Spring Cleaning For Musicians: 2020 Edition

Well, here we are with some time on our hands. Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about the “V” word that starts with a “C.” Nope, we’re just going to focus on some positives today.

It’s Spring, and that means it’s time for some Spring cleaning! Aw yeah, throw open the windows, clean the nooks and crannies you’ve missed all Winter, go through old boxes, donate some clothes, fix all those annoying little things in your place that you duct taped over.

With that in mind, here’s what you, as a music maker, can do in this time of renewal to set yourself up for success.  Who knows what’s going to happen in the next few months, but whatever it is, it’s going to happen fast, and you won’t have time to catch up for a while. So, let’s get organized. It’s Spring Cleaning for Musicians!

▼ Article continues below ▼

Here’s a list to get you started on getting more organized and being prepared for what comes next in this crazy old world.


I use Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box mostly for file storage, the pro accounts have more than enough room. But even if you start a free account, Google gives you 15GB and Dropbox has a few gigs too. No need to store all of my music in the cloud as that will be the heaviest, but now is a good time to figure out whether your local computer or laptop has enough space, whether you might want to add another hard drive (I prefer Western Digitals for Mac), or whether you want to pay for some premium cloud storage.

If it helps you decide, I recently closed a $25k deal on the phone in an airport simply because we were able to deliver all the mixes and lyrics within five minutes by using our catalog storage. If you think you might need to sling more than just a link to a song on Apple Music while on the road, I highly suggest it.


This is a great time to get your instruments in order. Do this on all of your gear, even that third backup guitar. Change those strings, oil the fretboards, clean the pots with some DeOxit and don’t forget to oil your tuners. Time to switch out those drum heads and make sure all of your hardware is tight. Clean your switches and knobs on your keys and controllers. Do the same with any of your amps or interfaces. Test all of your 1/4-inch cords, and your XLRs and throw away that one that never works but is still in your gig bag! It’s a good time to hunt down all of those picks and extras like slides and capos too, make sure they are all in one place.

Hard Drives

Get your recordings in order. Create a folder for all of your Masters. Make sure to have a separate Bounces folder, Work in Progress folder, a Singles Folder, and an Album Folder. Hunt down all of your projects from DAWs or your iTunes library and make sure you have clean saves and bounces. Also, if you want to play in the licensing world, you’re going to need multiple mixes and formats; this is a good habit to get into now, and lucky for you, you have the time! You need a) a full master mix (the single or album cut) b) a separated vocal mix c) a separated instrumental-only mix. Each of these should be outputted to a separate file: WAV, MP3 128, MP3 320, and AIFF. Now, in the AIFF and MP3s you need to go in and edit the file and track info to add Metadata (genre, sub-genres, feel, keywords, tempo, writers, publishing, lyrics, licensing contact).


As more streamers integrate lyrics into the platforms and distributors like DistroKid allow it as part of delivery, you want to get your lyrics into a shareable form. This is especially where you want to use folders. You need a clean document for each song/lyric with nothing but the title and the lyrics on it. There are guidelines you can look up for most platforms, but for the most part here’s what you need to know from Apple’s submission policies: “Keep punctuation minimal, although it is most important to follow traditional English grammar rules. However, there should be no periods or commas at the end of any lyric line. Exclamation points, question marks, and quotation marks should be the only end-line punctuation, and should be included as needed. Punctuation, such as commas, may be used mid-line as needed.

Note: No matter how the artist is presenting, do not repeat punctuation to convey emphasis. (For example, “!!!” or “??”) Background vocals should be formatted in parentheses. Parentheses should be used to set off non-main lyrics.

Legal Folder

This might be the hardest one, but also the most important one. This is where you need to store scans of all your split sheets, producer agreements, musician releases, licensing agreements, LLC documents, label licenses, sample requests, copyright registrations, contracts and opt-ins with HFA or Music Reports, SoundScan xls, UPC code registrations, distribution agreements, and master/sync agreements will be placed. If you tour a lot, this is also where your rider, stage plot, and boilerplate live performance agreements should be. You might also want to place receipts for major musical instrument purchases in here for tax purposes.

Song Catalog

Different from your Song Files, this should be a Sheet or XLS document setup as follows: Song Title, Date Recorded, Artist Name, Running Time, Writers, Writer’s Share, Publishers, Publishers Share, CAE,  PRO Registration, Label, Date of Release, ISRC, Part of Album or Single, and UPC. This will help you immensely with SoundExchange and databases like AllMusic.

Song Files

This is a folder where you will take all of those things you did earlier and compile them into one folder. The sub folders should be Singles, Albums (including EPs) and then sub folders for each song. In each of those folders, you will want a 3000×3000 jpg or png of the artwork used for the single or album uploaded. For each song you should have a Music Info Sheet – one document that outlines the tempo, key,  running time, co-writers, publishers, Metadata, tags, moods, genres, ISRC code from your PRO, UPC code as a single or part of an album, split sheet received, what formats the song is available in. In that same folder, create a sub folder for each song, you then will put all of the output mixes in there and your lyric sheet.

Boom. You are all set for whatever comes next.

Now, go write that killer song, the world needs it!


Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.

Like this? Share this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.