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How To Organize Your Music Library - For DJs and Music Lovers

Working out the best way to organize your music library can be a bit of a pain - but it's nothing compared to the nightmare created by a messy collection. 

Whether you're collecting vinyl records, CDs, downloads, or even music in the cloud - maintaining a well-organized music library has several benefits - I can't understate how valuable this time investment is. 

Bad organization is a nuisance for music lovers, but it can completely ruin a set if you're a DJ, which could even put your career and reputation on the line. 

I'm going to share all the organizational knowledge I've learned over a decade of DJing, so you can clean up and have a perfectly tidy music library!

TL;DR - Organizing Your Music Library#

  • As a DJ (or music lover), good music collection organization is essential to keep the listening experience smooth. 

  • To stay organized, you can use a wide range of musical attributes including artist, genre, year, BPM, key, and vibe, to sort your collection.  

  • The best music organization method depends on how you use your library. 

  • Software like DJ.Studio can help to organize your music, and find tracks faster (on a range of platforms). 

Why You Need To Organize Your Music Collection!#

I'm very meticulous when it comes to organizing any of my music collections - whether it's my records or my Spotify playlists. I've experienced the pain associated with a lack of organization, and felt the advantages of keep it tidy. 

I think one of the biggest benefits is that it makes it for easy you to find music. So many times in my past, I've wanted to listen to a song but forgotten the track name or the artist. Which can be a pretty torturous experience - I'm sure you've experienced it yourself. 

Even as a casual music enjoyer disorganization can be a pain, but as a DJ (especially a professional) this can be a make-or-break skill, that can lead to some horrible moments if you don't do it right. 

Here are some of my favorite benefits that come with an organized music collection - whether you're a DJ or a humble music enjoyer:

  • Find That Track! - This is one that I used to find particularly annoying back in my vinyl DJing days. I'd be inspired to play a particular song, but then I couldn't find it... I'd spend minutes flicking through boxes of records (all with a dancing audience waiting on my next move), and it would take me so long to find it that the current track would nearly run out. Meaning that my transitions were rushed, and I couldn't perform well. Sometimes the time would be so tight I'd have to play a different tune while I kept searching - which could ruin the flow of my mix. While you have access to search tools with digital DJ gear, this isn't an excuse for lazy organization, and you can still cause yourself trouble if you don't properly label and sort downloaded tracks. 

  • Inspired Setlist Building - I feel like the organization stage can also feed into the process of building a setlist. Especially when I'm using a genre or vibe sorting technique, I find that it helps me to create more meaningful, intentional journeys through my collection in a setlist, rather than it being more random and disorganized. 

  • Deeper Musical Exploration - It might sound weird, but I find that organization helps me to explore new music, in a range of ways. For one, it helps me to get a quick overview of what music I already have, so it's clear what directions I need to explore. Additionally, creating a Spotify playlist of music I'm vibing to at the moment helps me to get some great suggestions of new artists to listen to, which can be very inspirational. Feeding your algorithms with music you like often is the best way to find your new favourite songs!

  • Sharing Is Caring - I think this is particularly relevant for online and digital libraries, but it's still relevant for physical collections too. As a DJ, you want to be known as a pillar in your community for discovering cool new songs in your niche. An organized Spotify library can be a nice way to share music with your fans...

These are some of the benefits I've experienced from organizing my library - so now I'll explain the techniques I use! 

How To Organize Your Music Collection - Best Techniques #

When it comes to music library organization techniques, there are several viable methods out there - each one being more or less suitable depending on your preferences, formats, and style of collecting. 

For example, my favourite techniques might not be the best choice for you. 

So, I've decided to share all of the best potential techniques and will give some details on which type of collector the method is most suitable for. 

Label Your Downloads!#

For starters, if you're working with a downloaded music collection, you must label your downloads. You should also settle on some kind of consistent labelling method. 

I like to use a format like: [Track Name] - [Album] - [Artist] - [Year] - [Key] - [BPM]

This makes it easy to find tracks and see more information about them at a glance. Failing to do this is guaranteed to give you a headache later on. Whenever I download new music, I make sure to update its labels into my format, and I'd never copy it onto my DJing USB stick without doing so. 

Music Categorisation#

In terms of macro organization, there are several common categories which I think are the most useful. 

This could be as a top-level folder on a digital device or even a physical crate/shelf for records and CDs. 

Genre

I always have genre as my top-level organization because it makes it easy for me to find the right style of music, and doesn't take as much effort to sort compared to 'vibe' or 'energy'. Although, some albums don't fit into one genre, which might make things a bit tricky. It can be useful to make a new playlist for each genre of music you're listening to!

Vibe/Energy

This is a useful sorting system for DJs and music lovers, where you can sort folders or playlists based on the vibe of the music. You might have categories like chill, happy, fast, aggressive, sad, dance, high energy, low energy, etc. 

This can take a bit more time and effort, as you need to manually decide on the vibe of each track/album, but it can be a fun process. 

Key and BPM

While I wouldn't recommend sorting your entire folder system based on BPM or key, it's definitely worth having some way of incorporating this into your method. It could be simply putting a sticker on the CD/record cover, or using your DJ software's sorting feature to quickly organize your music by key and BPM. 

Artist, Year, and Track Name 

All of these elements are important to include in your labelling, but again, I'm not sure they're the best choice for macro-organization (although artists are a popular method). It's nice to know the year music is released for cohesiveness in a mix, but putting every release in a separate folder for each year isn't particularly useful (in my opinion). 

Layered Organization #

The best strategy is to stick to some kind of layered organization system. Especially when you're DJing, this makes it easy to find specific music, but also to inspire your next step by sticking to specifications.

This technique works by having different layers of sorting techniques. 

Here is how I sort my music library, starting at the top-level folders and going down to individual tracks. 

  1. Broad Genres: Techno, House, DnB, Jungle, Hip Hop, Pop, Dubstep

  2. Sub Genres: In Techno: Dub Techno, Raw Techno, Oldschool Techno, Minimal Techno, Hard Techno

  3. Album/Release: This contains all the individual album & compilation downloads. For instance, in the Dub Techno folder, I might have: Beatport Top 100 Dub Techno, Biokinetics by Porter Ricks, Liumin by Rod Modell, etc. 

  4. Tracks - Then I have each track inside its album folder. I try to label each track with the BPM and key too. 

I find this is the best method for my style of DJing, although you may find a different structure works better for you. 

I like doing it in this way because it makes it easy for me to find similar songs to mix together when making playlists or setlists, or I can quickly jump to a different genre. 

I'm not super keen on organizing music by artist, BPM, or key directly in the folders, as I usually use my DJ software to sort the list in this way if I need to. 

But as I said, everyone will prefer something a bit different. 

DJ.Studio's Library Management#

For both DJing and music library management, I'm a huge fan of DJ.Studio.

It's a unique piece of software - that revolves around the process of creating DJ mixes on a timeline editor, but it's packed with cool features like Stem Separation, AI Automixing, and even lets you make mixes online with YouTube and Spotify. Check out the rest of this site to find out more about it!

DJ.Studio has powerful library management features that make it super easy to sort your collection and find tracks to make mixes from your saved music. 

Because it's integrated with most other DJ and music library software, this makes it a popular choice for DJs! It has some useful features, like sorting the track and playlist table to help you find your favorite songs. 

Here are some of DJ.Studio's notable music library features: 

  • Extensive integration - DJ.Studio can connect to rekordbox, Virtual DJ, Apple Music, YouTube, Spotify, Traktor, and many other apps, giving you direct access to your other libraries - you can even make mixes with your Spotify account!

  • Powerful Sorting - Sort alphabetically by artist or track, or even by BPM and key to find the exact song you're looking for. There are several column headings for sorting your library. 

  • Playlist creation - Build smart playlists with music from a range of sources, to plan out your next DJ masterpiece. 

  • Accurate & Fast Analysis - Near-instant analysis reveals any track's tempo and key, helping you to beat-match and harmonically mix your DJ sets. 

Finally#

Good luck sorting out your music collection. I know it can be a bit of a chore, but trust me - it's going to make huge improvements to your life as a DJ or music lover. Having a sorted playlist collection is super handy!

Don't forget to check out DJ.Studio's Free Trial to get a taste of how it can help you get organized with all the playlists in your library!

Noah Feasey-Kemp
DJ/Producer
I started DJing when I was 15. Started a record label, residency by a club in Bristol. I’ve played at all the biggest clubs in Bristol (and the small ones) and have entertained thousands of dancers! I love writing about music, DJing, and technology. I've been blogging for DJ.Studio since the start of the project, and am always happy to answer questions and help fellow DJs out!

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