It happens to every songwriter.  The business of music.

Your focus is on writing songs, not organizing your song files!  Why bother?

But, if you’ve lost lyrics or had the perfect melody on a recording that’s now gone missing, you know organizing your files can save you some anguish.

Here are five easy steps to get your song files, word documents and your song notebook all organized into one simple system.

What you’ll need:

  1. A computer
  2. A Drop Box account (free – so go sign up)
  3. An Evernote account (free – so go sign up)
  4. Quickly read through Managing Your Songwriting With Evernote



The number one way to stay organized is to keep everything simple and consistent.

So you’ll notice that what I lay out below for organizing your files will align with the naming conventions used in Managing Your Songwriting With Evernote.  This will help insure you’ve got one simple workflow that’s consistent across your computer, Drop Box and your Evernote app.

File names:

– Song Co-writes

– Songs Completed

– Songs In Progress

Notice that the “Songs Completed” and “Songs In Progress” file names match the names in the Evernote How-To Guide.


Why Split Out Co-writes?

I do it because I like to keep them separate from my single author (me) works.  The file names are longer, and if I have to jump on a call or send files I know where to go immediately versus poking around for a title. Basically – it’s how my brain works.

If you want to put everything into the Songs Completed and Songs In Progress folder, just eliminate Song Co-writes from your file structure.


So what does it look like when you’ve got it set up?

music business file organization lvl1



Next, you’ll want your songs arranged under the main folders.

I create a folder for each song and then save both my music files  (mp3) and my lyric files (Word) into the folder.

Here’s an example using a song called “Strawberry Moon.”

music business file organization level 2


You’ll end up with a file structure that looks like this once you have a few song folders in each status folder:

music business file organization



Notice the file names in the “Strawberry Moon” folder.

Each file name includes:  Name of Song_Version_Date.

You’ll note in the “Strawberry Moon” example above that the music file contains the version number so I know which audio file goes with which set of lyrics.

Why no spaces? It keeps my file names shorter, and if I have to convert them to another format it makes it simple (computers don’t really enjoy spaces in file names).

Why an underscore between the title and version and date? I like to make sure the date uses dashes and is quickly discernible from the rest of the file name. Yup – a little anal retentive, but it works visually!

Why a version number? Because I like to know which one is the latest, and I use it to match an audio file with a lyric.

My basic rule for version numbers?

When I start it’s 1.0 and anything close to that version stays with that “1.something” designation. Keep in mind, I hand write my lyrics usually in my notebook first, then when I get it to a pretty good spot and know it will become a full song, only then do I create a Word doc for the lyrics on my computer.

Example: I start a song and have a verse and chorus. That’s v1.0 – then I monkey with some verse lines and add chords the next day on the same sheet of paper. That’s v1.1 – so I cross off v1.0 and yesterday’s date – add the new version number (v1.1) and date.

Three weeks later, after I’ve made it to v1.4 – I get some feedback and completely change the chord structure. Cross off the version number and data and change to v2.0!  Big changes require a new number. That way, if I want to go back to a version that had the “old chords” I know where to start looking.

You can do all of this on your computer as well – just change the font to strikethrough in Word.


A Note About Edits

Never erase or delete!

If you’ve got handwritten lyrics, strike through your line or word.

On a computer you can use “Track Changes” function in Word or type your changes in red within the line.

You can also put your new ideas in brackets or parentheses.  Some people put a line at the bottom of the song and move all old lines below the “edits” line.  The point is, find something that works for you to keep your prior work.

You don’t want to lose good ideas.



Use the same file layout at above on your DropBox account.



You want a system, so setting up a routine is your best bet for getting it into place.

Write down your workflow so you start using it regularly.

Here’s mine:

  • Lyrics in my notebook first
  • When I’ve got a decent completion of the song, I type it up in Word and save it on my computer by creating a folder name with the working song title
  • Next, I set up the same folder on DropBox and move a copy of the lyrics into DropBox
  • Then I make a recorded version on my iPad mini and share it over to DropBox under a folder with the song title name
  • Finally, I make a copy of the recorded version and save it to my computer (gives me exact copies in two spots)
  • I use the version number system to make sure I have a record of each version for both lyrics and recordings