Back up your music
It surprises me how many DJs I speak to who don't have a backup of their music. I have had several hard drives fail over the years, and from those experiences know all to well the inconvenience of losing irreplaceable files. For this reason I back up my music using two methods, which gives me three identical repositories. Remember the backup rule of three:
- 3 copies of all files: The chances of losing a backup are slim but not impossible. Hard drives can corrupt at any time. For this reason I ensure I have 3 copies of all my music.
- 2 different formats: Having your music backed up on the same laptop you DJ with isn't a real back up. Make sure you have your files stored on 2 or more seperate hard drives or other formats.
- 1 off-site backup: What happens when disaster strikes your home? Make sure you have a backup at a different location. I use an online backup system called Crashplan, which automatically uploads any new music or changes to my files every night. The annual rates are affordable and I can retrieve my files from any where in the world (Which may be handy if I am on tour and have my laptop stolen or damaged).
The initial preperation
Every week I get a stack of new promo releases delivered to my email. These combined with any new digital releases I purchase can very quickly accumulate into a massive pile of unsorted music - And believe me, sorting digital music isn't nearly as fun as sorting through new vinyl records. If left for too long can it can become one of those chores that you prefer not to think about. I like to spend an hour or so each week sorting through all my new releases. I find it best to allocate a certain time each week, in my case it's every Friday afternoon before I head out to work my weekend gigs so that I can familiarise myself with any new tracks.
My initial preperation begins with me dumping all new audio files into one folder on my master computer (Which is different from my laptop that I DJ with). My master computer is a PC and I use Media Monkey as my audio player and tagging tool. It's similar to itunes but in my opinion far superior as tagging MP3's can be done quite quickly and efficiently - Although the same task can also be done with iTunes directly on your DJ laptop.
Using Media Monkey, I begin briefly listening to all new files, deleting any I am not interested in. I don't bother keeping entire albums (Unless I really like the album). Any tracks I intend on keeping get renamed and tagged with a genre and any additional tagging terms I use. For instance I might tag a song with multiple descriptive terms: House Vocal Anthem Latin. I put all these terms into the genre field of the MP3. At this time I might also fill out any other additional tags that are missing, such as the year or release date.
Next, I run the entire folder of new music through Mixed In Key, which determines the key of each song and writes it to the comments tag of the Mp3 file. Trakor now has a key detection function which replaces the need for using Mixed In Key - But I have chosen to continue with the method I have been using for the last few years. It's a personal choice. If you're not using Mixed in Key (or any other key detection software) I highly suggest trying it. I've found that having the key information on each track visible has made me aware of the potential of mixing various songs together that I wouldn't have otherwise considered.
With all my music nicely tagged and keyed, I move all the files into my master music folder. Media Monkey uses this folder as my music library. The same can be done with iTunes. My online backup service Crash Plan automatically reviews this folder each night and uploads any new or modified tracks.
At this time I also send all my new music to my DJ laptop, creating my third backup. I have set up both my master computer and my laptop to use my home network, so it's easy to send files across without needing to transfer them to a USB stick. My DJ laptop uses iTunes and I have enabled the setting Automatically Add to iTunes which creates a folder that I transfer all my new music to. Any files that land in this folder are automatically added to the iTunes library and placed into the various smart playlists I have set up.
Using iTunes Smart Playlists
Love it or hate it, itunes does have some very big advantages for managing your music on your DJ laptop. One of its functions are Smart Playlists, which allow you to create automatic playlists based on certain criteria such as the tags I have used in the Mp3 genre field. Both Serato and Traktor can read Smart Playlists, effectively allowing you to have identical automatically updated crates on both platforms.
I have set up a series of playlist folders based on the various genres such as Hip Hop, Funk, House, Jazz, Disco, R&B etc. Keep the folder names fairly broad so that there are not too many, but just enough to be musically distinguishable from one another. In my experience having too many playlist folders visible can be cumbersome when deejaying, especially on a small laptop where screen real estate is limited. Having a broader selection of genres also keeps your music visually easier to scan at a glance whilst I am deejaying. The idea is that we are going to populate each folder with a variety of refined smart playlists that we can drill down through when wanting to find a more specific style within that genre. Both Trakor and Serato will display the entire content of a playlist folder in its song pane when selected, which is handy if I want to view the entire contents of that folder.
Creating refined smart playlists based on the various descriptive tag terms in my Mp3 genre tag allows me to break down the genre into subgenres or any number of variations. For instance, using my example above I have created smart playlists for anything tagged with House and Vocal, House and Anthem, House and Latin, House Deep.. and so forth. I have also created a smart playlist House Recent that displays recent music from the last couple of months, based on the date the song was added to the iTunes library. In my R&B folder I have created smart playlists for the various decades: R&B 80s, R&B 90s, R&B Recent. Any number of refined smart playlists can be created and stored within each playlist folder, remaining hidden from view until I decide to drill down through that folder when browsing. In traktor I have mapped a hot key to expand and close a folder whist I am browsing. The key is located right next to the keys I use to scroll through the browser tree so that it is easily accessible.
From time to time iTunes might create a duplicate file of a song as I add new music, usually caused by me having modified an MP3's tags on my master computer and syncing the MP3 to my DJ laptop, and othertimes caused by me having recorded a higher quality sound file from the original vinyl of a song already in my MP3 library. To remove duplicates I use Dupin, an application from Dougs Scripts which detects and deletes duplicate files based on a set of controls (Such as when the file was added to the iTunes library or what has the highest bitrate). Dougs Scripts also have a number of other cheap and handy applications to help manage your itunes library, providing additional handy functions that are missing natively from iTunes.