Organizing my CD collection

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Virgo or because it’s Spring, but this weekend I felt the irresistible urge to empty my CD racks and re-organize my CDs. I have about 400 CDs, and I have a tendency of messing them all up if I have no structure I can follow. It’s not as bad as my cousin Quasi-Modo, who keeps dozens of CDs and DVDs on one large stack, and owns LOADS of empty boxes, but anyway … (Weird, he’s a Virgo too?)

So how can I organize them? What should be the logic? I remembered this quote from Dave Winer

“Well, I think there are three ways of managing and finding information– chronology, which is blogs, search, and taxonomy (…)” Dave Winer, while visiting Microsoft.

Let me re-taxonomize this to: sorted, categorized and indexed.


Storing in an certain order, defined by a number of sortable non-ambiguous parameters (numbers/text). Typically this leaves you with a one-dimensional space where each album has its coordinates. Micro-organization of a library: per author/title. Mental image: a sorted Excel sheet.
For CDs: release year, label, album, artist name (but watch out with Me’Shell Ndegeo’cello, The The), …

  • Release year/Artist name : nice for a historical overview but not practical. Who knows you should look for Original Musiquarium under 1982?
  • Date of purchase : like John Cusack in High Fidelity. If you remember in which sequence you bought all your CDs, you either don’t have many, or you need to get a life.
  • Artist name/Album Name : Like most record shops, but almost half of my CDs are compilations, so this means 200 albums under ‘Various Artists’?
  • By ASIN/ISBN/barcode number : feasible, but pointless. Good for warehousing, not for humans.
  • Categorized

    Storing in a taxonomy of preferably non-intersecting groups and subgroups, based on easy-to-discern characteristics. Macro-organization of a library: fiction/non-fiction/poetry/… Mental image: Outlook folders.
    For CDs: genre, compilation, record company, sleeve colour, artist gender, …

  • Genre : Where is the line between Electronic, Dance, Acid Jazz, Nu Jazz, Lounge, Chill-out, Deep House? Who is the authority on this? Does Quincy Jones go with Jazz? Even Stuff like that?
  • Compilation/not : I used this one because it’s an easy split. An album is either a compilation or not, right? What do I do with DJ Spinna’s Wonder of Stevie? I went with ‘compilation’.
  • Label : great for storing (the side logos all measure up nicely), less trivial for finding something
  • Artist Gender : male/female/group. (any other options I did not think of?) Diana Ross would be separate from Diana Ross & the Supremes? Where does Dana International go? 🙂
  • Indexed

    Storing in a way that information can be found by searching on keywords and/or properties. Mental image: Google.

    This would be my ideal way of buying music: I purchase an album/a song – I get a token/proof of purchase – using this token, the music automatically ‘shows up’ on my PC in a format I can use for burning CDs, loading onto my portable player – I can search for artists, genre, title and even have collaborative filtering: ‘music that sound like Jazzanova’. Basically this is iTunes. Does this work with ‘real’ CDs? Apart from manually scrolling through your collection (which can be a physical pleasure with the occasional surprise) I see no implementation of this. Virgin Megastore used to have something inspiring though: you scrolled through their huge selection, took out any CD, showed its barcode to a reader, and could listen to 30-seconds excerpts of each song.

    So what did I end up with? A custom mix of Sorted & Categorized:

  • Category ‘Compilations’ -> Categories ‘Lounge’, ‘Jazz’, ‘Chill out’, … -> Sorted on Album name
  • Category ‘Non-Compilations’ -> Categories ‘Jazz’/’the rest’ -> Sorted on Artist/Album name
    Satisfying weekend 😉

    [Listening to: “Jazz Mediterranee : Koop Remix – Henri Salvador” – DJ Smash – Phonography – Volume 2]
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