in favour of having one field as a set of limited terms. I choose Genre over comments for this because it will autocomplete in many programs.
Bonus tip: Make your rating system more meaningful
iTunes star method: only ever add a star when you’re listening and think to yourself “oh, I really like this” makes them harder to earn and more meaningful. Nothing wrong with having no stars, unless those are your deletion candidates. I have less than a dozen songs with 5 stars, which may be kinda silly, but I will listen to those songs for the rest of my life.
Also, be ruthless in deleting. If you don’t see yourself ever having it for listening at home or playing it for others, get rid of the clutter. If you ever do want to listen to it again, you could find it on YouTube or other radio. By only keeping songs you like, you don’t have to worry about playing something bad.
Everyone uses the ratings differently. If you have a method that’s worked for you, please leave a comment and it could help others.
Not saying my way is the only way, here’s some other great articles on music organization
https://www.digitaldjtips.com/2015/05/7-rules-music-organisation-new-digital-djs/ – plan and sort
http://djtechtools.com/2012/04/15/the-art-of-prep-5-principles-every-dj-should-know/ – general DJ preparation tips
Video format for Mac OSX users. In Mavericks, you can do this outside your media player (this is just colour tags, limited application)