Backing Up Your Music (The Smart Way To Approach It)

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  • If you’re a producer, you need to have multiple backup copies of everything you work on.
  • But what is the best way to back everything up?
  • Learn about the 3-2-1 backup method!
  • Also check out our guide to the best cloud storage options for music producers.

Why You Should Back Up Your Music

I can vividly recall the day I learned the importance of backing up my music files. I spent a whole day producing a song for a client, and in one wrong move, I managed to not save any of my work! I had no backups of the session, so the whole day had gone to waste.

Maybe you’ve had a similar experience, but if you haven’t, be grateful and I hope you learn from this mistake!

Losing your work is one of the most frustrating things that can happen to you as a producer, and for your clients as well. It can potentially cost a lot of money if you are working professionally, so not backing up your files is financially very risky as well.

Considering how far along technology has come, it seems like these days a single storage solution would last a lifetime, right? This is not true now and it potentially never will be.

This is simply because life is unpredictable. You never know when your computer might fail or perhaps a session file might accidentally get deleted, or even when hackers might attack your computer and corrupt your files. Even cloud storage services could go out of business or suffer a catastrophic hack or failure.

While these aren’t super common occurrences, if they do happen and you don’t have a backup solution, it can be devastating.

This especially important for someone like me, who makes a living from producing music for other artists. I am able to do that by having a steady stream of projects to work on, and having ways to back up my work prevents me from pushing projects back in order to recreate lost work.

What Is The Smartest Backup Solution?

An old audio professor of mine once said that a file does not exist unless it can be found in three different locations, and I think that is the smartest way to back up your music.

This is known as the “3-2-1” method, which involves saving your work to 3 devices, including hard drives and cloud-based storage services.

The 3-2-1 Backup Method

Now that you are convinced of the importance of backing up your music, let’s look at one of the most recommended backup methods out there, the “3-2-1 method”.

This is the method I believe every producer should use for backing up their music.

As mentioned previously, the 3-2-1 method involves backing up your music on three different storage devices. It is also recommended that one or two of these devices are stored in other locations.

The logic behind this is that if something such as a natural disaster were to wipe out one location, your other backups would be in a secure location (for example, your parent’s house).

It can also be helpful to back up your work to a couple of different storage formats. Here are the three backup formats I would recommend you use.

1. Your Computer

This is the most obvious one, so I won’t spend much time on it, but you should be saving your work on your computer first! Your computer will host the original files, while your backup devices will hold copies of your data. These files will be the most current, unless you like to keep everything on an external drive. If this is the case, why not consider using your computer as a backup drive?

Make sure your computer is up to date and running the latest anti-virus software. Ransomware attacks are more likely to take out these files than external drives that are safely detached and unplugged.

2. External Hard Drives

An external hard drive is a must-have for backing up your work. I always save my files to an external hard drive after I’ve finished working on them.

If you don’t have the budget to accommodate the 3-2-1 method, I would highly recommend at least getting one external hard drive!

This is something you want to spend a little bit of money on. While your cheapest option would be USB flash drives, flash drives won’t have enough storage space to hold a lot of session files.

USB flash drives’ transfer speeds are also very slow, meaning it could take 15 minutes to copy one session file onto them! They can also be pretty unstable and it’s not uncommon for flash drives to get corrupted, requiring a complete re-format.

My recommendation would be to look into a Solid State Drive, with a good amount of storage space (1 TB or so), and that should last you for a long time. SSD’s are very reliable and have pretty fast transfer speeds.

An external drive also works as a great portable storage device if you are producing music in multiple locations. It ensures that no matter where you’re working, you will always have a backup of all your work on that drive.

For your third music backup, I would recommend you go with one of the next two options…

3a. A Second External Hard Drive

I went with this option for my third music backup and got a Solid State Drive that has 10 TB of storage, which was way more than my portable hard drive.

I use this one to back up my entire computer through my iMac’s Time Machine application.

This feature essentially saves a copy of all your computer’s files at the exact moment you tell it to create a backup.

This way if something happens to your files, you can restore an earlier version of those files by plugging the hard drive in and going through your backups in the Time Machine app.

The really great thing about this feature is that you can access every backup you’ve made on that drive, so you can pull up any version of your files you have backed up! If you’re using a PC, there is a similar application called Backup that you can use.

3b. Cloud-Based Storage

If purchasing another hard drive doesn’t work with your budget, there are plenty of cloud-based solutions for storage that you can use!

Popular services like Dropbox and Google Drive give you a certain amount of storage space for free, but you can pay a subscription to access even more space. Chances are, you will run through the free storage pretty quickly if you are backing up your project files.

There are even more advanced services such as Sync which put more emphasis on protecting the privacy of your files. If you want to do more research on cloud storage, check out our article on the 7 Best Cloud Storage Solutions for Music Producers.

The one disadvantage to cloud solutions is that if the company shuts down (or gets hacked), you can lose all the data you stored in their cloud. This is why I would personally recommend going with two external hard drives if it’s at all possible, and then use the free version of a cloud storage service to store only important files if you want an extra backup of them.

In Summary

As a music producer, it is extremely important that we back up our music as our livelihoods depend on it. Even if music production is just a hobby for you, nothing is more frustrating than losing songs you’ve spent so much time and effort on. If you’re working for a client, they trust that you do not lose their work as well. Doing so can result in financial and legal jeopardy, so don’t risk it.

If you properly implement the 3-2-1 backup method, however, you will never have to worry about that happening! If you invest in your backup devices now, you will thank yourself later.

(If you’re starting music production from square one or just need a refresher, we’ve got you covered with How To Start Producing Music (Chapter 1: Equipment))