Ever seen the message that media files were missing?

When you make music you want to be sure that none of your audio samples are missing. Ableton Live - just as other DAWs - only references those audio files. This means they are not included in the als-file of the Live Set, but only linked. If you add samples from a USB stick or elsewhere on your hard drive, Live will only save the information of the file path into your Live Set. So if you delete, rename or move those files or unplug the USB stick you'll get the following message at the bottom of Live:

missing files

This tutorial shows how to avoid the 'Media files are missing' message and how to locate missing samples:

  1. It's best if you create a dedicated folder in which you want to save all your own musical work, e.g. 'My own songs'.
  2. When saving a new song/track for the first time, make sure you choose 'My own songs' as the location and not another Live Project folder or even worse, the Live Library. Live will show you the project folder of the last Live Set you had saved so you'll have to browse to 'My own songs'.
  3. Choose 'Collect All and Save' from the File Menu.

    A pop-up window opens and you can choose which files should be copied into the Samples folder of your Live Project. Generally you don't need to copy content from the Library unless you used clips you had saved there yourself before.

    Do this whenever you have added audio files from elsewhere. When recording audio within Live, the files will automatically be saved in the Samples folder of your Live Project.

Now let's say you are collaborating on a song with a friend and therefor want to give him/her the Live Set to work on. All you need to do is copy the whole Live Project folder and give it to your mate. Since the Samples folder is contained in it, he/she will have no trouble with missing samples.

So what if you already have a Live Set displaying 'Media files are missing?'

  1. Load the Live Set and click on the message shown at the bottom of Live. This will open the File Manager in a panel on the right.
  2. You can try the Automatic Search. Live might already be able to locate and replace the files automatically.
  3. You can also choose a custom folder if you already know where the files are located. Click on the little triangle left of Automatic Search. Now click on Set Folder and browse to the files' location. Activate Search Folder and click on Go. Also choose this option if you get no results with the Automatic Search.
  4. Unless the files were deleted, renamed or are on a different hard or flash drive, Live should turn up results and even replace the missing files.
  5. If more than one candidate was found you'll have to tell Live which one to use. Click on the little question mark next to the missing file.
  6. This will open the Hot-Swap Mode in the Live Browser on the left. You can prelisten and choose the correct file.
  7. Once all missing files are located, use the 'Save Live Set As…' command from the File menu to save the Set to a new location that is not in an existing Project or the Library. This will create a new Live Project folder for the Set.
  8. Choose 'Collect All and Save' from the File menu to copy the audio files used by the Live Set into the new Project folder. Follow step 3 of the first part of this tutorial for detailed instructions.

Not so difficult once you know how it works, is it? Do you have questions or suggestions? Just leave me a comment.

There are plenty more Ableton Live tutorials where this one came from.