Tips for Staying Organized as a Music Producer

FIND what you’re looking for

The ability to diversify, fracture, and splinter sound can transform any single note into a symphony unto itself. Multiply that by a hundred instruments, and it can be migraine-inducing trying to find that loop you were working on just last week.

Or, worse yet, you deleted it because it wasn’t labeled correctly. Do you have 10 or 15 “unnamed folders” on your desktop? If so, just how much time do you waste trying to find samples and presets you’ve been working on? Making a client in the studio wait for YOU to get your act together is not a good look.

We realize the creative process can be messy. After a six-hour music production session, who wants to go back and spend any amount of time to carefully label and organize the work they just completed? The answer is successful people. They’ve devised a plan to organize themselves both in the real and virtual worlds.

Know Your Limitations

Actually, you have no limitations. That’s the great thing about creating music on your own or working with others. However, your computer is only as strong as it was built to be. If you have all of your programs and music files on a laptop with limited storage, you could run out of space before even finishing a session.

A simple solution? Don’t store any of your electronic music, samples, loops, or drums on the hard drive. Sooner or later, you’re going to have several different pieces of software, plug-ins, and apps all vying for power at the same time. Everyone has heard the scary sound of a computer fan starting to work overdrive.

Throwing a bunch of finished projects on the same drive will just make it harder on the computer. After you have the digital audio workstations (DAWs), plugins, and virtual racks you need, lock it down. You want that hard drive working at optimal health at all times.

Now you’ll need somewhere to store all of your work. Stay away from those thumb drives that can be easily lost or accidentally crushed underfoot – plus they usually don’t provide much space to begin with. Audio engineering and music production take up a lot of room, so consider how you want your files to be managed.

WD offers a 4TB cloud-based storage device that comes in at just under $500. That will hold nearly 200,000 songs and up to 17,000 hours of music. Fewer terabytes mean less storage, but a smaller price tag, too. Don’t be afraid to buy more storage than you’ll ever think you need.

Consider investing in a cloud backup as well. Having a backup for your backup – even if you only need it once – can save a lot of heartaches.

From the Start

Even before you start laying down a bassline or creating great sound design, you can begin to organize your samples, loops, or beats. When starting a project, simply name the file and save it to a different location than the desktop. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “For every minute spent in organizing an hour is earned.”

If you have an external drive designed for storage, make sure to mount that drive and save your files there. That way, you’ll be working from a drive different than the main drive. Your file is safely stored, it’s named, and won’t cause any issues with the 10 other programs you have running.

If you’ve spent any time in the studio, you realize a song isn’t just A song. There could be multiple versions: the first version, the second version, an acoustic mix, a street mix, a remix… the list is endless. To keep these files organized, make sure you add a little description to each title. Song_1, Song_2, Song_3-acoustic, Song_4-street, and so on.

Depending on the operating system, you can color-code your files to group tracks, too. Use red for a finished song or album, blue for a work in progress, yellow for work you paused. Grouping by color also means you could look just at a certain color to find what you want.

When it comes to working in your DAW, try to remain as consistent as possible when color-coding different collections, categories, and places. Do that and you’ll be able to find your favorite instruments, presets, and loops easily and quickly. In Ableton, you can assign multiple colors to a single file.

Staying Organized as a Music Professional

Eventually, this organization will become important to the rest of your life, too. For instance, when setting up your phone contact list, you can add a ton of information about each person or business on the list. Who you met, when you met them, and where you met them. That way you’ll never be caught off guard again.

Even something as simple as keeping your lobby or waiting area in tidy condition lends an air of professionalism. Maybe a mini fridge with water bottles, a few magazines on a coffee table, and clutter kept to a minimum. An organized space is a comfortable space, for both you and your client.

As a music producer, you’re the one that’s supposed to know what you’re doing. If you’re rummaging through multiple hard drives, multiple DAWs, or even invoices for clients, your clients won’t be clients for very long. Being in control of a situation starts with taking care of your business first.

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