Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Best Discography Sites - Part 1 of 5

On my bookshelf, my go-to music resources are the 3rd through 5th editions of the Trouser Press Record Guide, Joel Whitburn's billboard chart books, and Martin Strong's Great Rock Discography and Great Alternative and Indie Discography collections.  As with so many other resources, however, the web has overtaken print as a more up to date and complete source of information.  This is the first in a 5 part series exploring which web resource is best for what.

Thanks to Kickstarter, Vehicle Flips is releasing a collection of their 90s singles and compilation tracks.  Vehicle Flips had a complicated discography of 3 CDs and 5 singles spanning several different labels, not to mention all the compilation tracks, making them a good test case for completeness and accuracy at the 5 different sites I plan to evaluate in each part of this 5 part series.

We'll start with, which was for many years my favored resource for getting information on band's discographies.  Once you get past the annoying pop-up ads, which have become increasingly aggressive at allmusic, you can find that they correctly list the 3 Vehicle Flips original CDs.  Selecting singles and EPs, it gets a lot sketchier.  They list 3 of the 5 singles, but only one listing is complete and accurate.  They don't have a date for "Impressed Beyond Belief" and they are under the misimpression that "Terminus" is a different band as opposed to the name of a Vehicle Flips song, an error they compound with a bizarre review.  In allmusic's favor, they do note that Frank went on to form The Gazetteers, but they don't mention Wimp Factor 14, his prior band.

Increasingly, Discogs has overtaken allmusic as my go-to resource.  Let's see how they do with Vehicle Flips.  They list all 3 CDs and all 5 singles.  Interestingly, the 3rd CD gets a 2000 date at allmusic and a 1999 date at discogs.  The CD itself does have 1999 imprinted upon it, but I believe the true release was delayed until 2000.  That's kind of a toss-up, but I think I'm willing to give allmusic credit for that one.  Discogs also lists 7 compilation appearances, which is pretty impressive coverage even if it isn't 100% complete, missing a rare cassette compilation.  Interestingly, the bio is nearly if not totally identical at Discogs and Allmusic.  I wonder who stole from whom, or if they both got it from the same third source.

Rateyourmusic, which started out focusing on ratings has gotten increasing reliable with discography's as well.  They do OK, but not great, with Vehicle Flips.  They mistakenly list one single as an album, and they miss 2 of the singles, but they get 6 of the compilations.  Like the others, they mention the Gazetteers and not Wimp Factor 14 as related artists.

For old 45s, I've found that 45cat is the most reliable source, and we'll get to that later in this series.  They also do well with the early punk era, but they're pretty spotty with recent (as in last 20 years) indie rock.  Vehicle Flips is no exception.  They don't show up at all, but, interestingly, they do have 3 Wimp Factor 14 singles listed.

Lastly, we need to consider Wikipedia.  They remain far behind the other sources when it comes to music, but they've been improving rapidly, and may eventually overtake them.  As of the end of 2013, there is no Vehicle Flips entry, but, if you search on Vehicle Flips, you can find the Harriet Records Discography, which looks pretty complete to me.  I've found Wikipedia to compete most successfully with the music-centric information sources when it comes to artists who are either more mainstream or who are outside of the main rock genres.  We may get to that later in the series.

So, the big winner in part 1 of 5 of our series is, with, and coming in 2nd and 3rd respectively.  Stay tuned for further trials with other artists.


  1. Excellent entry! I consult allmusic all the time, but for strictly discography info (such as looking up old-timey recordings for my radio show, or just yesterday, searching for a listing of Belle and Sebastian b-sides), I also find them to not always be the best source.

  2. How about looking at the musicbrainz database? Hmm - - lists only the 3 CDs, and no comps/7"s. Answered my own question.

    1. and 4 comps in a sublink that I didn't notice at first- - musicbrainz has some added value...

    2. Thanks notdotcom. I hadn't heard of I'll get them in the mix for parts 2-5 of this series and see how they do.