The time has come my friends. On Jan 13th, 2011 I replaced my text-based Excel record database with an OrangeCD visual db. After 3.5 years of extracting data from web-based services, publishing quarterly reports and backing up to an external disk every month, I’ve finally smartened-up and made the move to the cloud.
When I first made the transition from text to a visual db, I thoroughly tested and evaluated each of the prominent softwares of the time. True to form, I went through the same process with the three biggest online systems this week before setting my catalog free.
FIRST UP – RateYourMusic.com.
Your RYM profile consists of an avatar, a brief profile description, and your top 5-10 favorite composers/artists. Supported formats are limited to CD, LP, and cassette. The service does not appear to support official releases of electronic files.
RYM – Collection View
RYM permits users to add pressings missing from the db, with a simple preset interface for labels, artists, etc. The site has a strict upload policy stating that album art images must be from your personal copies, (understandable for reasons of copyright but a frustrating complication just the same.) Artist pages are accompanied by a profile and a sidebar of related user-generated lists.
RYM – List Browse
RYM – Chart Browse
The real power of the site is not collection management, but user-constructed lists and user-sourced album rankings for any search term, artist or genre you enter. And surprisingly, RYM is not just for music. The list tools have categories for books, films, games, and more.
User lists are a breeze and are fun to build. To try this feature out I created a list of films inspired by the writings of Philip K Dick.
At present, RYM includes just under 1 million artists and 2.8 million releases. Building an RYM collection of my top 300 LPs took 3 evenings (roughly 100 titles per night) plus a handful of manual submissions for rare albums not already in the RYM database.
THE NEXT CONTENDER – MyRecordList.com
MyRecordList recently premiered on the scene boasting that it could provide analytics that discogs.com could not. I was intrigued so I gave it a try.
After signing up on the site I clicked the link to import a CSV. I tried exporting raw text from rateyourmusic.com and with a little tweaking (artist columns needed to be merged from FIRSTNAME LASTNAME to a single column), and some quick column re-assignment I successfully constructed an importable CSV. The resulting set only contained artist, title, format and year values, so I clicked the big red “DELETE ALL” button and started again – this time from MyRecordList’s preferred import method – Discogs.com.
While Discogs lacks support for importing CSVs, its export feature is solid. MyRecordList wisely incorporated a direct “Import from Discogs” feature so the upload was seamless. However the result was a clunkily-constructed and sluggish visual interface with a few display variables and absolutely no support for album cover syncing. There is an “automated” lookup tool to find album art, but the process is manual and handles only one album at a time, each prompting the user for input.
But on to the analytics that the site so boldly advertised. Clicking the large “Your Stats” button I was presented with an over-simplified summary of my test-library, again consisting of my top 300 LPs.
None of the tables could be viewed as charts or graphs, and the only infographic the site offered was a pie chart of my library’s formats.
This was thoroughly disappointing, though hardly unexpected. Any of these metrics are easily determinable from within the discogs.com site, simply by exporting a CSV into Excel or a similar application.
Discogs offers far more information, sorting functions, a community forum, up-to-the-minute sales history, archival organizational standards, and has already established itself as the premier marketplace for used and new vinyl, so there is little reason to look to another site for more, (excepting, of course, contacting labels directly for upcoming releases.)
Simply put, myrecordlist.com is clunky, slow and offers nothing that can’t be achived quicker and more easily on already-established mainstays like discogs. And I quickly grew tired of seeing their loading screen every time I navigated to another page or view.
You’ll be seeing a lot of this.
But there was a clear upside to the experiment – rebuilding my database on discogs.com – something I’d been meaning to do for several years. And building the test library of 300 LPs was easier on Discogs than on the two previous sites. I completed the task in just 3 hours (three times faster than with the RYM interface.)
The clear winner – Discogs.com
Discogs contains data for 3.3 million artists – more than three times that of RYM, and has approximately 5 million releases. And unlike the other two sites, Discogs supports 23 languages for worldwide accessibility.
Discogs – Collection – Text View w Statistics
For those still clinging to their locally-hosted databases – consider the following advantages of Discogs:
- Eliminates the hassle of local backups to external drives and the paranoia of data loss.
- Offers the same album information you would otherwise have retrieved online for your locally-stored catalog
- Exports easily to a CSV should you require it
- Share your collection with users on the largest and most popular music cataloging site on the web
- Features an active discussion forum
- Discussion groups based on any topic you can imagine (or start your own.)
- High regulatory standards of organization
Discogs – Groups
And lastly, Discogs supports more audio formats that you can dream of. Sure, they have over 3 million standard 33 1/3 LPs, 1.6 million CDs, and about a million 7” singles, but they also have shellac, flexi-disc, acetate, FLAC, floppy disk, memory stick, Betamax, Edison disc, Ambisonic, Selectavision and one – (count ‘em… ONE) entry for a Bulgarian limited edition 2-track stereo 30 ips RMG Studio Master reel-to-reel.
After 3.5 years of creating extra work for myself, I’ve now embraced the future of music database management.