How to manage your digital music library

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The music industry is racing towards streamed distribution, but many of us have built up sizeable music collections. I certainly have, and I spent weeks ripping my old CD library a few years back (and then repeated the job when I realized that 128Kbps MP3s weren’t going to cut it). And if you prefer to own your music, versus renting it in perpetuity via a streaming service, you’re likely still either buying (and ripping) CDs or purchasing digital downloads.

But like your neighbor’s well-kept garden, the secret to a strong music library is regular maintenance. Untagged or unnamed tracks, missing artwork, duplicate files, music scattered across a swathe of folders and devices—these are the “weeds” that must be found and uprooted before your collection goes to seed.

If your music library is devolving into an audio jungle, there’s no better time to wrestle back control. I’ll walk through some simple jobs and handy tools that’ll keep your collection in good order and help you save valuable storage space. I have tips for both PC and Mac users.

  • Reorganize your music folder structure
  • Identify and relabel unnamed files
  • Update music metatags
  • De-duplicate your music library
  • Upgrade and find missing cover art

Reorganize your music folder structure

Before you get hands on with your audio files, you should do a little thinking. A clear and simple music folder structure makes library management far easier. Time spent reorganizing your files and folders now will be repeatedly paid back over the coming years.

I recommend creating a top-level Music folder in your Windows media library, with sub-folders for each Artist in the collection. In each artist folder, create sub-folders for each release. Each release folder includes the audio tracks and cover artwork (named folder.jpg which is the standard nomenclature, ensuring artwork appears in your favorite media players).

In terms of hierarchy, a simple Music library structure looks like the following:

Music > Artist > Release Name> Audio & Artwork Files

music folder structure TERRY WALSH/TechHive

A clear music folder structure makes library management a cinch.

If you’re a true audio enthusiast, you likely prefer lossless audio tracks (FLAC, ALAC, DSD files) to “lossy” MP3s. But it’s even more likely that your collection includes both types of files.  In this scenario, you might prefer to split your folders accordingly, with (for example) MP3 and Lossless sub-folders tucked under the top-level Music folder.

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