Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Annex System: A Record Collections. A Data Bases. Making prep work easy

So your a DJ. Congratulations! Your a member of an ever growing club of Professional Musicians, Working Professionals, Hobbyist and Dreamers. All of us love music and if your anything like me you have a lot of it. Today's post is about that collection of Vinyl, CDs, MP3's, whatever your medium of choice is. In particular how Edward the Librarian attempts to wrap his brain around the ever growing girth of music he owns. *

(*1) Dum Dum Dum. Ok no more talking in the 3rd person.

A few years back, I got this monicker Edward the Librarian as a bit of a gag. As I had just watched the movie GO and thought the idea of having a sorted Annex of music would be clutch. ( I should note back then my collection was about 3 crates deep.) So I would experiment with organizing by labels, artist, genera, what have you. I later watched the documentary Scratch and saw how DJ Z-Trip labeled his records and sorted his crates. This was the start of my "AH HA" moments. Although labels, artist and genera were nice when looking for a track, beats per minute (BPM) is more helpful information when I'm digging in my crate at a gig.

A little later while watching DJ Shadow's - Live! In Tune and on Time, harmonic mixing became the next level of organization. Around this same time I bought my first Serato box (SL1), which allowed me to sort my music by iTunes. This is where I really start to geek out and get really meta* with my collection. Electronic DJing (Final Scratch, Serato & Traktor) introduced the idea of data base management of music. Wither you realized or not, users where now sorting non tangible meta data within databases. When sorting non tangible data you need attributes to distinguish one bit of data from another. Title, Artist, Label, Year, Genre, Sub-Genra BPM, Harmonic Key, and so forth, is all data base management 101.

(*2) meta- is used to mean about (its own category). For example, metadata are data about data (who has produced them, when, what format the data are in and so on).

Now for the first time I started to really wrap my brain around my music collection. I suddenly had access to my records 24/7 where ever I was. I could build a crate in a matter of hours and be ready for a gig that evening if need be... in till I had to find that record in the rats nest I called the Annex at the time.

So I did what any Librarian would do, I designed labels for my records. This way my physical collection and my digital collection would be one in the same. It took me a few months of asking DJ friends what information they would want, looking at the data Serato / iTunes provided & putting in the data that was important to me. What I came up with was the Annex System. This system had a hierarchy of information that worked like this:

1) BPM
2) Harmonic Key
3) Sub-Genre
4) Title
5) Artist
6) Date
7) Genre
8) Comments

My rational for this hierarchy was based on the need a performer & a collector.
1-2,4) When I'm in the mix and I "hear" the next song I want to play in my head I want to know. Is it fast enough? Will the harmonic clash? What the title of that song again? (I only know it by the label art)
3) Is how I organize my Annex
5-8) Is all data that helps me refine my mix. Say I want to do a set of tracks from 1997. I got that!

Now how to get the information on the record. I wanted something cheap, and easily available. So after some reviewing of office supplies I settled on generic shipping labels. Seeing that I had a staples right down the street I've been using there 5168 white shipping labels. They retail for around $22-38 for 100 sheets, 4 labels per sheet.

After that its a quick visit to Kinko's or Stapes copy center and presto we have labels!

Here is where the fun bit comes in. While I'm encoding my vinyl with Roxio: CD Spin Doctor, I used Discogs to gather the meta data about that record. Once the track has been encoded and the meta data added to the file, its then exported to iTunes. From here use XONE Mixed in Key to extract the BPM and the Harmonic Key. Then I'm done. I have 2 copies of my track sitting in 2 mirrored libraries.
So when I started gearing up for my next show Ahhh Junglist, I open my laptop on my back porch, cracked a beer and started sorting tracks I thought would work well. I then tossed them on my phone so I could review them while commuting to & from work. This gave me a week to start editing. After I thought I had a solid "crate" gathered, I built the physical crate. I organize my crate the by harmonic key, and BPM. Once this is completed I start practicing, adding, subtracting and what have you until I know that crate inside and out.

 That's my system for better or for worse. What do you all think? Am I bloody crazy or a proper genius? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Keep Smiling

The Librarian


Vinyl Alchemist said...

Great article. Thanks for sharing!

iLL Omen said...

Really a great system. I think I will use aspects of this for my new format to organize.