How to Organize Music Using Multiple iTunes Libraries with Traktor

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Organize Music on an External with iTunes

The subject of how to organize music is rather a large one. Many articles have been written on this very important aspect of any DJ’s workflow. There is no right or wrong way to organize music, but there are certainly some great tips on how you can use the tools at your disposal to make the management of your music easier. This article explains how to use multiple libraries in iTunes to organize your music. This will enable you to locate tracks easier, streamlining your workflow.

The Scenario

screen-shot-2013-07-02-at-1-15-53-pmLet’s say you have an external hard-drive full of music. It’s not organized at all. Perhaps you’ve borrowed it from a friend. The hard-drive contains 10 Gigs of music that you want to play in your set. You connect the hard-drive and realize the music has been organized by iTunes.  This means that it’s all subfolders within folders, organized by artist or album and it’s almost impossible to navigate through quickly. This makes it hard to search anything. It’s a nightmare.

I have the solution to making access to these tracks so simple: Separate iTunes libraries.

Multiple iTunes Libraries

It’s possible to have multiple iTunes libraries that work independently from one another. You can switch between these libraries when opening iTunes.
If like me; you DJ two styles of music, it can be very beneficial to separate them out. This way you have less tracks staring at you from within iTunes.

Your existing Library

You may or may not use iTunes to organize music when DJ’ing with Traktor. Perhaps you have your tracks on your internal hard-drive and organize music within Traktor. Maybe you do use iTunes and already have an iTunes library full of tracks. Whichever method you use, you can still benefit from this tutorial.
screen-shot-2013-07-02-at-13-04-55In my example I have all my Deep House and Tech on my laptop. It’s stored on the internal hard drive and is all in one folder entitled ‘Music’. This is divided up into subfolders titled with the date on which they were bought. All good, no problems.

Now I have a wedding to DJ. The amount of music I need to cover weddings is vast. I just don’t have the room on my laptop for all these tracks that I only ever play out at weddings. This is where the external hard drive comes in.

Myself and a friend share an external hard-drive containing wedding tracks. Sometimes it’s connected to his computer and other times to mine. We both organize music differently so let’s make sure it’s organized the way we want it each time we connect the drive to our computer?

Setting up an iTunes Library

This method works when playing directly from the external hard-drive.

  • Connect the external hard drive.
  • Now you need to open iTunes in a special way so that you can create a new library:

Mac users – Press and hold ‘option‘ before you click on the iTunes icon.
Windows Users – Press and hold ‘shift and then from the Start menu, choose All Programs > iTunes > iTunes.

This will open a window giving you the option to ‘Create Library…‘ or ‘Choose Library…‘.
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  • Select ‘Create Library…‘.
  • Navigate to the external hard drive, name and create your library.

Now you have created a library, you need to set it up correctly.

  • Head into iTunes (which is now using your new library).
  • In Preferences > Advanced – make sure you uncheck both the ‘Keep iTunes Media Folder Organized‘ and the ‘Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to Library‘.

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  • Now navigate back to the external hard drive and drag in all the music from the drive that you want to import.

Because you unchecked the boxes as described above, a link will be made to the music but will not transfer any music to your computer – it simply creates files that point to the external. In order for this library in iTunes to work, the external drive must be connected.
Your friend can create their own library file too and name it whatever they like. So long as you both agree to leave each others iTunes Library files alone, you will always be able to access these tracks.

When you are finished playing the tracks off the external hard drive:-

  • Close iTunes and disconnect the hard drive.
  • Repeat the special method of opening iTunes (option on Mac / shift on windows) and navigate to your original iTunes library. (usually found in Music > iTunes > iTunes Library.itl).

This will reconnect you to your original iTunes library so you can play your Deep house and Tech again.

As you build the collection on the external hard drive, you will have to drag any new added tracks into the iTunes library. You will do this in the same way as explained in the previous stage. It doesn’t matter if you copy the same tracks again, iTunes will figure that out and will not produce any duplicates. (so long as the location of the music files on the external hasnt changed!).

In order to see your newly created iTunes Library in Traktor, you will need to connect it up:

  • Complete all the above stages first.
  • Open up Traktor and head to Preferences > File Management
  • In the directories section you need to tell Traktor where to look for your iTunes Library

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  • Navigate to the external hard-drive where you just created the library and locate the libraries .xml file. 
  • Once it’s connected you will be able to see all your tracks in the iTunes section of Traktor.

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Don’t forget, if you use iTunes normally you will need to re-link your original library after disconnecting the external in the same way.

*Note: I do not have my iTunes syncing with the Traktor DJ for iPad and dropbox, if you do, you may or may not experience some issues as you change your iTunes Library – this is something I have not tested.  Be sure to back up any settings you have before you make changes Traktor Tips is not liable for any loss of data.

16 comments

  1. I already create a new library for every set I do. However, although I used SHIFT key to open Itunes once or twice before, I never realized that it can be used to “choose” a library. That’s very helpful. Now if there was a way to create/customize a template that Itunes uses when creating a library that would be extremely helpful. Thanks for writing this tip!

    • You’re welcome @djsocrateez:disqus – I found this way very useful and wanted to share it. What do you mean by customising a template?

      • When you create a “new” blank ITunes library, it starts with some default information/playlist. My assumption is that new libraries are based on a default template (because they all look the same). If I could customize the default template that ITunes uses then each new library I create would have the same structure (mine is based on Genre) and all I would have to do is add the songs. Hope that makes sense.

      • This is an interesting idea. I’m not sure it’s possible, but might be with a bit of custom code!? Not something I’m skilled in doing, but maybe someone out there has an answer. Otherwise, you’ll just have to go in and customize after each creation. This would only take a couple I minutes. If that.😉

  2. Very nifty, thank you. I’ve been using iTunes since its launch and it’s always great to learn something new. One question: I’ve created a new library for the few hundred house tracks I use for DJing, but once I open it, none of the tracks’ ratings have transferred over. Is this because the rating field is not an ID3 tag? So I have to start from scratch and re-rate? (I use ratings to categorize my tunes into what part of the night/set they get played.)

    • Glad you like the tutorial.

      I did not test the ‘ratings’ when I made this tutorial. Did you rate them inside of iTunes, or Traktor?

      I’d maybe suggest using the current library where the ratings work as your house tracks list and take all the other ones out into the new library. This could be a work around, although not entirely ideal.

      I think you may be right in regards to the ID3 tag. Thanks for pointing this out – Maybe I will do some testing on this when I get chance to confirm.

      • So that’s it! rating is not an ID3 tag. I like to organize music in iTunes, (mixed in key processing, rating, proper genre,etc). I then sync with my iPod for later listening/auditioning. When finished I transfer those songs I want for DJing to a thumb drive – I also completely delete them from my hard drive…Interestingly
        I noticed when djing from traktor I can see my ratings, but if I decide to drop any songs back into iTunes, the ratings are gone…painful. painful. painful

      • I’d maybe look into using the built in iTunes functionality via Traktor, this might sort your ‘rating’ issue.

    • Hey, so to get round this. Create a playlist in first itunes library. Right click the playlist and choose export playlist. Save it as an XML (I think, on ipad at work but if not try one of the others)!
      Next, open up the second new library and choose file, import, then select your playlist file you just saved. Presto. Songs and ratings.

      Edit: sorry I have just seen this is 11 months old! I just saw it posted on Twitter and assumed it was current!

  3. thanks for your quick replied. and for all the tips on your site. I’ll try it and see. Are you coming up with any new traktor course soon that will also teach midi mappings?

  4. L O V E this article. Very informative/useful. Question for you, when you create this new library, the way I understand it is that it only creates a ‘window’ of sorts to the selected tracks rather than an additional copy of the track. The tracks aren’t moved and therefore would still appear in their original library… Is that correct? What if you have 1 big library and want to create an additional library for certain material but you DO NOT want those tracks appearing in the original library – do you know how one would go about doing that?

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