by Mike Charles
In the “old days” I would head over to my record shelves, pull down 60 to 80 pieces of vinyl, toss em in my record bag, and go spin records. I hated this, because it limited me to only that one crate of records and many times the perfect tune had been left at home. You try to prepare, but vibes shift in a nightclub, and a good DJ should cater to that shift, keeping people entertained. Today my record “shelf” is my MacBook Pro, which solves that problem nicely but has posed some new challenges. Managing a collection of 500 to 1000 tunes and finding the right one on the fly can be pretty difficult so here are some tips that might help you in the digital age of multiple artists, sub-genres, and sub-sub-micro genres.
1. Tag Early, Tag Often, Tag Correctly
How many times have you bought a track, loaded it into iTunes and had it tagged correctly? The answer is usually never so the first thing I do is edit the tags. The three must have areas are: Name, Artist, and Genre. Remixes can complicate the “Artist” part of equation but you might consider handling that problem in this fashion:
Name: Black Gold [Marlow Vocal Mix]
Artist: Stereo MCs
2. Rename the file
After editing the file tags, you might consider using a program called iTag which renames the file based on the ID3 tags, saving the extra step of typing everything twice. iTag is a Mac program, but you can easily find a windows equivalent out there. A common method of file naming is: Artist – Track Name.mp3. Some people throw genre into the mix but it’s a personal preference. If you happened to include the remix artist in brackets [ ] it is included in the renaming as well and your file will now look like this:
Stereo MCs – Black Gold [Marlow Vocal Mix].mp3
3. Folder Structure
Its important that you organize you files so that you can find them later. The example above for example would look like this:
~Music Archive\\Dupstep\\Stereo MCs – Black Gold [Marlow Vocal Mix].mp3
So as you can see we have folders for each genre, and they contain each corresponding set of files. At this stage we have not delved into sub-genres, more on that later.
4. Sub – Genres
Alright, now that we’ve got well structured, tagged, and named files we can really get down to business. How many possible sub-genres of House Music can there be? The answer is more than any of us care to know, but there is obviously a need to separate the Disco House from the Electro House or whatever applies to your genres of choice.
5. Playlist Folders and Smart Playlists
iTunes gives you these 2 things and I use them extensively. First I set up a playlist folder named “House” and then I create a smart playlist named “All House”. The criteria for the playlist is: Genre – Contains – House. What this does is pull all tunes in our library that contain the word “House” in the genre, so tracks from “House – Electro”, “House – Disco”, and “House – Whatever” are all pulled, hence the name of the playlist being “All House”
Now lets get into the real meat, and create a sub-folder inside “House” called “Styles”. Inside “Styles” I have created a bunch of smart playlists like “Electro” and “Disco” and as you may have guessed the selection criteria for these smart playlists is Genre – Is – XXX where XXX equals the sub-genre you wish to create a playlist for [e.g. House – Electro]
Were almost home. Many djs span multiple genres and/or sub-genres in every set. So while its good to have playlists for every sub-genre of house, sometimes its more efficient to browse by priority ranking, than genre label. Inside the playlist folder “House” create another sub-folder called “Priority”. Then inside “Priority” create a smart playlist called “Favorites”. The selection criteria for “Favorites” is Rating – Is – 4 stars. Then in similar fashion I like to add a playlist for “Seconds” where Rating – Is – 3 Stars, and so on down the line. Now it’s a simple matter of going through my house tracks and adding a star rating to each, and because we used smart playlists instead of regular playlists they update automatically.
So what is the lesson today? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It might take a little time to set things up properly, but in the long run you will put yourself in a much better position to find the perfect track, at the right moment, with a little organization. This is my personal method, which may or may not work for you, but it should hopefully spark a few original ideas that you might find use full.
iTunes Power Tips Continued
The iTunes Power Tips series spans four articles, check out the other articles in the series here!
editor’s note: props to Mike who submitted this great story, Check out his blog “Room 211”.