Reorganizing Your Record Collection

Listening — at least theoretically — will always be the main reason why we collect records, but where’s the fun in hoarding mass amounts of heavy, unwieldy physical products if you don’t get physical ~physical~ with them?

Now that most of us are stuck indoors without much to do let’s pass some time by grabbing some records and reorganizing our record collection.

From A to Z

The obvious first choice is alphabetical order by artist name. Unless you have a truly massive collection, this one is probably the default option: easy to find and easy to clean up. The only question is by first or last name? I go by last names — it’s easier to find Coltrane under “C” instead of “A” for Alice (Cooper? Clark? …In Chains?).

Handcrafted in San Francisco by Koeppel Design

There’s always time to dig deeper while using this sorting method. Sorting by country is an exciting choice, especially for those who want to show off large amounts of wax acquired from lands far off.

Genre is another easy option, especially for those who have more extensive collections or go out of their way to collect specific styles. This would also work for anyone who extensively collects albums released by specific labels, whether it be Blue Note or Sub Pop.

And there’s always the option to sort chronologically by year of release — appealing to those with a historical bent who want to see how music and their own tastes have evolved over decades of releases.

Handcrafted in San Francisco by Koeppel Design

Dividers Handcrafted in San Francisco by Koeppel Design

Give It a Personal Touch

Then there are the hyper-personalized approaches to ensure that your collection is truly one of a kind. Sorting albums by “listened to” versus “not listened to” may bring up a twinge of guilt if you have a decent back catalog, but now is probably the best time to catch up on your listening. You may even find something you can add to the database!

Sorting by date of purchase may prove difficult if you’ve been collecting for years, but those who have only just started to build up their collections can implement this unique sorting challenge to preserve some sweet memories.

You could also pull a “High Fidelity” and sort autobiographically. First record you ever got? An easy one even for the most seasoned collectors amongst us. Beyond that? Tricky stuff.

Either way, good luck unless you have been diligently updating your Discogs Collection from day one or keeping notes and receipts for years before that!

Add to Collection

Of course, one of the easiest ways to figure this all out is by keeping your Discogs Collection as up to date as possible.

Using the Collection feature also opens up a few more ways to organize that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. You can show off how much cash you’ve dropped on each record by arranging by value. Scored something that made our monthly Top 30 Most Expensive Items Sold list? Flaunt it!

On the other hand, utilizing the rating system is an easy way to separate the wheat from the chaff. Stick all of those 5-star albums up front for easy access.


The Rainbow Connection

My personal choice? I sort my records by spine color to create a beautiful rainbow of unorganized records. That’s my picture above. The top two rows are sorted by color and then by shade, while the bottom rows in black and white are sorted alphabetically by last name. I only decided to reorganize my collection in this style while writing this article and, full disclosure, this took a decent amount of time, even with my very modest collection.

Impractical? Absolutely. But I’m enjoying the new perspective on my collection, and thanks to the new shuffle I’m listening to some records I had previously forgotten! So let’s all stay safe and healthy by spending some quality time indoors sorting and spinning.

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  • May 24,2020 at 13:30

    Physically, in the room where my 2500 LPs collection is stored, they are sorted in a few categories:
    – Pop rock supergroups: Beatles, Stones, Supertramp, Led Zepp,… and a few other bands known on each and every planet
    – Pop rock LPs which I especially love, for one reason or another
    – Other Pop-Rock
    – Not listened to yet (destined to land in one of the other categories)
    – Classical
    – French
    – Blues
    – Soul
    – Jazz and fusion
    – Compilations
    – World, non music, varied.
    It works quite well for me. I am generally able to find a given record in less than 20 seconds.
    On Discogs, I sort my LPs in a different way: by country of release.

  • May 22,2020 at 21:52

    I sort my records by title, ignoring “the” and “a”. I love the visual variation this creates, and it does not cluster together all the work from some artists of whom I have several tens of records. It remains easy to find albums by title.

  • May 22,2020 at 08:16

    Everything goes into my Discogs collection, everything. I use a lot of customized fields for things like where purchased, price paid, room located, and new/used. But when it comes to organization on the shelf, I leave it to Discogs. Where it sits in the collection folder when sorted alphabetically, that’s where it goes on the shelf. I keep an iPad with Discogs in the living room for my wife and guests. If I’m not home, they know exactly where to find whatever they want to listen to. Don’t have to deal with the issues with my rap section, like lots of others here. That said, worst part about alphabetical sorting is that every time you get a new record, everything has to shift. When you’ve got packed shelves, adding even a few new records can take an hour. Still, it’s the best system I’ve come up with for finding what I want, when I want.

  • May 20,2020 at 08:30

    I really enjoyed reading people’s comments about their organization! I think it’s one of the most satisfying parts of collecting, how you display and sort the damn things. It’s an art form. Here’s my system:
    Rock/Pop/Indie/Psych: Alphabetical by last name or group. There is some foreign stuff in here like German kraut-rock that doesn’t make it into international.
    Soul/R&B, Metal, Punk, HipHop, Compilation, Soundtrack and International (Alphabetical as well)
    Now here are some problems. Splits are always tricky, I was fascinated by one user’s comment (was it 12″ or 78’s I can’t remember). Fortunately, I don’t own too many. I used to sort 10″s seperatedly but now they are grouped. 7″ have their own section, no genres just alphabetic. Then you have artists that I commonly think of by their first name so I have to violate the last name rule (can’t think of a specific one right now).I 100% agree with the user about Jimi Hendrix and JHE going together, mine’s under H. But then you have solo artists whose later career isn’t tied to the original band so they might go alone. The international section drives me nuts because I tried to do it by style/region (E.x. Ska, Afrobeat). But this gets pretty blurry. Then I have International Comps and they go with their respective style/region but so often cross genres! And deciding if it goes in International or General comp is tough.
    I have John Carpenter’s solo work in the soundtrack section because he’s so closely associated with that music.
    Hip-hop is the hardest to sort by the last name because of all the aliases. For example: MF Doom, Doom, Viktor Vaughn, King Ghidora, ugh. I gave up years ago on a workable system for that section.
    Of course, you will always have tough calls on which genre to place something, it’s the nature of organizing. Who’s ever gotten upset to find Bon Jovi records in a heavy metal bin at a record store?
    For some time I was trying to arrange the band’s records Chronological in their respective section but this got too cumbersome. At the end of the day I just want it to look neat and I own about 1700 records so I find what I want pretty easily. Thanks for reading!

  • May 18,2020 at 12:25

    I thin a combination of Discogs and a coordinate system in the shelf is a good approach….
    Add all items added to your Discogs collection, add an additional field where you can for example tell what room, shelf and what section in the shelf the record can be found….
    Example: Living Room, Shelf 1, Row C (A-Z from top to bottom) and box 3 (left to right in the specific row)… “LR-S1-C3” and you have reduced down the search time to a small set of records….

  • May 18,2020 at 01:45

    I use an alphabetical method for my LPs, 10″s and CDs. Only jazz LPs and CDs are kept separately, although sometimes I have problems with jazz-rock/fusion albums (Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra etc.), and have to choose whether to put them into rock/pop or jazz sections. Normally I prefer rock/pop as my main sphere of interest.
    I also use last names, band names and compilation titles for the alphabetical order, but it is also tricky sometimes. In my case the Spencer Davis Group is “S”, but Jimi Hendrix Experience is “H” because otherwise Jimi’s solo records should be kept separately from his Experience albums.
    I would like to regroup my collection by genres someday. It would be certainly much easier to choose what to listen to at any particular moment depending on the mood. What really stops me is the uncertainty about blurry “borders” between genres. It is almost impossible to devide 1960s beat, R&B, garage, psychedelic records/compilations or, for example, psychedelic and prog LPs. It is even more difficult when talking about retrospective compilations by certain groups or cross-genre compilations.

  • May 15,2020 at 15:42

    I, of course, use the alphabetical, but not only.

    My CD go like this:
    I have a ‘world’ section, meaning that anything is in it, Artists from US, UK, Germany, Australia, Japan, etc. Mostly music in English. And that goes alphabetically.

    Then I have my Brazilian section (since I am Brazilian and I own quite a bunch of artists from there), and that goes alphabetically.

    Then I have a small but favorite Portugal, Spain, Italy section, and a Polish section (where I live). And all that that goes alphabetically within each section.

    Then I have my Progressive Rock section (like 40% of my collection), and that goes alphabetically.

    LPs, Tapes, DVDs and Blu Rays go alphabetically, cause I don’t own a whole lot of them so I don’t need sections.

    It’s not easy for anyone else but me to find stuff, but it’s my collection, isn’t it? xD

    My wife, though, gets pissed everytime she tries to find a cd for her to listen to xD

  • May 15,2020 at 08:02

    Great to see how other collectors work, I’ve tried alphabetical, genre etc. I’ve ended up giving up,and using Discogs as my database every record I own goes in a poly sleeve, I stick a 1″ sticker on the poly sleeve and give it a catalogue number, that catalogue number goes in the notes field on discogs eg 1678 – and then any notes I want to add after that. Then all of my LP’s are kept together, all my 12″ are kept together, I just use Discogs collection to decide what I want to play and within seconds I can find any record I own.
    This works for me so well I wont go back to any other method. I also once in a while export my collection feature and print out an excel alphabetical ‘menu’ if you like that I keep next to my record player that I or guests can browse through.

  • May 14,2020 at 18:47

    I used to have all my CDs by genre but my ex couldn’t find anything so I put it alphabetical for him. After we split I did the rearrange thing and decided to do alphabetical within each year, best thing I’ve ever done, giving me a totally new way of listening to things. Highly recommend it!

  • May 14,2020 at 18:10

    I may be one of the very few people who do the kind of sorting I do with singles, but with more than 200,000 items in my collection, it works well for me for several reasons. First, especially with 78s, there was a penchant to put two different artists on any given record, so a strict sort by artist is impossible. Second, when there’s so many, it gets a bit hard to remember what I have and what I don’t have (it was no major problem till about 100,000 records and 30 years ago–plenty of brain storage space, but a certain inability to recall due to age crept up on me).

    So while I arrange albums 1)by genre and 2)alphabetically within genre (which still gets confusing with people like Joe Jackson and Jackie Gleason), I sort my 45s and 78s 1)by label and 2)by number. This has its own problems (for example, should I file the Capitol-numbered Apple singles by their number within the Capitol singles, or in their own section with the dedicated-number Apple singles?), but if I’m checking auction lists or the like, I have an easy way to instantaneously find a specific disc.

    I haven’t done this next trick in years (and I have listed none of my non-Discogs purchases on Discogs so far–not enough time), but I used to carry around one, then two, and finally three 3×5 loose-leaf notebooks (about 100 pages each) listing my 78s by label and number so I would have a quick reference whenever I was in a secondhand shop. When it was about to turn into a 4th notebook (about 20 numbers per page, adding more in between the lines) in the 1970s, I gave up. But I still prefer the records filed in that order.

  • May 14,2020 at 10:05

    A-Z is how I shelve my vinyl and CDs.

    Individual artists I file by family/surname.

    Bands are corporate entities, so I file theme by the first word after the definite article (which is usually “The”). As a result, Beatles under “B”; Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers under “T”. As a result, Springsteen can pop up under “B” or “S’ depending on whether the E Street Band is given any prominence.

    For compilations, just alphabetical by title, sometimes separated by genre, e.g. Blues, Rockabilly; Doo-Wop, [et. al.].

    Soundtracks alphabetical by title.

    It can be a bit confusing to the uninitiated, but it’s my stuff and no-one else should be poking around in it.

  • May 14,2020 at 07:27

    I normally arrange alphabetically and have certain key genres grouped together.

    One of the genres is tough though (hip hop), because some artists use their given name and others don’t. So for example Erick Sermon, it feels odd putting him in ‘S’ when he is commonly known as “E-Double” and Biz Markie, would feel odd under ‘M’ when he is commonly known as ‘Biz’ or ‘The Biz’. Big Daddy Kane is another complexity as he is also known as “Kane”. The only way I can be consistent with hip hop is to arrange alphabetically by the first letter of the artist’s name (Erick Sermon is filed under E, Biz and Big Daddy Kane are both filed under B).

    For all other genres, I file solo artists alphabetically by surname (if there is one in the title).

  • May 13,2020 at 22:24

    The rainbow approach is fun, or white to black would be cool. BUT – my OCD ain’t lettin’ it happen. I still go A-Z, using number bands spelled out (.38 Special is under Thirty-Eight, not 3). Within the artist’s discography, it’s chronological, including any single(s) released before an album, and those after. Special editions later released (like Prince’s Purple Rain, or 1999) are often just kept with the original version of the album.

    I started doing that numeric to alphabetic trick after working at a low office in the 90s. They had a similar approach to client files. Any business that started with a number was just filed alphabetically. Took some brain work, but we’re not here to stagnate anyway.

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