Whether you’re working as a DJ in bars and nightclubs or offering mobile DJ services, knowing how to organize playlists is crucial.
Creating categories for new releases and your favorite artists and genres can help you quickly access the best music for your gigs.
In this step-by-step guide, you’ll discover the best methods to create optimal playlists, whatever your chosen style of DJing.
How To Organize Your DJ Playlists & Crates In 2024
Breaking up your music archive into easily searchable playlists can be an invaluable way to save time and play the best music in your sets.
This guide covers all types of DJs to help them develop a system that gives them instant access to music their audience wants to hear.
So, once you’ve downloaded your essential music, here’s how you can organize your DJ crates:
Step 1: Create A Temporary Playlist For New Tracks
Whether you’re DJing house music or building a playlist of various genres to play at weddings, you’ll spend time exploring new releases.
There are plenty of great resources for discovering new music, from the best DJ blogs to a wide range of electronic music news websites.
Inevitably, you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time filtering through music so you can choose the tracks that best fit your style.
This means implementing a system to help you hone in on relevant content and ignore tracks that aren’t relevant to your upcoming events.
The best way to do this is to set up temporary playlists for new tracks, filling this list as and when you discover potentially useable music.
Once you’ve sorted through the latest releases and selected music that matches your style, you can revisit and refine this playlist.
When you’re sure a track is worth keeping, it can then be moved to a dedicated playlist ready for playing in your next DJ set.
Step 2: Transfer New Tracks To Dedicated Playlists
One of the most common DJ pain points is failure to properly prepare for a DJ set, leading to wasted time looking for specific tracks.
As such, the next step in organizing your music collection should be establishing a series of dedicated playlists to archive your tracks.
The nature of these playlists will vary depending on the style of music you’re playing and the type of DJ you are.
For example, wedding DJs might want to create playlists that cover topics such as 70s disco music and hit pop songs from the 80s and 90s.
On the other hand, club DJs may want to arrange their DJ playlist depending on the time slot they’re performing in at their club residency.
Some DJs wear multiple hats, working as gig DJs in bars and restaurants while also offering their services at corporate or private events.
If this is the case, multiple playlists that reflect each of these different roles should be established to avoid wasting time hunting for music files.
Over time, these playlists can be refined or removed depending on your upcoming events, adding more tracks as and when they’re released.
Step 3: Set Up Playlists By Genre
Whether you’re a radio DJ or performing in venues, the best music genres are easily defined and can be used to help organize your collection.
Music genres are noted for a consistent approach and style, typically revolving around similar beats per minute and other production elements.
For example, dance music genres such as house and techno are designed to be easily mixed into each other with handy intros and outros.
This makes genres a great way to begin breaking down your library of music into broader categories you can use when DJing.
Once you’ve established these playlists, you can further refine them by categorizing your tracks into the relevant niche subgenres.
For instance, an overarching house music category can then be segmented into other subcategories, such as deep, tech, or funky house.
Additional genre categories can also be used, whether you’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop or specific techno producers.
As you expand your music horizons, introduce additional genre-based playlists to keep everything segmented and easy to find.
Step 4: Use Moods & Emotions For Playlists
Understanding the psychology of music is an effective way to build DJ sets that offer an immersive and emotional experience for the crowd.
It’s also an excellent way to help organize your music into playlists that offer a consistent tone and mood throughout a set.
The moods and emotions you choose to categorize your playlists depend largely on your DJing style and preferred genres.
A club DJ might want to use moods to help arrange their tracks in line with the structure of a set, beginning slower and building in intensity.
On the other hand, radio DJs who play classical or jazz music will adopt an altogether different approach and use calmer emotions.
If this is the case, you’ll need to be clear on what your target audience desires so you can build a playlist that matches their mood.
Such playlists can also be suitable for personal use, using music to enhance productivity and help you effectively plan your DJ events.
Step 5: Create Specific Playlists For Events
If you’re a professional DJ with a working schedule, establishing specific playlists for your upcoming events can save you a lot of time.
For example, if you’re considering becoming a corporate event DJ, you can save time by compiling playlists dedicated to these gigs.
Before you begin compiling playlists for upcoming events, you should be clear about what the event organizers expect from you.
Speak to them in advance and discuss your style, gathering feedback so you can tailor playlists that satisfy their requirements.
If you’re DJing at a wedding, you’ll need to speak to the bride and groom to check if they have any particular requests.
While club DJs have more leeway, it’s still worth checking with the event planner so you understand what style the venue goes for.
Once the gig is over, you can use additional feedback and gauge the audience’s response to see what tracks work the best.
Your event-based playlists can then be refined and updated for future use to match the feeling your clients are looking for.
Step 6: Use Playlists For Club DJ Sets
If you’re working on becoming a club DJ, you’ll want to take a different approach to using playlists when preparing sets.
Club DJs are often at the cutting edge of electronic music, helping to establish new artists and playing previously unheard releases.
This means using playlists to their advantage and segmenting new tracks from established hits to gauge the audience’s response.
At the same time, using playlists of club classics that the crowd is likely to have heard and loved can help you get out of a tight spot.
If the audience loses interest, DJs can quickly draw from this playlist and drop a hard-hitting tune with a proven track record.
It can also involve setting up different playlists depending on the time slot they’re performing in and collaborating with other DJs.
For example, if you’re playing before a house music DJ, you don’t want to be playing drum and bass or other harder music genres.
If you’ve recorded your sets, you can upload videos to YouTube and assess how your track selection impacts the dance floor.
Step 7: Compile Playlists For Sharing
Another effective way you can use playlists to refine your selection of music is by sharing these online and gathering feedback.
This means reaching out to like-minded people and your DJing peers and engaging in an organic process and ongoing conversations.
If you’re working on starting a DJ podcast, you can use this to share playlist ideas and gather feedback from your audience.
There are several platforms you can use to share your playlists with other people, with Spotify being the most commonly used.
Other platforms, such as Bandcamp, Apple Music, and TIDAL, also have great sharing facilities to use to your advantage.
If you’re uploading your DJ mixes online, you can use SoundCloud and Mixcloud to get these online with ease and ready to share.
Lastly, it’s worth taking advantage of your social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok, to reach your followers.
Step 8: Create Categories For Remixes & Edits
The majority of electronic music releases are accompanied by various remixes and edits you can use in your professional DJ sets.
This gives you additional scope for breaking down your archive of music into playlists that cater exclusively to remixes and edits.
Remixes are often produced in a style different from the original version, giving DJs greater potential for creating unique and interesting sets.
At the same time, radio-friendly edits are also produced for genres such as hip-hop, where the original version may feature explicit lyrics.
Gaining access to exclusive remixes is also a great way to build sets that feature tracks that aren’t being played widely by other DJs.
By segregating these apart from the original mixes, you can test them at your live events and see what impact they have on the dance floor.
Likewise, if you’re learning how to remix a song and want to assess its impact, adding it to a remix playlist will help you manage your sets.
Step 9: Add Popular Tracks To New Playlists
Understanding the role of DJs as curators of music requires a grasp of what works and what doesn’t and serving as a tastemaker.
This can be accomplished in several ways, beginning with paying close attention to how the crowd responds when dropping new releases.
You can also read through music reviews and push tracks that receive high praise to the top of your playlists.
Chart-topping hits have a proven track record among audiences, so playing these in your live sets is a surefire way to guarantee success.
Likewise, checking out popular mixes from established DJs will also help you to quickly determine what works in a particular genre.
Live sets from big-name DJs that include video footage will also give you deeper insights into how the crowd reacts when a track drops.
If you need some inspiration to help get started, check out some of the best Spotify-curated playlists and see what tracks are included.
Step 10: Periodically Review & Update Playlists
You don’t have to be an established DJ to appreciate how easy it is for your playlists to get out of hand and grow exponentially.
With new releases dropping daily, it doesn’t take long for a small playlist to rack up hundreds, if not thousands, of tracks.
As such, effective management of your playlists should be at the forefront of your processes to ensure you can find what you’re looking for.
One way to do this is to refine playlists regularly, breaking them down into separate playlists based on genres and chronology.
Over time, tracks from new release playlists will be moved to dedicated lists, while unused tracks can be permanently deleted.
Likewise, the more DJ sets you perform, the better your gauge as to what tracks warrant a prominent position and which ones to archive.
Exploring the best music discovery websites will also help you with your playlist management and filter your tracks into appropriate lists.
The more you engage in reviewing and updating your playlists, the quicker the task will become when managing your tracks.
Organization is a crucial aspect of becoming a successful DJ, and we hope this guide to curating your DJ playlists will help achieve this goal.
Playlist management is an ongoing process that evolves, with endless scope for introducing new lists as your taste in music expands.
With plenty of resources such as streaming services and record pools to help, it’s easy to start building playlists you can use while DJing.
Start collecting exclusive music with a ZIPDJ subscription and take advantage of its advanced organizational tools.