My advice regarding library organization is always unpopular and always ignored, but hear me out here: delete most of your music.
It’s a convincing argument — especially the external hard drive option.
I hate it when reasonable questions get answered like this. Q: “What’s the best way to keep my fingernails trim?” A: “Cut off your hands!”
I have the exact opposite philosophy: I never delete music, unless it’s something I especially loathe. I’m the kind of person who, when something pops into my head that I haven’t heard in ten years, I want to listen to it immediately. Since we live in the future and storage is cheap, I can actually do this, and I fucking love it.
Everyone consumes music differently, which is fine. If you’re the type of person who only cares about the shit Pitchfork reviewed last week, by all means, delete it this week. On the other hand, if your collection passed four digits of gigabytes a long time ago, deletion probably isn’t in your vocabulary.
Another gem of advice from the same guy: “If you deleted something you ripped from a CD, rip it again next time you want it.” Seriously? Why rip it at all?
One more: “MP3s are a fantastic way to archive your music (but FLAC and OGG are better)”. No, they’re not. Esoteric formats, even if they’re super OMG high fidelity, are usually a terrible choice for long-term storage of any kind of data. MP3s are about as universal as it gets, and they support ID3 tags, which is an organizational godsend that FLAC and OGG lack.
I was reminded of something Alex Payne wrote a little while ago, albeit in a different context: “If you want to store data of differing types within a lightweight organization system, I encourage you to check out the filesystem.” That’s how I do it. I’ve only got ~50GB in my iTunes library at any given time, but I keep everything else in a simple hierarchy on an external RAID. No fancy groupings or playlists, just a folder for each artist with a folder inside for each album (or loose tracks). That’s it. iTunes starts to choke after a few thousand songs, but the total filesystem limit on a Mac is in the billions. You’ll never hit the ceiling.
Does it take time and effort to organize? Of course, but I loves my musics and I think it’s time well spent. The trick is to organize as you go. New downloads go into an “unsorted” folder, and every couple weeks I spend half an hour making sure everything is tagged properly and dropping them into the right folders. I used to be OCD about the filenames, but I realized eventually that having the right track numbers is good enough as long as they’re tagged right.
Sorry for the rant. This is an issue close to my heart :)
I’m with Marco on this. I delete music all the time, and it’s not because I need the free space. I do it because recently, in the past year, I have begun listening to tracks outside of playing the album straight through. This could be playlists, or more importantly, a completely shuffled library.
I used to really dislike listening to tracks without listening to the entire album. Even if the track I really wanted to hear was #8, I would start from the beginning. I still do this with albums I love because I believe a good artist puts thought into the assemblage of an album.
And really, a lot of music I bring into the library is music I’m experimenting with, or bringing in from word of mouth; not something timeless that I’ll crave or even remember a year from now.