How to Organize Music as a DJ

Saturday, August 27, 2011

recycled vinyl record crafts 1 How to Organize Music as a DJAs technology has improved and digital music has become more ubiquitous, finding and collecting music has become less of an issue and now organizing it is the new problem that a DJ and producer faces.  We get music on a daily basis from a variety of sources around the web, and we even get white labels from upcoming artists.  We have so much music as our disposal it’s really important for us to start organizing our music in a way that allows us to access our music with ease and convenience. After all, especially if you’re performing, the whereabouts of  yourmusic is just as important as your ability to perform in front of a live crowd.  Also, as a producer, it’s important to know where you music is so you are spending most of your time MAKING music than finding it.  Let’s go through the several options we have to organize our music.

1.  Organizing Music by Beats Per Minute

bpm How to Organize Music as a DJ

I’ve seen this as a method for organizing music, especially as a beginner DJ.  Back when records and vinyl were still popular among the DJ masses, crates would be organized my BPM, which made sense since transitioning between songs would be much easier and simpler.  Organizing music by crates was the way to go.  In the digital age, most DJ software will analyze your music for you so when you bring it up (serato,traktor, ableton, etc) you really don’t need to go hunting for the BPM.  For a beginner DJ, this may be the preferred method just because you can concentrate less on whether the song will mix and more on WHAT you will mix.  Imagine as a beginner DJ, you are worried about whether or not the two songs will mix.  With the BPM organization method, you know it will mix.  Now, whether the tonal quality of the two songs will match is a different story.  We all know that a train wreck in mixing is much easier to notice than two songs rhythm and tone don’t match.  So organizing by Beats Per Minute will prevent this from happening.

2.  Organizing Music by Genre

23 300x181 How to Organize Music as a DJ

After djing for 10 or so years, I realized that many DJ’s organize their music by genres, especially if you play for an eclectic, mainstrea,, hollywood club crowd.  For example, most party rockers who play in large mainstream club music atmospheres will absolutely need to have a wide variety of music at their disposal.  You’ll have people asking for house, dance, hip hop, alternative, 80′s, 90′s, etc.  This is when organizing by genre makes sense.  If you are strictly and trance, dance, or house DJ, this method doesn’t really make sense for performing because everything is in the same genre.  We won’t go into the sub-genres because that’s a whole other argument we can get into.

3.  Organizing music by Dates and Years

calendar How to Organize Music as a DJ

Personally, after several years of mixing and remixing, I started organizing my music by dates and year.  Here’s why.  Trends in music begin to change and evolve.  By organizing by years, I will know what I can use that’s more up to date.  For example, when playing live, I like to mix a variety of folders with different years depending on the crowd.  If it’s an older crowd, I know that they love to reminisce and nostalgia kicks it when that 80′s or 90′s song comes ripping into the mix.   Also, I began to get more specific with the dates, for example, months, like 2011 August.  I know my music collection well enough that I know what songs are in there and usually I will include mostly hits and semi-hits in those folders.  I’ll take the crowd through the several years and trust me, people love a DJ who can play more than just the new hits, but also hits that bring back memories.  A DJ is supposed to take you through a journey, it’s an experience.  You HAVE to play for the crowd if you’re performing.  Organizing music by dates is a great way to bring out that nostalgia to the crowd in a methodical and organized way.

4.  Organizing music by a Combination of the Previous

organizing music How to Organize Music as a DJ

Although the previous 3 methods of organizing music are very logical, this last way is very particular to performing.  If you’re just organizing music, you obviously won’t use this method.  I sort of lied in my number 3 when I said I organize my music by year.  I actually do a combination of both music and genre.  However, it’s a little more complicated than that.  For big hits and anthems, I organize them by genre so that I can access them quickly, especially if I start forgetting about them after a while.  I think after you’ve used your music collection for a while, you’ll know which songs are anthem bombs and big hits that will always get a reaction from the crowd.  The important thing is that you don’t continually drop the anthems or else you might be crowd burnout.  I overheard a DJ complain to the promoter (who was headlining) that the opener DJ was just dropping all the bombs and left nothing for the headliner.   Interesting right?


So to summarize, I know you will hate this, but it’s really personal preference.  Personally, my suggestion is to organize your music as if you were djing with a handful of records.  I used to dj with 3 crates, that’s what your mindset should be like.  Have your songs organized in something like the “latest hits” and then have some of them organized by either genre or dates, or by both!  Basically it comes down to the fact that the more you DJ and perform, the easier it will be for you to access your music.  It’s ok, experiment because there really is no right way of organizing it.  No matter what people say, there’s no right way and you need to find a way that works for you.  I’m just providing the options you have and some ideas of how people organize their music.

If you have pictures of your collection, would love to see it!  Send it to us at and we’ll add it to this post!

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