Welcome to the final instalment. After sorting out paper & digital files let's finish off by looking at how important titles are
It's not just albums where we get to be creative with the metadata. Even if you get through a few working titles you're still likely to end up with lots of versions of the same song with the same name. I avoid confusion by labelling my songs like so
You Spoke The Stars D4R2V2M5
This is the version of song that I'm on. When I get the idea for a song and write it out in full that's draft one. Every time I do any substantial work on it that becomes the next draft. I may not do a fresh recording of each draft but I do want the audio name to match up with what I have written down. Lyrically a new draft is often the point where I can no longer scribble any more amendments on a sheet of paper and have to type out a new one.
Sometimes I record/perform/whatever a song, then realise it's still not the best it can be. This can happen years after I 'finished' it. A song that I revisit in this way will get an R tag though I'll keep numbering the drafts (I also stupidly put the R before the D but I think that's because my inner geek would get a kick out of seeing a song with R2D2 in the title).
V = (Recorded) Version
I don't bother using this for just capturing song ideas, but sometimes you attempt a demo for public consumption and then scrap it and try again (think of Love Me Do by The Beatles. Pete Best would be V1 and Ringo Starr would be V2 (Yes Beatles geeks, Andy White would be V3!).
M = Mix
Pretty obvious but probably the most useful. It's easy to spot the version with Ringo on the drums, but what about the one where you added more compression to the bass in the 3rd verse?
One cool little bi-product of having everything digital is it's easy to duplicate a song if you need to.
For example, you have finally completed Awesome Song. The finished article is named Awesome Song D4R2V2M5. Store it in the Awesome Song album. Then copy it and put the copy into the 'best of' playlist. Now retag the copy with the name of your real album and all the metadata you'd want Joe Public to see. You can do the same thing if an idea ends up inspiring more than one song and add a duplicate file to each album.
(another bug to watch out for is the way iTunes renames files when you rename tracks – WMP sensibly leaves the filename alone. I like it like this because sometime I can't remember which mix I chose to release).
If you didn't check it out before let me recommend the Songwriting For Busy People podcast by Graham English. He covers many of the ideas I've put forward in these posts, but fits it all in to 7 minutes!
Download all my 2011 songs for free!!!
Other free songs by Matt Blick