Joined: May 31, 2003 Posts: 2094 Location: in range
Posted: Wed Oct 26, 2011 5:12 pm Post subject: Using CDs today - how to organize a collection + USB models
I was posting this on DJHistory in response to someone asking about how to best organize their collection, and the availability of USB CD decks. Felt that it could be discussed on here as well...
Back around 1997 (when I used to use CDs and some DAT tapes even from before you could burn your own) I was just organizing them in compilations, some were themed (classics, vocals, house, disco) and some were hodge-podge. All numbered CDs or tapes. But as the collection grew in size, I quickly discovered that in order to successfully manage all of this information and be able to find what I wanted to play in a reasonable amount of time, I needed a database which I could query to quickly find that "Ten Per Cent" by Double Exposure was in fact Track 12 on CD #125.
So I paid a database programmer over £1,000 to write a custom relational database application (song - artist - album - genre) that would help me with this and quickly sorting the results in ways that helped, and I had a very small laptop on the side to find my things after I took the time to painfully enter the data for each CD. This made sense because I was playing so many gigs traveling all the time, definitely money well spent. Still, for some reason after I started carrying over 300 CDs (at an average 14 tracks per disc, it's over 4,200 songs) it became pretty difficult to manage because of CD rot, lost pieces, damage, versions that were the wrong ones, and so on.
Then one day around 2002 I discovered that someone had made a very similar-looking program to the database I had been using, but not only that, it could also PLAY those songs from a hard disk. This program was called Traktor. It allowed me to find any song I could think of, cue it up and play it in less than five seconds flat...
It was the beginning of a great relationship, and of people who were mocking me over the Internet (isn't there a bit of irony there?) as if I was 'checking my email' while playing.
As far as USB, yes it's the hot new trend for CD players to be able to do it, mind you those are really not CD players anymore, they are full task-specific dedicated computers (with a display, storage, a CPU, networking and everything else that makes something be a computer) .... the only thing is that they do NOT LOOK like a computer so those who usually don't want to become familiar with how to use computers to play music cannot make the jokes about 'checking your email' while playing.
In order for someone to really, fully use the USB features on the Pioneer decks, they will need to import their songs onto a 'music collection drive' using a free, cross-platform application installed on their PC or Mac called Rekordbox which will tag the songs so that once everything is properly labeled those songs can be copied to any specially formatted USB 'play drive' (any capacity, solid-state or hard disk makes no difference) which will be recognized and searched from within the CD decks, and can conveniently be networked between up to four (4) units sharing that single drive.
The beauty of this is that if you lose the drive, Rekordbox can just generate a new one from your collection drive which sits safely at home.
So for argument's sake: you have one collection drive onto which all of your music is imported at home. And its backup. Then you have one play drive, generated by Rekordbox from the music you select that was in the collection drive. And its backup.
4 drives in total. (2 primary - 2 backups)
Total cost in the range of £150 (using four 500 gig drives)
You can make playlists ahead in Rekordbox, so that later the 'play drive' will be able to read it while you are playing. The 'play drive' automatically stores what you played, so when you get back home you can import the list of what you actually played back into Rekordox (then export it and email it to your friends, probably the same ones you were emailing to from the gig)
What many people appear to ignore - and which in my opinion is capital to the way things are nowadays - is that these systems are about building your own personal music knowledge-base. Every time someone plays with either Traktor or the Pioneer USB system, all selected loops and cue points can be stored. So next time they are playing the same song, there is no need to laboriously re-invent the wheel and find that great starting point 2 minutes into a song, or a really cool spot to loop a little instrumental snippet while a noisy environment full of distractions; they can just recall whatever they had previously labored into crafting. Little by little, it enables those who use such systems to build not just a collection of songs, but of all of the relevant meta-data which has become necessary when dealing with vast amounts of new material, across multiple genres. Instead of it all evaporating every time they play, that knowledge is saved, distilled and built upon, and can subsequently be used to help make the DJ's performance more intuitive, spending more time being creative instead of worrying about the mechanics of either finding the song itself, or suitable points to do fun things with them.
Is there something like the Rekordbox software (or at least, your description of it--never used it myself) for putting together a "play drive" for Traktor users? (There's an export playlist feature in Traktor, IIRC, though the one time I tried that it didn't actually work.)
Now that I'm using FLAC and its portable metadata, a piece of software that could populate a leaner "play drive" from my master library without too much fuss would be nice, I think.
Marius, perhaps there is a market opportunity here for, say, a little plastic clip that affixes to the CDJ that you can snap your smartphone into, so you can check your email without having to wander away from the CDJ.
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