I Bought the Same Record Twice: How I learned to avoid this by using Discogs to catalog my records (plus tips on how to catalog your own records)
Last year I was at Mills Record Company in Kansas City when the sales clerk who checked me out gave me the name of a website, Discogs, to help me find a Lianne La Havas record they no longer had in stock. Discogs is an online marketplace, and database, for music that connects you to a global network of retailers (and resellers) who offer nearly all physical music formats from all generations and genres of music. In short, if there’s a piece of music you want Discogs can help you find someone who’s selling it. After just recently digging into their website I learned that it has many other uses for music collectors like keeping a database of your music so you don’t purchase duplicate copies, which is something that happened to me earlier in the year.
Back in April I found myself in Kansas City again and saw a record by Chic that I loved and knew I had to get but I had the feeling that I already purchased it a few months earlier from Vintage Vinyl here in St. Louis. The fact that it would be a 400-mile trip back to the record store if I got home and realized that I didn't have it coupled with the $4.99 sticker price told me to take the chance and buy it just in case I didn't already own it. Low and behold when I got home I realized that I already had it and I ended up gifting the new copy to a friend since I couldn't return it. Going through my Dad's share of the records I noticed that he also faced this same dilemma and ended up with multiple copies of the same record.
A month ago that I finally got around to creating an account on Discogs when I was looking to make a purchase because with most companies you can’t enjoy the full benefits of their websites without creating an account. Previously, I visited the website last year when I first learned about it but didn’t take time to understand it beyond just searching for La Havas, only to find that the record was out of print and was going for $100 plus. You could say that I’ve been procrastinating on getting hip to Discogs for the past year, which is true, but it was a new need that arose this year which brought me back to it long enough to understand its power. After creating an account and then poking around on the site a bit I learned that there is a "Collection" feature which allows you to catalog all of your music so you have a single, consolidated, list of every piece of music you own.
When I found out that not only does Discogs offer this collection feature on their website but they also have a mobile app that allows you to access your collection on your phone inside record stores I felt like all my problems were solved! I am now able to keep a list with me of what records I already own and scroll through that list while shopping to avoid picking up duplicates by mistake again. Conveniently, they also have a “Wantlist” feature that allows you to keep track of what records you want so you know what to look for in a record store.
I’ve spent the past week building my Discogs collection by cataloging my records one by one which has been a time consuming process. I move meticulously through the records because not only does Discogs give you a field to input the records by title but you can also include the condition of the record and its cover, your personal rating of how much you like it, and personalized notes. I opted to fill out all of this information since I plan to pass on the collection to future generations because I knew it would be helpful to document as much information as possible about the records.
Here's the process that I've been using so far:
Step 1: Input the name of the record
The quickest way to do this is by typing in the album’s serial number (for example SD-5658) or using the app to scan the barcode on the back of the record to retrieve the record's details (year and country of release, format, etc) if one is present. In the rare case that neither of these methods works you can search for the album or artist manually.
Step 2: Record the condition
I take the time to pull each record out of its jacket to review it quality then give it a rating from poor to mint. I then do the same for the sleeve condition.
Step 3: Notes
I make it a habit to document which records I purchase in different cities or at concerts I've attended so here I'll list the city of purchase and/or the concert of purchase. I like capturing the unique stories of each record. I haven't gotten as specific as what record store they were purchased at but I'm considering it.
Step 4: Purchased by
I've created two categories in my collection list, one for my father and one for myself, so I can identify who made what purchases.
Step 5: Rating
Lastly, I give my personal rating of the records. Since I haven't listened to all of them yet this will encourage me to do so and also allow me to keep track of which ones I have or haven't heard yet.
Bonus Step 6: Value of collection
If you ever plan on selling your collection Discogs gives you an estimated dollar value of all the records you own. You’re given three estimates, the minimum, median, and max. This is not of any value to me since I don't plan to sell mine. However, it's nice to know how much money has gone into my collection.
If you want to know how I got started collecting records read my first post on record collecting here:
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As a child I remember my father having a huge crate of records that sat beneath the windowsill in one of the rooms of our house. He also had what is now considered vintage stereo equipment that he purchased sometime during his young adult years in the 80s. Despite having what had to be a few hundred records I never saw him play any, most likely because in my childhood cassette tapes were the latest music rage and my dad spent most of his time dubbing his own mixtapes to play in the car. With cassettes, and eventually CDs, being how my dad got his music fix his records were mainly a decoration in a music lover's lair, and sadly a fixture for an infant to climb on top of to look out of the window they sat underneath.
In my teenage years my dad bought a new record player when he learned that he could use the computer to transfer his old vinyl albums to CDs. With this new discovery he began digging through his record crate and rediscovering his old favorites. I witnessed and heard this whole process. Having been born to older parents I grew up on pre-90's music and grew to like artists like The S.O.S Band and Earth Wind and Fire. To this day, I still get more excited by old funk/soul music than most new music. I instantly became curious about the new record player when I saw all of the albums that my dad left lying around the basement and began to play them for my own listening pleasure. The experience of physically flipping the albums to play the other side was highly engaging to me.
By my early 20s I found myself in Vintage Vinyl and decided to buy my first two records of my own, Nas' "The Lost Tapes" and The Brother's Johnson "Look Out for #1." Nas was, and still is, my favorite musical writer/poet of all time and I've always loved the funky soul groove of The Brother's Johnson. I played those records faithfully almost every night. By this time the iPod and MP3s were in. My dad didn't use his record play as much but when he saw the records I bought it took him down memory lane. Although his passion had been reignited mine still had not yet fully emerged. The convenience of my iPod made my record playing short lived.
My father passed away in early 2016. Like anyone who loses a parent it's an entire process to deal with it. Part of my process was getting deeper into music which made sense for me having been in the prime of growing as a musician and artist. Despite being involved in other art forms music gave me the most peace.
While having discussions about my dad with my aunt the subject of his love for music would always come up. This inspired me to revisit his record collection and play a few of his records that had been left sitting out over the years. The first thing I noticed when playing them was the tremendous difference in sound quality compared to MP3s. Vinyl albums sound so much fuller and truthful to the original recording which is something I grew to appreciate as a musician. I also found this to be true when I purchased my first record in nearly five years, Esperanza Spalding's "Emily's D+Evolution." I compared the sound of Vinyl to that of the digital download that came with it and the record made me feel so much more present in the music than the MP3 version. I was so eager to express this marvel to all of my music friends.
When discussing my dad's record collection with one of my friends (shout out to E. Nicole) she suggested that I have a record listening party in honor of my father. Influenced by her suggestion, I decided to have a record listening party for my birthday that year and invite friends to help me explore my dad's collection since I didn't know what albums were there other than the few I played over the years. This was a life changing experience. Through the ears of my friends I was able to learn how music savvy my dad was and how many gems he had in his possession. Some of the records that got player were Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall," Prince's self-titled album [Prince], and Whitney Houston "I'm your Baby Tonight."
After that night I was committed to not only preserving my dad's legacy of records but also continuing to add to it for the next generation of my family to enjoy in the future. Continuing to grow the record collection will create a music catalog that's representative of albums from each generation and will serve as a sonic time capsule. I also find value in the physical format because it's something tangible that can be given unlike digital files. That's what record collecting means to me.