Last week, I wrote an article about putting my 850-something piece record collection into Discogs for the first time. After spending 18 hours logging my records, I begged for Discogs to make an app that would allow me to snap a pic of my records and be able to determine what edition of the album I owned. As many of you noted on Twitter, it turns out something similar to that exists: there are multiple apps that have barcode scanners and Discogs integration. None of them do what I really want: an app that can catalog my records without me doing any work other than snapping a pic. But I tried out five vinyl collection management apps this week anyway, and here’s what I learned about them.
MusicBuddy and Music Collector: These two are free, which is tight, but both of them are basically just database creation tools on your phone. They don’t have Discogs integration, so these won’t help you value your records, or determine which of the 14 trillion pressings of Abbey Road you own. Recommended only if you want to create a database of your records and don’t want to be beholden to the corporate overlords at Discogs.
VinylWall: I assume in the wildest dreams of the creator of VinylWall, they will challenge Discogs for vinyl logging supremacy. At this point, however, it’s got the catalog depth, but it doesn’t have basically anything else to take a run at Discogs; you can log your collection in VinylWall, but there aren’t any cover images, and you don’t even have to specify what edition you own. It’s useful to make sure you don’t ever buy the same album twice, but if you want to value of your collection, or want to track the edition of your specific album, you have to go elsewhere.
Discollector: This app is pretty solid, all things considered, however, at a $4.99 price point, it’s the most expensive app like this I tried out, and for the money, all you’re really getting is an app link to your Discogs collection with the option to scan barcodes. And it has arguably the worst interface out of all of the apps I tried, and that counts for a lot, if you’re going to spend 18 hours logging your collection.
MilkCrate: This is by far the best app I tried. It has links to purchase right off Discogs, and it’s the one that is easiest to use as far as uploading records into your collection goes. The interface was the easiest to understand immediately, which is huge. I had some wonky things happen with barcode scanning; when I tried scanning Vinyl Me, Please’s Big Bill Broonzy reissue, I got a different reissue and no ability to switch to the correct one. But still, this allowed me to upload records right to my collection, though I wasn’t able to break them out into different branches of my collection--my girlfriend’s and mine--directly from the app. That minor inconvenience aside, this was the best, especially considering it’s free.
There is a major weakness in all these apps, that’s pertinent to bring up here: the collection management tools on all of these apps are nowhere as intuitive and easy to use, and the classification options are neutered, compared to just using Discogs on your desktop. I complained about how long it took to enter my records sans-app, and while apps might make it easier to enter records that have single-run barcodes, no app will replace the relative semi-ease and depth of options that the desktop version of Discogs. MilkCrate has been tapped by Discogs to create the official Discogs app--which is in Beta testing, and I’m hoping to be added and be able to review it soon--so there’s hope it will become the answer to having desktop Discogs on your phone.
So, I guess I’m saying, thanks for all the recommendations, guys. However, I think that at this point, it’s easiest to add records using my handy MacBook.
Andrew Winistorfer is Director of Music at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard and The Story of Willie Nelson. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
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