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Anthony Piazza
Ms. Jennifer Murray
15 October 2014
An Analysis of the Use of Texts in Discogs
The discourse community I have been researching is Discogs, a database and marketplace
for physical music media. The goal of Discogs is to build the biggest and most comprehensive
music database and marketplace (Discogs: About). Users maintain accuracy in the database by
working together to add and edit releases. The purpose of this analysis is to examine the data
found in each source and form connections. To do this, emphasis will be placed on Discogs
communication methods with its users, the progression from novice to expert, and the
connections between the survey I conducted and other sources. Of all the different forms of
communication used, the most effective is adding a new release as it contributes most directly to
the goal of Discogs.
The About and Guidelines pages on Discogs are most likely written as a collaboration by
different employees to reflect the views of the company as a whole. Both pages do not list an
author, however the About page has a section featuring the Discogs Team, comprised of only
26 members. While the About section is short and brief, the Guidelines page is extensive
with over 20 hyperlinks leading to pages that describe the rules in greater detail. Aside from the
differing aesthetics there lies a more important connection between these two sources: Discogs
created both pages for the purpose of informing users through texts. The sources provide an
efficient means of communication between Discogs and its users. The About page informs

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readers about the company and its history while the Guidelines page is aimed at users who are
new to the site. By communicating effectively with its users, Discogs ensured that its users can
communicate with each other.
The Add Release form is a crucial element in the discourse of Discogs as it contributes to
expanding the size and accuracy of the database. The form includes detailed information of the
specific release in order to guarantee that the item is indeed a unique addition to the database.
Users also collaborate by checking each other for accuracy in the submissions. The form is
influenced by the Guidelines as the two sources are supposed to be used simultaneously. While
a user is adding a new release, Discogs suggests they have the Guidelines readily available if
needed. This also relates directly to what John Swales means in Approaching the Concept of
Discourse Community when he says, the discourse community survives by providing
information and feedback (Swales 5). Discogs is focused on the idea of sharing information
with other users and the world through their database. By providing feedback on the submissions
of each others contributions, users are keeping the discourse of Discogs alive.
Swales develops on the idea of a discourse community by stating the survival of the community
depends on a reasonable ratio between expert and novices (Swales 6). When explaining this
sixth characteristic of a discourse community, Swales states that people enter the community as
an apprentice. A vinyl collector who begins using Discogs could be considered an apprentice.
Someone who has been using the site for a while and has a form grasp of how things work could
be considered an expert. Discogs unknowingly acknowledged these points and responded by
creating tools that make the assimilation of new users virtually seamless.

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Discogs can be overwhelming to some new users, especially with the strict guidelines and
large amount of lexis. Because of this, Discogs created the Guidelines for users to refer to when
needed. There are 22 sections that are further divided into detailed subsections, specifying
exactly what should and should not be in a release. When correcting the mistakes of novices,
some users link a URL to the section of the Guidelines that explains why their action is not
acceptable on Discogs. Not only does this reinforce the rules, but it can also introduce the
Guidelines to new members who were unaware of its existence.
Although it is not active anymore, Discogs created a forum called Database Mentors and
Protgs that was designed to bridge the gap between these two types of users. New users
would opt to be paired with an experienced user to help them become accustomed to the rules of
Discogs. The experts of Discogs are users with a high number of Rank Points, earned by
contributing to the database. While the novices are simply new members of Discogs, a good
portion of them make up the new generation of vinyl collectors that Joel Oliphint references in
his article Wax and Wane. He says the vinyl comeback is more than a trend, and its not
going away anytime soon (Oliphint). Each new vinyl collector essentially becomes a novice. As
these novices become more experienced though their collecting, they become experts. The same
ideology applies to Discogs as new users learn and gradually develop into experienced ones.
I created a survey on Survey Monkey to find out more about how Discogs users communicate
using texts. It contained six questions relating to their most frequent methods of communication,
possible confusion with the lexis of Discogs, and their purpose in using the website. While the
survey had over 700 responses, the free account only provides data for a certain number of
responses before asking you to upgrade. Therefore, the following statistics are representative of

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only the first 100 Discogs users that responded. The first five questions were aimed at all
Discogs users while the final question was only for those who collected records before Discogs.
While adding a new release contributes to the goal of Discogs most directly, it is not the
most common communication method. 63 percent of Discogs users claimed that they regularly
communicate through buying or selling items on the Marketplace, while only 33 percent of users
communicate through adding new releases (Piazza). This is understandable, however, as Discogs
is one of the largest online vinyl sellers with over 10 million items listed for sale. A possible
constraint explaining the low number of users who add new releases could be that so many items
are already in the database. With every new release that is added, it gradually becomes more
difficult for other users to contribute since their item is already listed.
Zero Freitas, a successful businessman, was featured by The New York Times in an article
written by Monte Reel. He found an interesting way to bypass this issue by purchasing millions
of records in a quest to save obscure music (Reel). Freitas desires to catalog his entire
collection in a process he estimates could take 20 years. He hired a team of interns who have the
infeasible task of cataloging every record in his collection of millions. They spend long days
typing the artist name, album title, year, label and adding a picture into a database (presumably
not Discogs). Freitas is just like many of the Discogs users I polled in my survey who feel the
need to catalog their collection. While only 31 percent claimed to have cataloged their collection
before the creation of Discogs, their methods were very interesting. The most popular method
was creating a spreadsheet on Microsoft Excel, which may be Freitas method as well. Other
methods included similar websites such as VinylFly and keeping a notebook with all purchases.
In David Gracons dissertation on independent record stores, he explains the emotional value of
a record collection by defining them as carriers of the information whose arrangement and

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interpretation is part of the broader discourse about popular music (Gracon 125). Cataloging
records, whether its on Discogs, a notebook or through any other method, provides a glimpse
into the mind and tastes of the collector in a way that spoken discourse cannot.
Cataloging records appears to be a habit that comes naturally to most collectors. Even before
Discogs was created, a selection of vinyl collectors shared the common characteristic of
maintaining a hand-written list of every record they own. Discogs recognized this habit and
created their website to allow users to keep track of their collection while simultaneously
contributing to create the largest database of physical music. All of the sources from the Discogs
site were created for the purpose of educating users through texts. In addition, my survey showed
that a significant number of vinyl collectors naturally catalog as a habit, which relates to Freitas
massive collection and his desire to have it all cataloged. Further research will be focused on
individual genres of Discogs, including the Blog, Forum, and Marketplace, and how they affect
one another. Whether users are adding new releases, buying or selling items, or reading the
Guidelines, Discogs continues to be a discourse community that thrives on communicating
through texts.

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Works Cited
Discogs: About. Discogs. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.
Discogs: Add Release. Discogs. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.
Discogs: Guidelines. Discogs. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.
Gracon, David D. Exiled Records and Over-the-Counterculture: a Cultural Political Economic
Analysis of the Independent Record Store. ProQuest. UMI Dissertation Publishing. 30
Sept. 2011. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.
Oliphint, Joel. Wax and Wane: the Tough Realities Behind Vinyls Comeback. Pitchfork. 28
July 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.
Reel, Monte. The Brazilian Bus Magnate Whos Buying Up All The Worlds Vinyl Records.
The New York Times. 09. Aug. 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.
Piazza, Anthony. Discogs User Survey. 16 Sept. 2014. Survey. 15 Oct. 2014.
Swales, John. "Approaching the Concept of Discourse Community." ERIC. Mar. 1987. Web. 15
Oct. 2014.