Cataloging Your Collection

Rudy

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I'm interested to know if anyone else has cataloged their music collection. It's hard for me to believe, but I don't think I've cataloged anything since about 20 years ago. I kept everything (vinyl, CDs) in a spreadsheet. Which I'm sure is now long gone. And I have long wanted to either catch up or start over again with making a list of all of the titles I own.

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For kicks, I am trying out the Music Collector desktop software from collectorz.com. One feature that attracted me was how you could fill in your collection in an automated manner. It can do this two ways: 1) by loading a CD in your CD-ROM drive so it can scan the contents, or 2) entering a barcode.
Barcode support was what I was interested in. Just about all of my CDs have barcodes, so that takes a lot of data entry and handling out of the equation.

I do not own a barcode scanner, but I do have three smartphones and a tablet to work with. There had to be something out there. I already have the standard barcode scanner app, but there is no way to transfer from that app to another device like a computer or tablet. I found one for Android called WiFi Barcode Scanner that works well. It comes with a really small utility that intercepts the incoming stream from the phone, and processes it by adding a carriage return or tab after the string of numbers, for example.
That worked out perfect with the desktop software, since it has a bulk entry option where you can enter barcode numbers and hit "enter" to go to the next line, ready for the next barcode. I can scan across the room, across the house even, and the barcode numbers get entered.

Once you have a list of numbers, it then searches for the titles. It finds all of them with standard SKU numbers. A few promos were hole punched through the entire code, so those I have to enter manually. One disc (so far) was a Japan release and had no entry, so I submitted that manually. Also, many record club recordings do not have barcodes, but a few do, and it seems hit or miss if the servers recognize the club number. (It depends on someone adding it to the database.) Out of about 50 titles, I had nine not recognized; that's not bad, since those are ~40 titles I don't need to enter by hand.

It catalogs just about all the data you would need: format, track list, release date, catalog number, SKU number (which is the barcode), and even allows for front and rear cover scans.

You can also add want list items. That would be great for taking when going out on record crawls.

There is a mobile version for both Android and IOS, and it can optionally sync with your desktop software. They also offer similar packages to catalog your books and videos as well.
I'm only doing a few shelves worth to see if I like how the program works. And I know LPs will be tedious since very few I own will have barcodes on them. I am also planning on cataloging downloads. For insurance purposes, it helps to document these things, and there are times I have wanted to find album data without having to dig an old recording out of storage or find it on the shelf.

Is anyone else using a cataloging program, a database or a spreadsheet to catalog their collections? Let us know via comments through our Forums!
 

Bobberman

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I once kept track of my cd library by writing down what i had on paper which started in the early 90s and ending in the late 2000s and at last count i had over 2100 cds. Sadly i lost those pages long ago but it was quite a task and it will be an even bigger task doing it again.
 

Rudy

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I agree. There was no way I was going to type all these things in by hand. :D At least it is largely automated, at least until I get to LPs and 12" singles (of which I have hundreds). A very few LPs have barcodess, and I think many reissues today have them. But even there, I can probably pull data from Discogs or Amazon to fill in the bulk of the information. I have to do this when I tag files on the music server.

There is still some work involved, but this saves mountains of work. I do still wish I had my old spreadsheet though. That was three or four computer builds ago!
 

Rudy

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I once kept track of my cd library by writing down what i had on paper which started in the early 90s and ending in the late 2000s and at last count i had over 2100 cds. Sadly i lost those pages long ago but it was quite a task and it will be an even bigger task doing it again.
I think we must be the only two in the entire forum who did this.
 

Harry

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I never bothered cataloging my record collection, or CDs. For some reason, I've always had a pretty good memory as to what's in my collection - and since everything's in alphabetical order on the shelves, it only takes a quick look to see if I have a certain song or album.

Way back in the late '60s, early '70s, when I was taping stuff off of radio, I'd keep a set of index cards - one for each song. It listed the tape#, the side#, and the counter reading of the start of the song. Since all of those songs were in random order, it was a near-necessity to index them that way.

I DO keep track of my DVDs and Blu-rays with a software called DVD Profiler. It's free for, I believe, the first thousand entries, and has a nominal price for a lifetime subscription. It usually only requires entry of the UPC Product code to get all of the info to populate. Entries are made by other subscribers - or you can do it yourself if you happen to be first. Also, if for some reason the UPC code doesn't match or trigger an entry, you can let your drive read information coded on the disc. Sometimes that triggers the entry. It has great sorting and reporting capabilities, so if say an actor passes away and I want to see what I have that he's been in, I just key in the name and there's the list.

But I've never run into a CD cataloging program. I suppose that the closest thing might be Windows Media Player itself - assuming that you rip all of the CDs that you want indexed. WMP can sort by artist, song, album, composer, etc., merely by clicking on the column in the header row. It's great for finding those odd songs on various artist comps.

Harry
 

Captain Bacardi

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I mentioned this years ago, but when I bought my house many years ago my insurance agent came out to see the house and saw my record collection. He said "yeah, I see the albums, but if you were to have a complete listing of what you have you will probably get more if you ever need to file a claim for fire, theft and things like that." I remember starting to do that but gave up after a while. I also have my collection in alphabetical order, although I keep my jazz albums separate from everything else.
 

Rudy

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I read a little more--the app for a smartphone or tablet comes with cloud access, so you can store your collection online. Then you can sync with the desktop version, edit it in either place, and then also have access to it while you are away from home. This is great for those who do a lot of record shopping where we're looking for a specific version of a recording, or like me, forgetting if I own something or not while I'm at the record store. :D And that also means I can access my want list while on the road also. I'm taking a few trips this summer, and plan on stopping at some shops along the way.
 

Rudy

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I mentioned this years ago, but when I bought my house many years ago my insurance agent came out to see the house and saw my record collection. He said "yeah, I see the albums, but if you were to have a complete listing of what you have you will probably get more if you ever need to file a claim for fire, theft and things like that." I remember starting to do that but gave up after a while. I also have my collection in alphabetical order, although I keep my jazz albums separate from everything else.
One idea might be to take a video or even photographs up close of all of the spines of the records. That would at least give you the titles, and hopefully the catalog numbers on the spines would help tell which version it was. Not perfect, but it at least gets your collection into a visual inventory.

I am making a point to photograph and also type out the model and serial numbers of the equipment I have. Some of the cheaper, older things I don't really care about, but based on what I have tied up in equipment now, it's a necessity. Having a record of precise model and serial numbers can help in other ways, such as tech support or troubleshooting. My newer (to me) preamp had two versions, and they are also able to retrofit/upgrade an older version to the newer one, as what was done on mine. (It includes some component changes, a better pair of vacuum tubes, etc.)
 

Rudy

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But I've never run into a CD cataloging program. I suppose that the closest thing might be Windows Media Player itself - assuming that you rip all of the CDs that you want indexed.
That is similar to how I am set up here. I have all of my main CDs ripped and stored on the media server. I still have several hundred stored in boxes that I need to rip yet, but they are nothing I'd ever play much again. The nice part is that I can easily thumb through the collection on the tablet or phone, or even on the computer, and then sample the recording to see if it is what I'm looking for.

I thought there was a way for Music Collector to scan the server, but if there is, I haven't found it yet.
 

DeeInKY

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I've never tried to catalog my music or videos, but it would be a good idea for insurance purposes. I know people who do have a list, but it always seemed like a daunting task.
 

Rudy

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That's the one reason I'm giving this software a try, and I may try a couple of others. Hand entry won't work well, when having to catalog so much. But years ago when I used to maintain a list, I never had the Internet to pull data from. Today, I could search for data on Discogs, Allmusic, Amazon, Gracenote, etc. and automatically pull in the album information. That is how it could be made easier today.
 

Rocketman

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I began cataloging my collection back with my first computer in about 1982. Kept updating the lists, changing computers, changing software, and typing, typing, typing to make entries.

Then about 3 years ago I spent 6 months ripping my entire collection of 2500 discs (everything-45's, LPs, 12" included) into Apple Lossless with iTunes, and realised I could dump my database. Gracenote may be semi-hopeless when it comes to classical, but does a good job with pop and jazz. Once you have all the fields filled in for each track you can see that iTunes itself is a searchable database. Takes work adding the album art (lots of scanning!) and cleaning up the Gracenote info so it conforms to how you want things labeled and organised, but there is a lot of info there-more than I ever put into any database of my own. Title, album title, composer, artist, length, track number, disc number, type of file, bit rate, year, genre, play count, etc., and the 'comments' field for anything else you think of (I use it for record label and special series like the 'Bernstein Century'). And then you can search any of these. Only thing lacking is a way to print it all out. It certainly satisfied my anal-retentive desire to have everything organised.

And then when I play music through the computer connected to my stereo, I can sit back in my chair with the bluetooth keyboard next to me and control play, pause, skip and volume without getting up.:nap:
 

Rudy

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I found that Music Collector does have a way to scan your music library on a server. And you can choose to insert them into the database as new entries, or pair them up with existing entries. I may start a new database as a trial, and see how many of my CDs it picks up.

I will probably start another thread about it soon, but my own "network" playback is from FLAC files stored on a NAS (located in the basement), played over an Oppo BDP-105 using a phone or tablet as the remote. It's great for the lazy side of me (naturally :D ) but it also makes auditioning equipment and comparing versions of recordings much easier, as I can hop between them easily. DLNA is a great feature also, as I can use the Oppo as a renderer, and can control it from an app on the phone or tablet (I use BubbleUPnP), or if I am on the computer, the Oppo automatically shows up as a playback source in the JRiver media player, and all it takes is one click to play something via the computer. I also have a choice of media players I can use on phones, tablets or computers that comply with DLNA/UPnP.

The nicest part is that I can reclaim a lot of wall space and store all of the CDs back in boxes now. Especially if I catalog them in a separate program, all I need to do is search there to find the information. And beyond that, I have my Googles. :D I've had my CDs out on shelves here in the listening room for two years now, and it's rare I will ever pick one off the shelf anymore.

Anyway...

Gracenote may be semi-hopeless when it comes to classical,

When I use MP3Tag to tag my FLAC files, it gives me Amazon as one of the sources for music data. Plus, I think it also can use Discogs. These are in addition to other sources. Having that variety means I can usually pull in data from whichever source has the most complete version, or I can grab cover art from Amazon and the info from elsewhere. So in the event of classical music, I can use those sources for the tags and, for Music Collector, the barcode grabs what I need.

Classical...ugh...I have no clue how to tag those! Tagging, and media players and servers, are not geared very well towards classical. Do I use the "artist" field for the composer and symphony? Or, do I use that for the composer, so I can more easily categorize the recordings. Then, what do I do when a disc has multiple composers? Frustrating. I still need to find a way that works. On my media server, I named a directory "♫" (Linux allows that :wink: ), and put them all in one spot for now.
 

Rocketman

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Spent a lot of time planning my tags for classical since it is the bulk of my collection. Took a lot of work, but I put the composer followed by title in each track name. For example the track title --- "Beethoven: Piano Sonata #23 In F Minor, Op. 57, "Appassionata" - 1. Allegro Assai". And once you have that entered, if you get another CD of the same piece by a different performer, you can cut and paste. Composer goes in composer tag with last name first, "Beethoven, Ludwig van". iTunes handles multiple composers with no problem as long as album title is the same. Problem comes in with multiple artists, but then you just make sure the compilation tag is checked and the album name is the same for all tracks. I also like the way iTunes lets you tag each track with a preset equalizer setting. If you have the genre set on every track, you can select say all 'Classical' and then set the equalizer for every selected track to classical.
 

Rudy

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The ID3 tagging does allow for composer and such, but the problem I encounter is that some DLNA media servers and control points gravitate towards the popular music artist/album/song categorization. That is what gets frustrating.

At least with the cataloging, I can use, sort or search on any category. But on a daily basis it is not something I am going to use.

BTW, one of us should start a classical thread around here. I'm in one of those disillusioned phases where much of what I used to play just gets on my nerves, and I find I'm reaching for the classical music more than ever now. That and small combo (acoustic) jazz, like Bill Evans, ECM recordings, or the Metheny/Mehldau records, things like that.
 

jfiedler17

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I keep a pretty detailed catalog of my collection through a series of Excel spreadsheets. For my 45s, I've got columns for the artist name, A-side, B-side, the record label, its release year, whether or not it has a picture sleeve, and an extra column for listing any special info (i.e. if it's a colored-vinyl title.) For LPs or CDs, I've got columns for the artist name, album title, label, release year, and an extra column for any additional info (i.e. if it's a double or triple disc package, on colored vinyl, or if it comes with bonus posters or a bonus 45, etc.).

I've actually also typed and printed out a separate list of stuff that I DON'T have but particularly ultimately want to add to my collection, so that I can have a handy checklist to take with me when I go out record-shopping or flea-marketing. This way, I can quickly figure out if I already have a title or not or if it's still on my "wish list." If it's on the list and I haven't yet removed it, it's safe to buy. That might seem like a lot of trouble to go to, but there were a couple instances years ago where I unwittingly bought a disc it turned out I already had, and having a checklist has really helped me eliminate making redundant purchases. It's made record-shopping more fun for me, too, because when I come home with new titles, I not only have new music to listen to, but I also have the satisfying feeling of striking any number of titles off of my wish list and watching the list gradually shrink.
 

Rudy

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My wantlist is on an Excel spreadsheet, saved to OneDrive so that I can open it on whichever phone or tablet I have with me at the time, and changes are synced immediately. It's a little out of date, as I've added a few titles on Discogs (primarily to receive the notifications when new copies become available). One good thing is that I can also access Discogs while at a store, to check on releases available for a specific title. If I need to take notes, I can use OneNote so it is synced to my computer when I get back home. The "flashlight" on the phone is also a huge help at those stores that are dimly lit--that and a good strong pair of reading glasses. :D I've thought of using my LED flashlight that I wear on my head, but don't want to look like too much of a freak. :laugh:
 

Eyewire

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I use Delicious Library (Mac only):

Delicious Library 3 »

I just scan in the barcode or type it in, and it automatically fetches the info, track list, album art, synopsis, etc., from Amazon and adds it to my library. If it's not in Amazon I just manually add it in. It catalogs music, movies, books, etc.

You can export the data into various formats so that other apps such as spreadsheets can read them. I use it mainly to track what I have and for insurance purposes. There are many similar, very inexpensive apps for phones and tablets that do the same thing.

For storage, I just use Snap-N-Store boxes like this:

SnapNStore - CD Storage Box, 2-Pack, Black - 330 Capacity - Snap-N-Store - SNS01617 »

I put my CDs in random order into these boxes. I use the Notes app on my Mac to create an index of the titles and which box they're in. This index is automatically synced to my iPhone and iPad. This makes it easy to retrieve a disc, which I seldom do nowadays because I have ripped most of my music into lossless format onto my Mac via dBpoweramp.

For album art, if I don't like what Delicious Library, iTunes or dBpoweramp automatically supplies, I turn to Google or Album Art Exchange: http://www.albumartexchange.com/covers.php
 

Rudy

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For album art, if I don't like what Delicious Library, iTunes or dBpoweramp automatically supplies, I turn to Google or Album Art Exchange: http://www.albumartexchange.com/covers.php

I'm not in my nitpicky stage yet, but I know some friends of mine with libraries like to have all of the tagging filled in, even composers on individual tracks. I don't know if I'll go that far, but I do replace album cover art whenever I find something that isn't up to snuff. Some are rare enough that about all I can do is scan what I have, which gets tedious. When using dBpoweramp, I occasionally went online through the program to pick a better cover, as it would often find a small low-res 240x240 image. Given how I play the music back, having all of the composer, producer and musician tags filled in isn't so important as it's never displayed, but there is a part of me that might want to be able to search on it. Collectorz seems to have a decent database that is growing thanks to user contributions, so that will be helpful if I decide to catalog the entire collection with it. If I pick up the mobile version of it, that would give me the syncing I'm after.

We have it easy today. In the past (pre-Internet) we would have had to enter all of this manually.
 

Rocketman

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Thought is was time someone gave a shout for iTunes 12.5.3 with 'work and movement' tags added. Good description here with screen shots- How to better organize your classical music in iTunes 12.5 ». Album view gives the name of the work with the composer below and then the movements are indented and numbered by iTunes. Makes it a lot easier to find and play individual classical works and is much more pleasing to the eye in Album view. Took me a couple months to do my complete collection-not forgetting Herb's 'Under a Spanish Moon'! Good opportunity to correct errors and add info from Wikipedia as well. One small glitch I found a work around for. If you have 2 consecutive works with the same name, iTunes parses them as a single work. For example the Chandos recording of 2nd symphonies by Creston and Ives-Neither work has a key signature or an opus number, their titles are simply Symphony #2. So I entered the Ives as "Symphony #2" and the Creston as "Symphony #2 " with a space at the end, and iTunes was able to sort them correctly.

If you are into classical, this makes iTunes a much more friendly database.
 

Rudy

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It's an adventure, isn't it? :D

I've been working towards using ID3 tags somewhat similarly, tweaking and trying different things as I go. Lately for the artist and/or album artist, I set that to be the symphony/conductor/soloist (like Van Cliburn), and for album title I've been using the composers and works, with the movements as track names. That makes most of the DLNA servers happy. I have not yet gone so far as to fill in the Composer ID3 tags (and others, like Producer) but will get there eventually. There are dozens of tags, and when using a player like JRiver, I can filter the album/song browser using a search or custom filters if I wanted to sort based on tags. I only need to find a better way to deal with discs that have three or more composers and works on it.

The only time I really get a clash is when an album artist and an album title are the same, and that is usually when I have multiple versions of the same album and do not indicate otherwise. In that case, I add a version behind the album title. An original release I will leave as-is. A remaster, I might put "[RM 2005]" or similar after it. If I have a high-res download, I will use [24-96] to indicate. I have made some SACD rips of multichannel recordings, so you might see "Black Celebration [24-88 2.0]" and "Black Celebration [24-88 5.1]" to indicate 2- or 5.1-channel extractions...or the same with the DVD-Audio titles like "Nightfly [24-48 2.0]" and "Nightfly [24-48 5.1]". For DSD files (in .dsf format) I have those named with [DSD 2.0]. In JRiver, then, I have a few ways to show only the DSD albums (SACD rips, or a small number of downloads)--I can search for the [DSD 2.0] in the album title, use a filter to show only the .dsf files, or use another to look for the 2.822MHz sampling rate.

At least the files are physically stored on the server like this: /volume1/public/media/music/C/Chick Corea/...(albums)..., and similar. So it's easy to drill down and see the physical folders the files are in, especially if I use the Oppo to use a network share (it plays directly from the network folder). I have classical all in one folder but am getting to where I need to start separating them, since that might be one of the faster growing parts of my collection at this point.

And while it might be unique to my situation, I could essentially create any ID3 tag I wanted to sort the music the way I'd like. I just don't know if I am that ambitions. :D
 

Mike Blakesley

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What I would like to see invented is a machine with a big spindle sticking out the top of it. You would just stack your disks on that spindle, and the machine would just load one at a time off the bottom of the stack, saving the content of each CD or DVD or BluRay in a playable format on a giant hard drive array. Digitizing your music is just too much of a pain in the butt if you have limited spare time to sit in front of a computer and just wait.

When I first got iTunes I very methodically started at the A's in my CD collection and loaded one disk after another into the computer, but after about 20 or 30 disks I came to the realization, "Do I really ever want to hear the whole Obsession album by Animotion ever again? So I started picking-and-choosing and that's where I stand today. I would still like to get EVERYTHING loaded up though, but who has the time?

The other problem I have is, not everything is in the same format. I have some stuff that I downloaded as mp3s, some that I ripped as MP3s, some is the Apple format I forget the name of (AAC?), some WAV, and probably a few other formats. Some songs from iTunes are "un-copyable" and others were bought after they stopped the copy protection thing. I really want to get everything organized and into the same high-quality format. At least, with the songs I have in mp3, they were ripped at the highest quality setting. But of course the downside of that is, stuff's taking up too much room.
 

Rudy

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Storage is cheap these days--a 3TB external drive does not cost much at all, and if doing only music files at CD resolution or lower, that would fit several thousands of albums at a minimum. Even a 2TB drive would do nicely.

I could have ripped my catalog many years ago, but I had never decided on a good method, nor did I have storage all in one place. And, technology was not where I needed it to be, to do what I wanted. I had two major goals. The first was that all music be stored lossless from the original discs. And second, that the music files be accessible to every device on the network.

Storage format would be FLAC for WAV files, as it is almost universally accepted (just about all modern players can use FLAC). FLAC also uses the common ID3 tags, so all files could be tagged properly and read by the players.

With lossless on the server, I could easily downconvert to whatever I needed for different devices. No more having to dig out discs to re-rip them for a different device.

As for ripping discs, a modern-day computer with a good multi-threaded, multi-cored CPU could handle more than you could throw at it. I installed two optical drives in my computer, and am able to rip from both simultaneously. (And unlike the old days, I could still use my computer with no slowdown or lag, while discs were ripping or converting.) I used my laptop as a third drive, and I would say that given the standard length of albums, three at a time was about all I could handle. With my desktop having a total of 8 CPUs and writing to the local SSD, converting the files takes no time at all. It was no stretch to think of ripping maybe 20-30 discs per hour, using only the two drives. A spare couple of hours per week and a collection can be ripped faster than you might think.

The software though is a huge deal, and that is where I took some time to find the right thing. Something good like dBpoweramp will not only do secure CD rips (which will verify you've made a bit-perfect copy--the only other software that does it is the flaky EAC program), it retrieves tags and album art from the Internet. If you set it up as a batch rip, it is just a matter of feeding the new discs in as the old ones are ejected.

After the fact, using MP3Tag to clean up and adjust the tags to your liking works very well. And then, of course, storing them on a drive in whatever logical way you see fit.

dBpoweramp also has a batch converter. So, if you needed a set of WMA or MP3 files, you'd simply select them from a file "tree," click Convert, choose your settings, and then click to start the process. You can choose a single album, dozen of albums, or even your entire collection if you have the patience to wait for 'em. :D

I have heard that there is a way to use a CD duplicator with dBpoweramp's batch mode to rip many discs all at once. I should read up on that.

I think the biggest hurdle to ripping is just getting past the thought process! It helps to have a solid plan first, and have your tools all in place (software, ripping hardware, storage, etc.). And then once you start, the process is automated enough that it's just a matter of swapping discs in and out when you have a spare hour or two of computer time to work with.
 
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