A music production folder with a thought-out folder structure is absolutely crucial to an easy to maintain production career.
With our world continually moving toward the cloud, it only makes sense to use a solution such as Dropbox for our music production folder.
(There are other cloud solutions too – I just personally use Dropbox.)
Since my move to the cloud, my production workflow has been amazing.
I’ve been able to work from my home studio, on the road with my laptop, as well as access these files even off my phone if I need them!
The amount of time, as well as the easiness of having everything in sync is amazing.
What You Will Learn
- Why Having a Main Production Folder is Crucial
- How to Set up Dropbox for your Production Folder
- Learn My Personal Folder Structure
- Why Having Everything in Sync just Makes Sense!
- Don’t Forget About Manual Backups
Why Having a Main Production Folder is Crucial
If you are super new to producing, let me warn you now!
You must have a solid music production folder from the start!
This music production folder becomes your main hub.
The folder is crucial to stay organized, prevent missing files, and maintain easy backups!
Everything music related goes into this folder!
Whether this be:
- New sound kits you’ve recently downloaded
- New VSTs you’ve acquired
- FL Studio music files (.flp)
- And any other recorded audio for your songs!
Below I will not only show you my personal music production folder structure, but also guide you on how you should use it for the best workflow!
Here’s my quick suggestion (we go way more in-depth below):
- Start with high quality sounds – Freebies you find around the internet are great to start with.. but there are premium kits for sale for a reason.. If you later-on realize they suck and delete them, this is a disaster waiting to happen with missing files.
- Backup the individual sounds to each song – This is actually a SUPER QUICK process in FL Studio. Even if you delete the sound kit folder, you’ve still backed up the sounds for that particular song.
- Have one main production folder – This folder nests anything audio related for you. This is the main topic of this write-up and is a must for producers!
- Proper folder structure – You do not want to be adding or deleting folders later on. The longer your production career goes, the harder it is to go back and organize.
There’s a few things which I’ve found very important to this main production folder.
I make sure I plan ahead, and prepare accordingly before creating one:
- Proper labeling
- Categorizing your files in their own sections
- What Hard Drive I store my music folder on
Let’s cover each topic so you understand:
Proper Labeling of Folder Structure
Let me say this once:
The longer your production folder lives, the harder it is to change stuff later.
If you do not label properly from the start, you will run into problems later.
This is actually a known thing for even people like librarians who study proper organization techniques.
Or, if you’re into databases, you can relate too.
You must set up your folder structure/file system properly at the beginning.
When I say proper labeling, I mean:
- Short file names
- Clean minimal look
- Easy to remember locations.
Short File Names
If you don’t have short file/folder names, and you nest folders within folders with long names..
This means anything longer than 260 characters will cause an error when backing up with the drag and drop method to another hard drive.
This is absolutely crazy in this day and age!
It honestly makes you roll your eyes with a deep sigh..
The only way to fix this is to shorten your file/folder names.
We will get more in-depth below, I just want to share with you some of the struggles I’ve faced with a simple music production folder!
Clean Minimal Look
Another important point is a clean minimal look.
When opening a folder with everything nicely labeled, it gives you a relaxed feeling seeing everything so clean.
This can be over done though!
We’re talking clean here, not obsessive!
Easy to Remember Locations
Remembering where you’ve placed files is crucial.
I’ve done this quite a lot where I forgot where I saved a certain file!
Maybe I thought the file was between two categories and at that time, I chose the opposite one leaving me confused and on a little file hunt.
(This takes away from creativity time.. You want things quick and easy so that you’re on your way!)
Categorizing Files in their Own Section
In my experience, it’s really hard to place the right file in the right category.
Sometimes it lands on two categories.. so what do you do?
I think if I give you a little story.. it will give you a some insight to where I’m coming from on this issue.
Here’s my story when I first started producing..
It was a bit of a nightmare at times..
If I recorded myself over my beats, I’d label my recording Verse 1 for the first verse for example.
If I worked on another song, I’d again label it Verse 1 for the first verse, too!
This is a BIG NO NO!
Computers are smart, but they’re also dumb if you’ve told them bad instructions.
Later on, I eventually bought a new computer. This lead me to transfer all files from my old computer to my new computer.
When opening songs on the new computer, I had many missing files!
Most of these missing files were because of poor labeling..
FL Studio was taking the closest Verse 1 it could find.
I think it even brought in a default Verse 1 from a stock song that comes with FL Studio!
My heart was racing!
I thought to myself, “My songs!!! What’s happening!!”
That’s when I realized I can’t be labeling files with the same name even though they are in different folders.
There is an easy solution to this..
But the way I describe below prevents missing file errors from ever happening to you again. 🙂
The easy solution first:
I always create a folder for each song I work on.
I also create a folder where I backup the individual sounds inside that song’s folder.
All you have to do is drag the .flp (FL Studio’s project file) into these backed-up sounds, and it will load that Verse 1 first before searching else where.
This way.. yes, you can still have sloppy organization and it will work.
But I want to teach you some best practices:
- Create a main production folder
- Create sub-folders to break down categories
- Backup each song’s sounds in a separate folder
- Keep sound kits and VSTs organized
Create a Main Production Folder
The first step of our process is to create a main production folder.
Make sure to label this something cool, not dumb..
Want an example?
When I first started, I labeled mine ‘Beatz Mang’ .. ahahahaa !!
Sometimes this folder would show up in my older YouTube videos if was working in it.
So don’t be like me!
Label this useful and inspiring..
I currently use Music Production.
Short, sweet, and to the point!
Subfolders for Your Multiple Categories
Our categories are crucial for a very organized work environment.
I’ll give you an idea of how I work..
Since I am both an artist and producer, I may have an extra folder or two than what you’ll need.. but you can pick and choose from my list to help you out.
My current sub-folders:
- Beat Tapes
- Services (or Clients)
Since I am also a recording artist, I create a folder specifically for my albums.
I’ve found over the years that releasing beat tapes rather than single beats is a lot more effective for many reasons.
This is a great folder to contain any services you offer/clients you work with.
Here’s some music industry services you could offer:
- Selling a Beat
- Remixing a Song
- Restoring Audio
If you collaborate with other producers often.. creating a Collabs folder is also an option to keep organized between your beats and beats you release with others.
Sounds / VST Folder
Listen carefully to this one..
I’ve stumbled in my sound kit organization in my beginning years.
From poor organization, to devastating lost sounds.. I want to save you from this.
So this is what I do:
I create one folder which nests both my sound kits and VSTs.
I call this folder Sounds.
Inside Sounds, I create two other folders:
- Drum Kits
Any new sound kits I download/purchase are stored in here.
My organization is quite meticulous, categorizing my sound kits by vendor name.
So for example, Xclusive-Audio is one of my favorite sound kit creators.
I create a folder for Xclusive-Audio, and then drag each sound kit I purchase from them into that Xclusive-Audio folder.
- Read: My Favorite Drum Kits
The same goes for other vendors I use.
I create a specific folder for that vendor, and drag each sound kit purchased from them into their folder.
This may seem obvious, but trust me, I’ve found this to be best practice so far.
Later I will show you the best backup process for your FL Studio songs.
This is crucial to never lose files and be able to recall your songs 15 years down the road if need be!
Subfolder Creation Overview
So that is my current folder set up inside my main music production folder.
This alone should be helpful to you, but..
It’s how I actually use this folder which is most important.
I want to give you a step-by-step overview.
Some of these points we have not fully covered yet, but we will below!:
- Create a folder for each new song
- When song is complete, backup individual sounds
- Structure each album/beat tape release with folder structure consistency
Before you get too far into creating your production folder, though..
I think talking about where to install your music production folder is important.
On your SSD or HDD?
What Hard Drive Should your Music Production Folder Be On?
This question is only asked because of our current technology state.
SSDs (solid state drives) are still expensive per GB when compared to a regular spinning HDD.
Since we still want a fast boot-up time and our programs to run fast, we make a compromise.
We tend to buy a cheap SSD with smaller storage for our operating system and programs.
Other files will then be saved on a regular HDD which is cheaper for more storage.
Now to our question.. should you install Dropbox on your SSD, or on your HDD?
There’s two options you can take..
- Install on your SSD.. but Selective Sync certain folders
- Install on your HDD which is more convenient in the long-run..
In my opinion, the most convenient way is to install the production folder to your biggest hard drive. (At the current moment, that’d be one of your HDD’s.)
This means you do not have to worry about filling up storage and you’ll always have instant access to any files you want!
Dropbox does offer a feature called selective sync..
So if you did want to install your music folder on your SSD, you can only select certain folders to be available.
This is annoying at times though..
Sometimes you just want that one file in a folder you chose not to include in your selective sync.
This means you have to go through the selective sync folder menu, choose the folder to download, and wait for that download.
.. and if you don’t have internet access.. how can you access those files?
So as you can see, I’m guiding you to install Dropbox on your HDD that has lots of storage and you don’t have to worry about storage issues.
In my opinion, the whole double hard drive thing is kind of annoying.
It’s just something we have to deal with at the moment until SSDs become affordable.
How to Set up Dropbox for your Production Folder
Now that you understand:
- Why a main production folder is important
- A general idea of how to set a production folder up
- And why installing on your HDD rather than your SSD is just easier..
I will quickly show you how to install Dropbox on your HDD.
Most of the files stored on your HDD are static files..
Files which don’t change, are reused often, or are added too!
Think about a drum kit for example.
Those sounds never change.. you just use them when you want.
If you store these on an SSD, they are kinda just dead space..
That’s why we install our DAW and other programs like video editing software on an SSD. It gives us the speed we need!
If we store sounds on an HDD, there’s not really a performance difference, and you don’t gotta worry about selective sync/full hard drives.
Step 1: Install Dropbox
Head to the Dropbox website, create an account, and download their installer.
Step 2: Choose Installation Location
Start installing Dropbox from the installer you just downloaded.
What’s important is you choose which hard drive to install to!
Your main hard drive is typically C:/ .. So what ever letter you’ve chosen for your HDD, you’ll choose that one!
And now you should be set up.
Dropbox should be accessible from the bottom tab of your taskbar, or on the left navigation when you open folders in Windows.
And what makes this cloud folder really awesome is you can easily share files for download to your fans or other producers you’re working with!
Learn My Personal Folder Structure
I want to explain how I actually use my folder structure.
Above I showed you my sub-folder structure, and here it is again:
- Beat Tapes
I will guide you through my process from creating a new album, to working on the individual songs, to backing up the sounds, to preparing an album for release to the public.
So for our example..
If I were to work in Albums:
I create a new folder for my new album, let’s call the album Staying Pure.
Inside Staying Pure I create a folder for each song.
This keeps each song separate, and really easy to maintain.
Let’s say one of the song’s names is: Representative Figure
Inside this song’s folder, I create two folders:
- I save the .flp (FL Studio’s project file) inside the song’s folder, too.
You may wonder..
“What’s with rf before -sounds and -vocals?”
I like to take the first letter from each word in the song title.
This is to make sure that folder stays unique from any other folder on my hard drive.
(It’s not likely you’ll ever have another rf-sounds folder.)
You could get away with just vocals and sounds as folder titles.. but I like to make an acronym for safety come old computer to new computer transfer.
Now that you’ve seen my folder structure this far, I will hand you off to my other post about backing up individual sounds in FL Studio.
To give you a quick run-down, the tutorial above backs up the individual sounds of the song. It even backs up any vocals you’ve used, too!
It gives you the freedom to delete sound kits if you really wanted to down the road, as you know you still have the sounds for each beat you’ve created.
This is important:
For recording audio (vocals or instruments), make sure to label properly before recording.
Don’t get lazy here!
If I were recording my first verse of my song, I’d label it rf-verse-1 before recording.
This keeps that file unique, and you do not have to go and relabel it after!
Why Having Everything in Sync just Makes Sense!
The convenience of having everything in sync has been amazing for me.
At first.. I didn’t really like the idea of sharing my files to a service like Dropbox..
I kinda thought about security issues and things along those lines such as not really being in full control of your files.
Like, what would happen if Dropbox shutdown and only gave you a month to backup your files before they shut down?
That’s why manual backups are still important (which we talk about just below.)
But after some life changes, I realized the convenience and power of a cloud solution like Dropbox.
For awhile, I was not at my home studio as I was travelling a lot.
This made it hard to keep track of my files from home studio to laptop..
But with Dropbox all your files are in sync, so..
If I were working on some free VST presets on the road with my laptop, I have those same up-to-date files at my home studio!
Here’s a quick list of why having everything in sync is amazing:
- You have the same files on all devices/computers.
- No need to carry an external hard drive with you!
- It saves time from manually sharing folders on your home network.
- You can selectively choose only certain folders if you’d like, freeing up space if need be.
The biggest downfall to the cloud is if you lose internet.
Think about if you’re on an airplane and you forgot to open up your laptop which would sync/download the files you were working on at your home studio.
You wouldn’t have the up to date version of your files on your laptop while in the air!
So using an external hard drive is still important!
Don’t Forget About Manual Backups
I’d also like to quickly talk about working locally..
This means on a single computer’s hard drive.
When you work from a single hard drive, you are limited on many aspects:
- Can only work from one location
- If backups are in the same house hold as your computer, this is not good for protection from fires / other elements.
- Lack of creativity from only one location!
The backup point here is probably the most important.
The golden rule to safe backups is having multiple forms of it.
So for example, you can backup to:
- Hard drives
- USB Sticks
- The Cloud
You want to have a variety of backups in place.
By this I mean you should back up to a hard drive as well as the cloud.
This gives you the benefit of having a physical copy (hard drive), as well as cloud storage if a disaster happens!
Some people even go as far as giving a family member a USB stick or Hard drive of your backup.
So what do I recommend for backup procedure?
I personally use Acronis True Image for my physical backups, and I really like it!
It’s a backup utility you install on your computer that schedules when to backup. Whether this be daily, weekly, monthly.. it’s up to you!
It also features different ways to backup your files such as incremental backups.
This allows for a much faster backup process as it only backs up the files which you’ve changed since the last main backup.
Because as you know, when backing up starts running, it slows down your computer.
This means less downtime waiting for the backup to finish, and you will be able to backup more often because the backups are quicker!
So there you have it.
You should now have a music production folder that is clean, improves workflow, and is really easy to maintain over your years of producing.
Again, I have tried many different ways to organize my folder because when time passes, you start to realize you like to do things a certain way.
I’d love to hear your feedback, or answer any questions from my experience of sculpting my music production folder’s structure.
Thanks for reading!