Keeping in control of your music collection is an essential skill to master if you are serious about your DJ sets.
The sheer volume of music one can keep on a USB or hard drive these days when playing a gig can be a headache to keep organized. I used to struggle with just two flight cases of vinyl — putting a few vinyl back in the wrong order could send my collection into chaos.
Fortunately, most DJ software now has a library management feature that helps us to keep those tunes in the right place.
If you are used to Serato DJ or Traktor, then Rekordbox can be confusing to comprehend at first, but with our simple guide to organizing music in Rekordbox, you will soon realize how much more effective it can be.
Importing Music Into RekordBox
Let’s start at the very beginning, you can hardly organize your music until it’s actually there!
There are a couple of ways of importing your music collection into the RekordBox library, both of which are relatively simple.
1. Importing Files Direct from Your Hard Drive
You can choose to import files individually by track, by folder, or even by playlist using the File>Import drop-down menu from the top of the screen.
WARNING:Before you start importing tracks or playlists into RekordBox it is advisable to create a folder on your hard drive where all the tracks live. Rekordbox unlike many other music management applications doesn’t automatically copy any imported files into a separate folder.
Hence if you drop a file or folder in from your downloads folder, for example, Rekordbox will always look in that location when trying to play or sort the track. Accidentally move the track or delete it from the downloads folder and it will return an “unknown track error”.
Making a music folder called “RekordBox” music, for example, will alleviate this issue and ensure tracks are always found by the library. You can even make subfolders in your main folder but don’t worry too much about organizing the tunes in the folder, that’s what RekordBox is for.
2. Drag and Drop Method of Importing Files
The second straightforward method that most computer users will be familiar with is the drag-and-drop system. Simply pick up a file, folder, or playlist in your finder or explorer window and drop it into the library screen of RekordBox.
A handy tip is to drag an entire folder into the playlists tab of RekordBox and the software will automatically start creating a playlist for all the files in the folder you have just imported. Creating playlists can be a great tool when organizing a larger collection, more of that later.
3. Analyzing Your Music Collection In RekordBox
As with any music management software, Rekordbox has to analyze the files so it can prepare the library, both for performance and organizing. This means it basically chews and digests each track to display more accurate waveforms, a beat grid, and all the meta tag information needed.
The beatgrid in particular is important when DJing with RekordBox as it allows for a more precise BPM range and enables you to play around with the track. Rekordbox can also analyze the key of every track, ideal for harmonic mixing.
Rekordbox offers the choice of dynamic or static (normal) analysis of the tracks you import. Static analysis is ideal for tracks that have a static BPM. But if you have tracks where the BPM or tempo varies you will want to choose the Dynamic analysis mode.
Dynamic analysis ensures you get a beat grid that shows every minute variation of tempo/BPM as often found in varying styles like indie, pop, rock, or jazz. Toggling between the two modes is as easy as going into the Settings>Analysis>Track Analysis Mode>Dynamic or Normal.
Every time you import a new bunch of files you will need to toggle the Dynamic analysis if required as RekordBox will automatically use Static (Normal) unless instructed otherwise.
Organizing Music In Rekordbox
So, you’ve imported your music into the Rekordbox software. Great job, let’s get to organizing it!
1. Organizing Your Library View
One of RekordBox’s most powerful features and where it really excels is how it allows the DJ to customize the way they organize and view their library on whichever screen they use. This could be a laptop screen, all-in-one controller, CDJ media player, or even a mobile phone.
Every DJ has their own way of organizing their library and RekordBox makes it easy to choose exactly what information or columns you need to show. Simply click on any of the column headers and a drop-down list allows you to choose from 39 categories in which information is displayed as columns.
Adding or removing different columns is a great way to make your library personal to you and show all the important data you require, whether it be genre, BPM, artist, or even a star rating for each track.
You can also sort any column by value if you click on the title of the column. One-click will sort by ascending order and a double-click will sort by descending.
You can even reorder the columns in how they appear on the screen by simply dragging the title of each column to the desired place on the screen.
2. Tagging Your Tracks In Rekordbox
So you now have your tracks loaded up into the library (and playlists too!), you have the library view displaying the info you need but how do you make sure the tracks are tagged correctly?
Although many metatags are already added to your tracks when RekordBox analyses them, it’s still easy to “lose” tracks when they’ve not been played for a while. As an avid collector of new tracks, I always add my own tags when importing them into my library just in case they are not played straight away.
Rekordbox solves this issue with the powerful My Tag feature which allows DJs to add their own custom tags to tracks on the go.
You will find the My Tag section on the far right of the screen next to the library. Clicking on the Tag icon will open up the My Tag window where the first three tags are already assigned; Genre, Components, and Situation.
A fourth column is left blank for you to choose how you want to tag the track.
The amount of customization you can add to the My Tags feature is incredible. If you really want to you can change the titles of the preset tags, but you can only use four tags at any given time.
For multi-format DJs or wedding DJs, you can even add subcategories to each tag.
When DJing a party I like to add to the situation sub tags such as “Opening Set” or even “Peak Time”. You can get as creative as you want with the subtags and afterward will be able to filter your library more efficiently.
3. Using Color Coding In Rekordbox
It may seem like a fancy gimmick at first but color coding is another quick and efficient way to help organize your library. It can be a good strategy for identifying many of the subgroups of tracks in your library. A common way it is used is to group together tracks that have a similar mood or vibe.
The color codes could also be used to let you know which tracks are absolute bangers on the dancefloor or warn you when a track falls flat. As you can quickly color code on the fly mid-set you could immediately mark the offending track so you remember to pull it from your setlist.
Color codes can also be an efficient way of sorting your tracks when making a mixtape or your next playlist. To work as a Dynamic labeling system you need to ensure the color column is already activated in your library.
How To Color Code Your Tracks In Rekordbox
When playing or selecting a track, select the song, or multiple songs, open the Info panel and pick the color of your choice. You can see which color options have been assigned by right-clicking on a column and choosing the option to be shown.
To customize the colors and what each color stands for go into Preferences>Advanced>Browse to set the color options.
4. Playlists, Intelligent Playlist, Related Tracks Playlist, and Playlist Palettes
Playlists form a major part of any music management system and can be a great help when quickly needing to find a track while performing live. I always imagine playlists as individual flight cases or crates of tunes. Serato even calls it playlists feature “Crates”.
Perhaps the most convenient way to organize your music in Rekordbox is using Playlists. They are very easy to set up to manage larger collections. You can either drag and drop a whole folder into the playlist tab as described earlier or simply press the plus icon to create a new playlist.
Once you have named your playlist, you can add songs to the playlist from your library, or by scrolling down the left-hand side of your library you can select tracks from existing iTunes playlists.
Creating multiple playlists for every occasion or filling up those virtual flight cases may sound like a chore but it doesn’t need to be. One of Rekordbox Professional’s most useful features is the Intelligent Playlist where Rekordbox does the thinking for you.
Rekordbox calculates your track data and then organizes the music into playlists according to the criteria you have chosen. It could be custom tags you have created in My Tag, genre, import date, BPM, or a combination of many criteria.
To start creating a new Intelligent Playlist, right-click on the playlist selection and choose “Create New Intelligent Playlist”. After choosing the criteria the Intelligent Playlist feature will then populate itself with all matching tracks in your collection.
When new tracks are added to your library, if they fit any of the criteria of an Intelligent Playlist they will be automatically added to that list. Basically, you can set up the automation of sorting new tracks by creating a bunch of Intelligent Playlists.
If you were to create Intelligent Playlists for every genre or BPM, you could use color-coding or MyTags to organize your library even further.
Obviously, the Intelligent Playlist won’t get it right every time but I find the five-star rating system a good way of marking up tracks that either work extremely well in the lists or don’t work too well at all.
Related Tracks Playlists
Another intelligent feature that RekordBox offers is the Related Tracks Playlists. If you are familiar with iTunes this takes the Smart Playlist feature a few steps further.
The Related Tracks Playlist looks at the tunes currently on your deck and suggests other tracks which may fit according to their key, pitch, or tempo and any other criteria you may add. This can be especially handy when playing live but also useful when setting up your next playlist for an upcoming set. Think of it as having another DJ in your ear whispering suggestions.
To open the Related Tracks menu you can click on the box located under the My Tags icon on the right-hand side of the screen.
The Related Tracks will now suggest songs that match the one currently selected on the main deck. By clicking on the little gear icon you can change how Rekordbox suggests tracks by altering the algorithm it uses to match the songs.
You can change whether Rekordbox suggests by key, BPM range, label, genre, and even specify which collection or places it looks for the following tracks.
With the number of playlists, Intelligent Playlists, and Related Tracks playlists growing as your collection grows it would be impractical to just browse one playlist at a time.
Fortunately, RekordBox has a solution for this in the Playlist Palette which allows you to view multiple playlists on your screen.
In the top right corner of the RekordBox screen just below the decks, you will find an icon that opens the playlist palette. Hovering over the icon will display a pop-up allowing the Playlist Palette Function to be shown or hidden.
This allows you to browse an additional four playlists at the same time as your main list, in effect five playlists at any given time. Simply drag and drop the required playlist into one of the four extra windows when the palette is open.
In addition, with the palette open you will get three tab icons above your collection, each of which can hold another four playlists. This gives you a handy and quick interchangeable set of twelve playlists.
Using the playlist palette can help speed up your organizing of music in Rekordbox and is also a great tool when playing out live.
Where Does Rekordbox Store All The Playlists?
As mentioned earlier, Rekordbox doesn’t automatically copy any of the tracks you import into a library folder. Instead, they are left located wherever you placed them on your computer or external hard drive.
It’s always a good idea to keep them in one folder in case you need to switch to a new device.
The playlists and all analysis and cue points are stored in an XML file created by Rekordbox. The location of this file will depend on which OS you are using on your laptop and the version of Rekordbox you have installed.
A much easier way to copy your database and all the playlists is to use RekordBox’s built-in backup library function. Simply from the top menu choose File>Library>BackupLibrary and select the location where you want to save your playlist back up.
Can AutoMix use your RekordBox Playlists?
Since RekordBox v5.1 there has been an AutoMix feature that lets the app mix tracks together added to a playlist with beat matching and phrase-mixed accuracy. The Related tracks Playlists can especially benefit from this giving you suggestions on what to mix in next.
Personally, I would only ever use AutoMix when needing a toilet break – hey, we’re supposed to be real DJs aren’t we, not human iPods? But for event DJs who need to leave some background music playing or maybe venue owners waiting on the DJ to turn up, the AutoMix feature with the powerful playlist creation tools of RekordBox can be a useful tool.
How To Organize Music In Rekordbox: Takeaway
As I have hopefully demonstrated in the guide above, Rekordbox is a powerful tool when it comes to organizing your music collection. Many would argue it is the strongest on the market, outshining competitors like Serato or Traktor.
Maybe this is because its origins were as a music management app rather than a DJ performance app which simply added on a more extensive library management section.
There is no right or wrong way to organize your music in Rekordbox, every DJ has their own tastes, and system for sorting their library. The main thing is to ensure you can make out where tunes are located in your library and do so as efficiently as possible.
Rekordbox offers many powerful tools to organize music, so it’s worth trying them all to find out which resonates most with you.
Get creative with color-coding and use the Intelligent Playlists feature, but remember to stay consistent when importing or tagging new music.
Initial effort with the organization from the very beginning of building and importing your library can save so much time later on.