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Anthony Piazza
Ms. Jennifer Murray
8 December 2014
Cataloging and Collecting: An Analysis of the Habits of Discogs Users
Discogs, short for discographies, is a website that serves as a database and marketplace
for physical music, such as vinyl records and CDs. Users have collectively uploaded over five
million unique releases to the database and listed over 15 million items for sale. Discogs defines
a release as any audio product that is made for general public consumption (Discogs:
Glossary). This definition extends beyond just records and CDs to also include cassettes, eight
tracks, and other older formats. Just as John Swales described the first characteristic of a
discourse community in "Approaching the Concept of Discourse Community, members of
Discogs also have a common shared goal. The websites goal is to build the biggest and most
comprehensive music database and marketplace (Discogs: About). Users work together to
achieve this goal by using the Add Release form, which can be viewed in Appendix A. This form
allows for data to be entered into the database, subsequently enabling users to sell their items. In
addition to the database, Discogs has a Marketplace. This allows users to buy or sell an item
from its release page. Both the database and Marketplace work together to form the basis of
Discogs. While the Add Release form contributes most directly to the goal of Discogs, my
survey showed that this is not the most common form of communication. Surprisingly, the
majority of users chose the Marketplace as the most common form. While the Marketplace is
important to Discogs, it does not contribute to the website on the same scale as the Add Release
form. In this essay, I will be arguing the effectiveness of the Add Release form as opposed to the

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more popular Marketplace. Similar to the bi-monthly bulletin and newsletter of the Hong Kong
Study Circle that Swales discussed, Discogs also has two main forms of communication. My
goal is to prove that the most favored method of communication is not always the biggest
contributor to the discourse community.
To achieve this goal, I organized my paper into six sections. The first section briefly
explains the purpose and features of the Add Release form. In the second section, I describe
some additional genres used by Discogs, such as forums and the blog. I explain my methodology
for my survey in the third section. The fourth section features a question-by-question analysis of
each item from my survey. I then thoroughly dissect each component of the Add Release form in
the fifth section. Lastly, I provide two appendixes that show the Add Release form as well as the
results of the survey I conducted.
Concerning communication of discourse communities, Swales stated participatory
mechanisms may be various: meetings, telecommunications, correspondence, bulletins and so
forth (Swales 5). This holds true for Discogs, as users are presented with a variety of ways to
stay socially involved. The most common method of communication is buying or selling items in
the Marketplace (Appendix B). Other communication methods include interaction in groups,
forums and sending messages to other users. However, the most effective method is the Add
Release form. Without this form, none of the five million releases would exist and not a single
item would have been sold in the Marketplace. The Add Release form is the biggest factor in
reaching Discogs goal. This paper will address this point in opposition to the more popular

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In Carolyn Millers Genre as Social Action, she wrote, the urge to classify is
fundamental (Miller 151). In a similar manner, Discogs strives to classify each piece of music
that has ever existed. To do this, the Add Release form must be filled out properly and
accurately. While the form may seem slightly confusing and unfamiliar at first glace, it is much
easier to understand when you have a record or CD in front of you. In fact, the first rule in the
Guidelines states, have the exact release in front of you when entering it to the database
(Discogs: Guidelines). This minimizes the chance of entering incorrect information as a result of
relying on your memory when adding a release.
The Add Release form will be analyzed in detail later on, but I will provide a brief
overview. The first part of the form includes the title, artist, label, format, country, year, tracklist,
genre and credits. The latter part is comprised of the Release Notes and Submission Notes. A
recent new feature to the Add Release form added a sidebar displaying the Guidelines. This was
undoubtedly added to ensure accuracy by encouraging users to check the Guidelines before
submitting a release. There are two sections where effective communication is especially
important, the Release Notes and the Submission Notes. The latter requires users to explain all
aspects of your submission, which usually entails sourcing to prove the information you
provided is valid (Discogs: Add Release). If the form is filled out as complete and accurate as
possible, the amount of errors and revisions will be minimal.
While Discogs constantly strives for accuracy, errors inevitably occur. For example, the
release page for the original pressing of The Beatles classic Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club
Band has been revised 80 times (Discogs: Sgt. Peppers). Although a number this high is not
normal, it is understandable as there are over 300 different versions of the same album.

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Confusion easily arises when there are that many identical releases, varying only in minor
details. When situations like this occur, communication is especially important. The more
concise users are with their language, the less revisions are made to the release. The guidelines of
Discogs explicitly ask users to only do updates to correct or add information (Discogs:
Guidelines). This is because the majority of revisions on Discogs simply provide small details,
such as genre, credits, barcodes, or additional pictures.
In relation to genres, John Swales states, a discourse community has developed and
continues to develop discoursal expectations. These may involve appropriacy of topics, the form,
function and positioning of discoursal elements, and the roles texts play in the operation of the
discourse community (Swales 5). Discogs has developed these discoursal expectations that
Swales is referring to. In addition to the Add Release form, there are other genres effective in
Discogs. The lesser communication methods are equally important to the discourse community
of Discogs. The blog showcases sellers that Discogs recommends and allows new users to be
exposed to their store. Buying and selling on the marketplace involves quick and efficient
communication to ensure timely payment and delivery. Also, sending messages is the quickest
and most direct form of communication, but interestingly is not the most common.
Discogs allows users to create and join a variety of different groups. There are currently
over 2000 groups with focuses such as specific genres and specific artists. Within each group,
users can create a post visible to members of that group and all Discogs users. Unlike the release
pages, there are no strict rules or guidelines to adhere to when posting in groups. Each of these
groups could be considered a genre within a genre since they each possess their own topic and
way of responding. For example, Track IDs is the most popular group on Discogs. Users can go

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to this group if they hear a song that they are unable to identify. By posting background
information or a sound clip, they might be able to find the song they are looking for.
The Forum is similar to groups in that users can post questions or concerns free of strict
guidelines. However, the Forum is more focused on Discogs itself, including categories like
Database, Marketplace, Development, and API (Application Programming Interface). The
Forum also allows new users to ask questions and receive input from more experienced
members. Discogs employees also use the Forum to notify users about new features and receive
feedback. The Forum is also a great tool for allowing new users to post questions about topics
they are unclear about. Interaction between users in the Forum helps facilitate the transition from
new user to experienced user.
Rather than interview only one user, I came to the conclusion that polling 100 users
would be the best way to find more information on how members of Discogs communicate. I
created a survey on Survey Monkey consisting of six questions, five for all users to answer and
one that could be skipped if the question did not apply. The questions and results for each
question can be found in Appendix B. To help me receive prompt feedback on the survey,
Discogs shared the survey link on their Facebook page. The survey allowed me to discover that
the most popular communication method was not the Add Release form, but buying and selling
items in the Marketplace.
I kept a few things in mind when writing the survey. First of all, I wanted to keep it short.
This would entice participants to answer every question and not quit halfway through. Secondly,
I wanted the questions to be in multiple-choice format. However, I recognized that open-ended
questions would provide more detail. I then modified all questions to include an option to

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explain each answer. Lastly, I wanted the questions to be as unbiased as possible. It was
important that the answers were as genuine as possible so the results would be accurate. I
unintentionally created minor response bias by listing examples in the third question of my
Conducting an interview with a specific Discogs user is a method that could have used,
but I chose not to. While an interview might have allowed me to make connections between
communication preferences and other habits, I had to consider other factors. For example, each
user is different. One users connection may differ entirely from another. Even though
conducting an interview with one particular user or perhaps even an employee could have
provided some useful information, I found that surveying one hundred Discogs users delivered
the best and most relevant information for my discussion.
The first question on the survey asked users how many records were in their collection
when they started using Discogs. Over half of the respondents had fewer than one hundred
records before using Discogs. It is interesting to note that a user commented on why he does not
use Discogs, stating that his collection was far too large. It is non uncommon for some
experienced collectors to have many thousands, even tens of thousands, of records in their
collection. To enter each single record into the database would be a daunting task to these
collectors, so they choose not to use Discogs. 29 percent of users had between 100 and 499
records and 5 percent of users each had 500 to 999 and over 1000 records, respectively. These
statistics seem to show that the majority of Discogs users have a relatively smaller collection in
comparison the minority of users who have a much larger collection.

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The second question asked the respondent to choose which statement best describes why
they started using Discogs from the following options: I wanted to keep track of my collection,
I wanted to sell my records, and I wanted to buy records. The majority of users wanted to
keep track of their collection, while a lesser percentage of users wanted to purchase records.
Remarkably, not a single user chose the I wanted to sell my records response. Perhaps this
could be related to how the emotional value attached to a collection and the collectors
unwillingness to part with them. Joel Oliphints article Wax and Wane describes those who buy
records as a broad range (Oliphint). It is possible that the vast diversity of vinyl collectors
account for the results of this question.
The third question inquired if users were ever unfamiliar with the lexis of Discogs. 62
percent of users claimed they had no problems with the terminology. I anticipated statistics like
this since the majority of Discogs terminology in common knowledge. However I considered the
possibility of some users not knowing specific acronyms, such as ANV, which stands for Artist
Name Variation. To address this circumstance, I provided three examples at the end of the
question: ANV, PAN, and API. Listing these examples inadvertently resulted in a biased
response, with over twenty users claiming they did not know the specific terms I listed. While
bias is present, I feel that the overall result to this question would have been much less accurate
had I not provided examples.
The fourth question asked if users have ever consulted the Submission Guide when
adding or editing a release. The results were almost even, but a slight majority claimed they did
use the Guidelines. However, some factors must be addressed. The survey initially required an
answer to each question before being allowed to proceed to the next question. I did not take into
account the possibility that some users might have never submitted a new release. Additionally,

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Discogs was in the process of introducing a new feature to the Add Release form that shows an
abridged version of the Guidelines in a sidebar. This feature essentially forces users to briefly
read the guidelines before submitting their release. Its possible that the users who claimed they
did not use the Guidelines are the users who mainly use the Marketplace. Even so, the Guidelines
are still vital to ensure that the seller is listing the exact version of the item listed.
The fifth question asked which methods of communication users engage in to interact
with other users. The full list of choices can be found in Appendix B. Unlike the previous
questions in the survey, this one allowed users to check multiple responses. The most popular
form of communication was Buying/Selling items at 69 percent while Adding new releases
was chosen by only 33 percent of respondents. From a statistical perspective, the drastic
percentage difference could be accounted for by the fact that there are 15 million items for sale
in the marketplace and only 5 million unique items in the database. In other words, there are
many more items for sale than there are individual releases, meaning it is much more likely for
someone to buy or sell something than contribute to the database. The second most popular
choice was adding items to lists. I included this response in the choices because it can be
public and viewed by other users. However, I later realized this action does not include any
interaction among users so I decided not to acknowledge the percentage in the discussion.
The sixth question was aimed towards collectors who were active before Discogs was
invented. I asked if they ever previously cataloged their collection and to explain their method.
Most respondents claimed the had not done so, but the comments from the 31 percent who
answered yes provided useful insight on their cataloging methods. The most popular method
by these respondents was entering data into Microsoft Excel. This is understandable since the
Add Release form is similar to an Excel spreadsheet in certain aspects. Another method that a

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few respondents explained was keeping track of everything by hand in a notebook. One
respondent even wrote, I have a book that I write (and continue to write) all purchases I have
made. No matter the format, it seems that most collectors have a desire to catalog each record in
their collection.
Miller said, a rhetorical sound definition of genre must be centered on not only the
substance or the form of discourse but on the action it is used to accomplish (Miller 151).
With respect to that statement, the Add Release form is vital to Discogs as it accomplishes the
goal Discogs is achieving. Five million releases were added to the database through this single
form. The Add Release form also allows for the fifteen million items to be listed in the
Marketplace. Since the Marketplace uses these release pages to list items for sale, the
Marketplace would not even exist without the form. While the Marketplace is undoubtedly a
huge part of Discogs, the Add Release form is much more important to the websites function. In
fact, some aspects of Discogs rely entirely on the Add Release form. Aside from the
Marketplace, there are also blog posts and forums that are dependent on the form to keep
discourse active.
The first part of the form, Images, allows users to upload pictures of the release. The
album cover is usually the main image featured on the release page. But occasionally other
images are included, such as the back cover, lyrics sheet, or pictures of the CD or vinyl. This
section of the form was not just included for aesthetics. There are instances where the images are
helpful in determining the difference between two releases. The most popular example is the
album Yesterday and Today by The Beatles. Initially issued with a controversial butcher
cover, Capitol Records later reissued the album with an alternate cover. The reissue had the same

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label, catalog number and release year as the original. The only way to tell the difference
between the two releases is to compare the artwork, which Discogs allows users to do.
The next few sections include Artists, Title, Label, Catalog Number, Barcode, Format,
Country and Released, all of which are fairly straightforward. The Artist section gives users the
option to add an ANV, which happens to be one of the acronyms that some of my surveys
respondents were unfamiliar with. The Title and Label require a strict rule of capitalizing the first
letter of each word. For example, Pink Floyds The Dark Side of the Moon is correctly
capitalized in Discogs as The Dark Side Of The Moon. There are only a few minor exceptions
to this rule and they are listed in the Guidelines. For instance, Discogs allows the artist TuneYards to have her name spelled as tUnE-yArDs as it appears on her albums. The Catalog
Number and Barcode simply require users to enter the corresponding numbers found on their
release. Discogs lists over forty different types of formats including vinyl, CD, cassette and even
reel-to-reel. Once the format and quantity are selected, users are presented with a variety of other
subcategories to select. If the format is a vinyl record, users can specify the size, speed, channel
and describe the record. The Country and Released parts of the form help differ one release from
another that could be similar by specifying where and when the record was manufactured.
The next part of the Add Release form is the Tracklist. Users can add the track position,
artist, title, credits, and duration for each song. Credits can also be added to the release. These
include positions like Executive Producer, Composer, Arranger, etc. Next, users can select the
genre and style of the release. For example, if a user selects Rock, they can choose from a variety
of styles including Acoustic, Indie, Metal, and Punk. The Genre section aids the Marketplace as
users have the option to search for a specific genre within the store. An accurate genre
description allows for a better chance of having someone buy a release from the Marketplace.

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Lastly, at the very bottom of the form users can check a box to add the release to their collection
as well as assign the release a rating.
The final two written sections of the Add Release form are open ended yet very important
to the release. The first section is the Release Notes, which allows users to enter any information
that does not fit into the sections above. A common example is when users write how many
copies were pressed if the release is limited. This relates to the value of the item on the
Marketplace, as the price is almost always a reflection of the number of copies pressed. This is
why limited first pressings are worth much more than later reissues. It is important to
acknowledge that this section of the form is not required. The Submission Notes, however, is
required to submit the form. This section does not have any specific requirements and gives a lot
of liberty to the user. As described by Discogs submission notes must be used to explain all
aspects of your submission, particularly where anything is unusual that might be questioned by
other users (Discogs: Guidelines). These notes are visible on the release page history and will
be read by any user who is editing the release. Needless to say, this final section is crucial to the
Add Release Form as well as the Marketplace. Sellers want to ensure that they can accurate list
the exact item they are selling to prevent receiving a bad review. These last two sections give
sellers on the Marketplace the opportunity to verify that all the information is correct and that
they are in fact listing the correct item for sale.
Monte Reel wrote about a wealthy businessman and vinyl hoarder named Zero Freitas in
his New York Times article The Brazilian Bus Magnate Whos Buying Up All The Worlds
Vinyl Records. Freitas has amassed a vinyl collection of over 3 million records that fill
hundreds of boxes in a massive warehouse. Even though Freitas comes from a business
background, he has no current intentions of selling his records. Allan Bastos, his buyer in New

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York tried convincing him to sell some of his duplicate records but Freitas insisted that each
record was different. Instead of selling his collection, Freitas hired a team of interns to catalog it.
His requirements for cataloging are very similar to those of Dicsogs. For example, both require
the artist name, album title, year released and record label. Freitas is the epitome of how
cataloging records is more important than simply selling them.
After examining characteristics of discourse communities in the work of Swales, I can
say that Discogs has established itself as a prime example of a discourse community. In addition,
after studying Millers work I believe the Add Release form has proved to be the most vital
genre of Discogs. Further research could be done in the Marketplace aspect of Discogs, as I did
not spend too much time analyzing that information. Perhaps it would interesting to find out how
many of the releases came from sellers who only added the release to be able to list an item for
sale. Or to broaden the research to a larger audience, one could look into different discourse
communities and see if the most popular form of communication is also the most effective. It is
highly possible that Discogs is not the only discourse community that has a lesser form of
communication being more prominent.
While the database and Marketplace aspects of Discogs work together, it is clear that
contributing to the database helps Discogs accomplish its goal better. The Marketplace relies on
the database to be able to list items. An empty database would leave the Marketplace
functionless, with no items to sell. Each new release that is added fulfills Discogs goal of having
the most expansive music database. Not only did my research show that the Add Release form is
more effective than the Marketplace, but it also proved that there is not always a direct
correlation between popularity and effectiveness.

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Works Cited
Discogs: About. Discogs. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.
Discogs: Add Release. Discogs. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.
Discogs: Glossary. Discogs. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.
Discogs: Guidelines. Discogs. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.
Discogs: Sgt. Peppers. Discogs. Web. 8 Dec. 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. 8 Dec. 2014.
Miller, Carolyn R. "Genre As Social Action." Quarterly Journal of Speech 70.2 (1984): 151-67.
Web. 8 Dec. 2014.
Oliphint, Joel. Wax and Wane: the Tough Realities Behind Vinyls Comeback. Pitchfork. 28
July 2014. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.
Reel, Monte. The Brazilian Bus Magnate Whos Buying Up All The Worlds Vinyl Records.
The New York Times. 09. Aug. 2014. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.
Piazza, Anthony. Discogs User Survey. 14 Nov. 2014. Survey.
Shurker, Roy. Wax Trash and Vinyl Treasures: Record Collecting as a Social Practice.
Farnham: Ashgate, 2010. Print.
Swales, John. "Approaching the Concept of Discourse Community." ERIC. Mar. 1987. Web. 8
Dec. 2014.

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Appendix A: Discogs Add Release Form

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Appendix A: Discogs Add Release Form (continued)

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Appendix B: Discogs User Survey

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