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Music The Almighty Buck The Internet

Discogs Turns Record Collectors' Obsessions Into Big Business 31

HughPickens.com writes: Ben Sisario writes at the NYT that Discogs has built one of the most exhaustive collections of discographical information in the world, and with 24 million items for sale, (eBay's music section lists 11 million) Discogs is on track to do nearly $100 million in business by the end of the year. One of Discog's secrets is the use of Wikipedia's model of user-generated content with historical data cataloged by thousands of volunteer editors in extreme detail. The site's entry for the Beatles' White Album, for instance, contains 309 distinct versions of the record, including its original releases in countries like Uruguay, India and Yugoslavia — in mono and stereo configurations — and decades of reissues, from Greek eight-tracks to Japanese CDs. "There's a record-collector gene," says Kevin Lewandowski. "Some people want to know every little detail about a record."

The site, once run from a computer in Lewandowski's closet and originally restricted to electronic music, has grown rapidly. "It took about six months working nights and weekends on Discogs, and I launched it in November 2000. It was very simplistic compared to what it is now, but it started growing right away." Discogs now has 37 employees around the world, 20 million online visitors a month and three million registered users. Lewandowski, who is the sole owner of Discogs, says he had no interest in selling the business. He has watched other players enter the field over the last 15 years, including Amazon, which in 2008 introduced SoundUnwound, a Wikipedia-like site for music that was quietly shut down four years later. Discogs may have survived because of the innovation of its marketplace, giving collectors an incentive to expand the database with every imaginable detail. "I want it to go on forever," says Lewandowski.
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Discogs Turns Record Collectors' Obsessions Into Big Business

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  • by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @03:21PM (#51203961)

    Having never heard of Discogs before, it basically sounds like it's like MusicBrainz [musicbrainz.org] with more data. Is that about right?

    I'm always uneasy with helping private, for-profit entities fill a database with publicly-available information (e.g. Amazon-owned IMDb), since there's generally very little stopping them from taking it all private and locking it behind a paywall in the future. If a site is asking its users to assume the responsibility to generate and maintain the data, as is the case with these publicly-maintained databases, there should be protections in place ensuring that the data remains in the hands of the users. Wikipedia, MusicBrainz, and other non-profit projects do a great job of cataloging public information, and they do so with the backing of organizations and foundations whose primary purpose is to maintain the projects for their own sake, rather than to turn a profit.

    I'm normally not an "information wants to be free" sort of guy, but apparently I am when it comes to this sort of information.

    • And yet you are contributing to Slashdot.

      Use to use Discogs a lot years ago for rare electronic music info and its great for finding rare cd's that you can't buy anymore.

      • And yet you are contributing to Slashdot.

        There's a difference, of course. Our comments may provide some marginal monetary value to the corporate overlords overseeing Slashdot, but that value is quickly lost because the draw of this site is not in its archives, but rather in the active commenting that continually draws the users back. Nothing of value is lost if comments we made a decade ago disappear into the ether. We'll all still keep showing up here and posting fresh comments, which will keep us coming back. If the day comes that they lock thin

    • I had never heard of MusicBrainz (or Discogs) before...I use Wikipedia and Ebay....shy away from Amazon.
      The visual aspect of Discogs is a big plus...browsing through a stack of albums is a dead art...and having a marketplace next to reviews and discussion groups seems a good way to find new music (in my case new means old...very very old.)

    • I've actually used them off and on since they first started, and now probably go there more than any other music site. The information is very comprehensive, and it is easy to find specific releases

      Compare them to let's say Allmusic, who had a better start, more funding, and have tried through various means to monetize the information... they have floundered heavily, and Discogs has seemed wise enough to learn from their mistakes (i.e.- not pissing off your contributors). It is a mutual arrangement where ha

    • by Xtifr ( 1323 )

      Having never heard of Discogs before, it basically sounds like it's like MusicBrainz with more data. Is that about right?

      Except that unlike MusicBrainz, there's no API. The data just sits there on the page. On the other hand, MusicBrainz actually shamelessly encourages lifting data from Discogs (which is how I first discovered Discogs). So that's something. The obsessive record collectors fill out the data on Discogs, and the folks at MusicBrainz take it and turn it into something more useful to the general public.

      But yeah, I haven't looked at what sort of arrangement Discogs has with its contributors, since it doesn't strik

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Prospective buyers simply haven't waved a large enough check yet. Sooner or later they will, and the community that made the site a success will get screwed. It wouldn't be the first time, nor the last.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Ben Sisario writes at the NYT that Discogs has built one of the most exhaustive collections of discographical information in the world

    Time for an obligatory xkcd. [xkcd.com].

    And for future web searches of the guy's name, the NYT writer, Ben Sisario, is a lazy brainless dumbass.

  • How about a link? (Score:4, Informative)

    by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @04:15PM (#51204365)

    There's four links in the summary and no actual link to Discogs [discogs.com] itself.

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