When you’re submitting records to the Discogs database, it’s important to know if your version of the record already exists there. That’s why we made this guide with tricks you can use to find your record version quickly and easily. If you have a record that isn’t currently in the Discogs database, now’s the time to add it! Start contributing to the September Pledge Initiative and help us reach 9 million unique releases in the database!
One of the great annoyances of record collection cataloguing is that when a record is popular, there tends to be a lot of different pressing variants. When demand is high, different pressing plants are used to fill the needs of different geographical regions. If demand remains high, the record will stay in press. Over time, the label may have changed logo designs, layout, and label color multiple times. Throw in promotional versions, test pressings, mispressings, misprints, and other rare edge cases and you end up with a lot of different records. Throw in similar situations for pressings in different countries, and the volume can grow exponentially.
Traditionally, runout variants have been of limited interest to the incredibly nerdy. As Discogs seeks to catalog every record, this means that chances are you will need to be able to at least navigate this maze. This can be incredibly daunting at first. With a few quick tricks, you can find out relatively quickly if your version is in the Discogs database or still needs to be added.
For this example, I will be using one of the largest and most popular master releases: The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour”. I will also be focusing on US releases as those are the ones I am most familiar with. If you need more hands on assistance, our help forums are a great resource.
Starting Point For Finding Your Record Version: The Catalog Number
Once you’ve found the full master release for your record, search the page (ctrl + F or command + F, if Mac) for the catalog number that’s printed on the label of your record. Be aware that matrix numbers may look similar. These are usually printed smaller than the catalog number and vary on both sides. Using our example, yours will likely start with SMAL for stereo or MAL for mono (later reissues may just be a long number). Open each potential match for your release in different tabs on your browser. Once you have all possible different versions open, it’s time to play spot the difference.
Spot The Difference Between The Record Labels
View the record label images on each release submission and compare them to your own. Generally, labels are the most likely place to visibly spot any differences between submissions. Close any browser tab that doesn’t look like it’s a match. Some submissions may not have images. Leave these open for now, unless there is something in the notes that helps clearly identify that it’s not the version in your hand. Once finished, hopefully you’ve found the record version that’s an exact match to the one in your hands and you can stop here if you don’t want to venture into the information in the runout groove. At this point, if your record matches none of the entries in the database and can’t be tied to any of the more vague submissions, you can create a new version. Please, remember to be as clear as possible when describing how your record version is different so that others will have an easier time locating that version as well. If there are visibly identical submissions remaining or submissions that are too vague to properly identify, you will need to look deeper.
Detailed Sleuthing: The Runout Area
The database considers different manufacturers, mastering engineers, and other esoteric information to be the basis for a unique submission. Different matrix numbers alone generally do not qualify for unique versions. If there’s any question about the record version in your hands, please do not hesitate to ask in the help forums. If the label for your version matches multiple versions in the database, the contributors for those versions should have either used notes or matrix numbers to identify how those versions are different. Fortunately, for our example, Apple mostly used Capitol’s pressing plants, which can be identified by these symbols:
- ✲ (six pointed star)– Los Angeles, CA
- (IAM inside a triangle) – Scranton, PA
- 0 (zero) – Jacksonville, IL
- —◁ (‘rifle’) – Winchester, VA
Those four symbols should help you identify most different Beatles pressing plants between the ’60s and the ’80s. Once you get the pressing plants down, searching for different versions can be as simplified down to a small handful of options by using terms like “SMAL 2835 winchester purple” to get you two remaining releases from the winchester plant with purple labels. This is far easier to deal with than hunting through over 300 different versions manually.
Help Others Have An Easier Time: Updating The Submission
Nobody starts off updating the database an expert. Chances are, you will run into some submissions which are vaguely identified or ones that do not meet our guidelines for unique versions. There are a few things you can do to help everyone have a better time trying to identify different versions:
- Update the submission: Add matrix numbers, pressing plants, label colors or other information that will help make the submission easily accessible.
- Put non-unique submissions up for merging with their matching counterparts