Organising music files and directories

When building a digital music library, it is important to store music files in a consistent and useful manner.

Digital music is stored in files on your computer's hard disk, just like the documents you may create in Microsoft Word or the photos you take with your digital camera. These files contain both the music and the 'tags' that describe the music. When digital music is purchased via download, or purchased via CD and ripped, it is saved in such a file in a predetermined directory structure. For instance, when purchasing from the Amazon MP3 store the files stored in a directory for the album, which is stored in a directory for the music artist. For example, look how Ludovico Einaudi's beautiful Una Mattina record is structured when purchased from Amazon: Music file organisation for an Einaudi record purchased from Amazon
The tracks that make up the record are stored in a directory named after the record 'Una Mattina' which in turn is stored in a directory named after the composer 'Ludovico Einaudi'. This is how Amazon organises its downloads, but other configurations are possible when, for instance, you rip your own CDs.

At first, it's best to fire up your music player of choice and allow it to work out how your music is organised. However, at some point managing a large music collection leads to working with music at a file level. Sometimes it's a music player which cannot correctly interpret tags. Sometimes you just don't like the way the files are organised.

Rule based management is the best way of automatically organising a music library.

The same rules that govern tags, saved within music files, should also be adopted in structuring the very same files on your computer's hard disk. This leads to a consistent reflection of your music library within both your music players and also your file system. The rules should be expressed in general terms, for example:

Gives a similar structure as the Einaudi example above. The important thing is that the rule is automated so changing the format changes all of your music automatically. For instance, a flatter hierarchy could be achieved with the following rule:

Here, the artist is not recorded. In rule based music management changing the rule is all you need to do... the music is moved for you!

File structure rules give more benefits:
  • Control over disallowed or undesirable characters in files (maybe you don't like spaces in filenames, for instance)
  • How the structure should work in ambiguous situations (what artist directory to use for compilation records?)
Importantly, the file structure is still driven by the tags and the automatic rules governing the music library in general.

Managing music files is an important task in music library management and with large collections it is best done with automated rules.
tags: files structure directory

The Music Library Management blog

Dan Gravell

I'm Dan, the founder and programmer of bliss. I write bliss to solve my own problems with my digital music collection.