The educated Tanguero

Essential Tango Knowledge

Tango DJing Part 9: File Tags and Backup

During the Christmas break, I was busy to care for my music collection, which has constantly increased in size. The more you grow that, the more problems you get, if you don´t do it right in the first place. The problem I am facing now is that I haven´t tagged my files to a common standard. For many songs, I have not included the name of the singer. You may say, as a DJ, you have to know the music, which is true. Anyway, even among the very experienced DJs, I do not know many who can remember the singer of all the golden age songs and I must admit, I know orchestra, song title and singers of the 120 evergreens, so frequently played at milongas, that you exacly know every single note (which is very helpful, when you dance to them and you have to stop at the very last beat).

For all other thousands of songs, I need to have the information ready and searchable in the file tags.

Additional to that, the singer and the year of recording is important if you are assembling tandas on the fly. I usually do not like to do that, but during the last year I have started to DJ on the fly and unexpectedly, I had a lot of fun. For example, if you want to play songs from Troilo with Fiorentino from 1940, it is good to have these informations in the tags if you are searching a song to complete a tanda.


1. My standards for tagging the files.

Now guess what – in the past, I was lazy and my tagging was not complete. I now consider that as unprofessional and I have decided to correct that. During the last weeks I have used around 20 hours to brush up my collection starting with the database of tandas. I have decided to standardize all my files like this:

Artist: short name (year)

Title: full title – singer

Filename: short name – title

Directory: last name, first name of Artist or full name of Orchestra

Subdirectory: Name of the Record


For example the file:   Rodolfo Biagi-Quiero verte una vez mas.mp3

will have the tags:

Artist: Rodolfo Biagi (1940)

Title: Quiero verte una vez mas-Jorge Ortiz


This format keeps the filename short and all necessary informations will be shown in the database software of the player (I use Traktor-Pro 2).



2. Backup your work

Today, terabytes of backup space is cheap, so there is no excuse not to do extensive backups of your music collection. After having spent hundreds and thousands working hours to collect, tag and sort your collection, it would be a mayor disaster to loose everything during a harddisk crash.

If you are working with computers extensively, you may have heard or realized, that harddisks sometimes fail. So having a backup strategy is wise and secure.

If your files reside on one computer, simply buy a backup harddisk and copy the files to that harddisk. Today (2015) there is almost no big difference between 500 GB and 2 TB disks, so a 2 TB model will give you a good lifetime. Backup of a big collection takes time, even if you are working with a fast USB 3.0 (the blue plug) connection. Make sure that you use the fastest possible interface. Even with that, a full backup takes 45 minutes for my collection of MP3s, Music Videos and Database files for my DJ-player. Therefor after the first backup, it is a good idea to use special software to incrementally backup your collection. Software for this compares the backup and the original and only transfers the files that have changed since the last backup. A freeware program to do that is UNISON [1], a commercial solution is Syncovery [2]. With this, after extensive work in the database, I can do a backup in less than 1-2 minutes. Similar solutions are available for Apple computers.

Right now, my music collection is running on my desktop computer (I like to work with two big screens and a powerfull and fast processor) and two notebooks. With this configuration it is somehow tricky to keep all computers synchronized [3]. This can be easily done with the same backup and synchronizing software and the portable drive as the standard. So for example I backup from Desktop to the portable drive and then synchronize that to both notebooks. If the portable drive crashes and one of my notebooks gets stolen, I still have the collection on two more devices. JBTW the notebooks are encrypted with bitlocker, so a possible thief will not get access to my files.

Using this strategy, it is very unlikely to loose my collection. For a gig, I always have my second notebook ready. If one notebook crashes, I just have to hook that up (and in the meantime I can play a tanda from my mobile phone or tablet.

OK, a plane may crash into my house or we may face a global disaster like a Zombie apocalypse, but then the loss of the tango collection would certainly be a minor problem.

Best regards,


-Richard (DJ Ricardo)








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