How to Organize Vinyl Records & Save More Time for Music

Marc HenshallRecord Storage11 Comments

If you’ve established a sizable record collection of any kind, there’s a good chance you’ve had trouble locating a particular record at some point.

Organized chaos only gets you so far, and once you reach a collection of, say, 100 or more, it’s definitely time to establish some sort of system to organize vinyl records.

If you manage to get into the multiple hundreds (or even thousands) without a system in place, well, then your memory is clearly a lot better than mine!

The question of how to organize vinyl records is as old as the hills. Every record collector has their preferred approach, and in many cases, collectors will change their system multiple times before deciding on a habit of a lifetime.

We’ve compiled a list of the different methods to help you decide on the best way to organize your vinyl records:

PART 1: Approach/Categorization

PART 2: How to Store Your Records

Method 1: Alphabetical Record Organization by Name & Band Name

This is perhaps the most common approach, as it works for collectors with a very specific taste in music across a defined genre. It’s the easiest method to understand and very simple to implement.

For most, this simply means buying record dividers and breaking down a collection (regardless of genre) based on first or last name and band name. 

If you’re ok with mixing genres and your OCD tendencies can tolerate having Miles Davis in the same section as Marc Bolan, then this approach to vinyl organization is probably as far as you need to go.

There’s always some debate between first name and last name – let us know which you prefer in the comments.

Method 2: Split Genre Alphabetical

As your collection grows, and if you’re a record collector with a particularly diverse taste in music, the simplicity of alphabetical categorization can quickly get confusing. 

If this is you, it might be time to consider splitting first by genre and then alphabetically. 

The only downside is genre grey areas. Do you place Radiohead in rock or electronic? The same goes for bands like Depeche Mode, who changed their sound dramatically from typical 80s pop to more experimental atmospheric electronic music. 

How granular do you want to go with genre categorization? This is the question you want to ask when considering splitting alphabetical organization by genre.

Method 3: Organize Vinyl Records by Album Title

If method one and two doesn’t sit with you, consider organizing by album title instead. 

This removes the debate of genre or first name/last name altogether and could work for record collectors with an eclectic taste that feels more affinity with albums than artist or genre loyalties.

The system can fall down if you’re the type to easily forget the actual titles of albums, and instead just have a weird photographic memory that remembers album covers more than titles… (I’d put myself in that category, to be honest). 

Method 4: In Order of Personal Purchase (Autobiographical)

O.K, so record collecting tends to attract quite passionate individuals. And, dare I say it, at times, quite eccentric characters.

My wife always laughs at me for my weird autobiographical memory, whereby I can tell her exactly where I was and who I was with when I first bought any particular album.

I’d never dream of organizing my collection in this way, but I know a lot of collectors can relate to the personal memories associated with every album or a particular copy of a record. 

You just don’t get this level of attachment with modern streaming services – that sense of personal journey and walking the road of life. 

This idiosyncrasy was, of course, caricatured in the movie High Fidelity. Check out the clip below if you haven’t already seen the movie. If not – where have you been!? 

Method 5: Chronological

Gradually, as we go through the list, the methods (admittedly) become a little more obscure.

Although, for many collectors, chronological order is a very popular option.

Albums tend to define eras, and I know many rock albums I own from the 1960s/70s just don’t sit well next to albums considered the same genre 40 or 50 years later.

Ultimately, the method you choose to organization your vinyl records depends greatly on how your brain works logically.

Method 6: Organized Chaos – You Don’t Organize Them At All!

For a very long time, I fell into this category. Organized chaos – I used to call it. I have one of those weird memories where I can roughly remember, almost photographically, where I last placed a record. 

Similarly to my odd, elephant-like ability to remember the exact date and location of most of my record purchases, I often remember very clearly when I last played them.

You could, in some ways, call this “order of last played? The further back they are on the shelf, the longer ago it was. For a long time, I ran my collection like this due to a busy lifestyle and, yea, I’m going to blame them…. (kids!)….

Method 7: Organize Records by Mood or Vibe

Another way to organise vinyl records is by mood or vibe. This categorization approach is another deeply personal approach that will vary greatly from one record collector to another.

Let’s take Norah Jones for example. You could easily categorize her music as Jazz… but then again, it would also very easily sit in a personal mood category of relaxed, chilled, or easy listening.

This one could take you a while as you ponder over how each album in your collection makes you feel, or what occasion it suits best.


PART 2: How to Organize Your Vinyl Records – Storage Techniques

For a complete guide on storing vinyl records correctly, regardless of categorization, check out our previous article. 

Below is a crash course summary:

Always Store Your Records Upright

When organizing vinyl records, always be sure to store them upright in a vertical position. Never stack them in large horizontal piles, as this can encourage warping of the records over time.

Make Sure Your Vinyl Shelving is Up to the Task 

Vinyl records are heavy in great numbers, so as your record collection grows, you’ll need to make sure your vinyl record storage or shelving is up to the task.

Small compartments or dividers can help here, as they not only help you compartmentalize a collection, but they also help spread out the potential for excessive leaning. 

Excessive leaning can lead to warped records if left for a long period of time. 

Separate 12-inch LPs from 7-inch Singles.

As a rule of thumb, when organizing vinyl records it’s best to avoid mixing record sizes. It might seem obvious to the seasoned record collector, but not only does this make records hard to find, it’s also not good storage practice for avoiding damage or warping. 

Store Your Records in Appropriate Conditions

Once you’ve decided on how to organize your vinyl records and where to store them, it’s imperative you store them under the right conditions if you want them to last.

Always store your records in the best quality inner sleeves, and of course, for maxiumum protection, a good outer sleeve too. 

Keep them away from any extreme heat or strong fluctuations in temperature, and to be extra careful, consider monitoring the humidity/temperature of your storage environment. Too much humidity can encourage mold growth, and naturally, high heat will warp records very quickly. 

Once again, check our full guide to storing vinyl records and our complete list of the best vinyl record storage solutions for more information. 

In the meantime, remember to enjoy the music, and don’t get too hung up if your organization methods collapse into organized chaos when life gets on top of you. Happy spinning.

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Mike Lashinsky

In my Man`~Cave, in my basement, is Where my vinyl collection resides. I built three 6 foot long X 18 inches wide, Blue Pearl Granite 1 ” thick shelves. Each self is 20″ higher than the other. On the Supported sides are 8″ X 8″ (Decor) Wave styled Glass blocks.

The glass blocks are Silicone into place. & The Polished Blue Pearl Granite sits on top of every two courses of glass block level. This holds any type of weight you want to throw at them.
On the edges of the Front underside of the Blue Pearl Granite is Bright White LED sticky strip lights, that aren’t visible to the eye. But the lights shine down over the Vinyl collection.

Now! I separate my Music selection by Alphabetic order, according to Group name. This is done using 1/4″ thick Lime Green Florescent Acrylic sheets with A to Z lettering on each Acrylic Sheet, almost the same size as the Vinyl jackets that hold the records, except they stick out beyond the records two inches longer. It will last forever! & is simply beautiful.

It didn’t cost as much as one would think. I bought The Blue Pearl Granite on Craigslist for $150.00 (A total awesome bargain). The Glass Blocks also bought on Craigslist for $2.00 Each. (12) Glass Blocks. I purchased (6) Tubes of silicone at Home Depot. $4.97 each. The L.E.D. lighting a 25′ roll, was purchased on E-Bay. $40.00. & the (27) Green Florescent Acrylic Sheets were custom cut by a person from E Bay, who sold them to me,$ 3.00 a sheet. They are Simply Beautiful..

I can show you pictures on request.

Simon Denyer

There is a difference between chaos – records placed almost randomly — and “organised according to when last played”. For many years I simply placed the most recently played record at the front. I knew that if I wanted to listen to a record that had been a bit neglected, I would reach for the back of the pile.
It’s a system that works well up to about 200 albums I would say. These days I have many more than that, and I organize by genre and then alphabetically by artist. Last name obviously! A few tough choices for where to place bands whose genres changed but I tend to go by the genre of their first major work if in doubt.

Simon Denyer

Correction. Loosely by decade/genre and then alphabetical.

MetisWoman62

Alphabetized by artist’s first name, then album title. Bands beginning with “The” I move that to the end and use the 2nd word, ie. Beatles, The, so it’ll be in the “B’s.” Numbers go 1st, then alpha.

Jordan Janis

I have mine in three genres and then alphabetical. Rock, Jazz, and Other. And I alphabetize the standard music industry way (which is how Discogs does is) and that is by artist name. Yes, Elvis Costello is in the ‘E’s not the ‘C’s for the same reason Jethro Tull is in the ‘J’s. Elvis’ real name is Declan McManus, so Elvis Costello is as much an artist name as Lynryd Skynyrd. I know a lot of people don’t get this but in the industry artist name and composer/songwriter name are not the same thing. I could easily do away with the genres and be perfectly happy, but that’s how it is for now.

tommy

I do mine in alphabetical order after cataloging them with Discogs. I only have a little over 200 at this point but I plan on sticking to this system.

Fred

I don’t do anything fancy, I just categorize mine by first name of the band or singer, so like Joe Cocker would categorized in the J’s which would also mean he would be before the Rolling Stones which would be in the R’s. Then of course if you have a few with the same first letter, then they get categorized by the second letter, so like Jimi Hendrix, which would be in the J’s would be before Joe Cocker, also in the J’s, but the i in Jimi comes before the o in Joe. Then if there are several albums of the same artist then I put those into alpha order of the title of the album.

I don’t bother with chronological since I find things faster if it’s all in alpha order. I do this way because their name, be it a persons name or band name, is their trade mark, so I don’t use the last name for example if the artist uses their full name as their trade mark. It’s sort of like I wouldn’t file Led Zeppelin under Z, it would go under L, or Lynyrd Skynyrd under S it would be in the L’s, the same with Joe Cocker. I also don’t file anything under T for The if the word The is the first word in the band, because The is generic word for a lot of bands.

This is a system I’ve used for years, it works for me, I can find anything I want fast and easily. But if you have a system you’ve used for a long time, and now you’re reading about other ways to arrange your system, just keep doing what your doing, don’t reinvent the wheel if the wheel isn’t broken and you know how the system works, it will just confuse the crap out of you for a long time. But if your new to categorizing then do whatever system mentioned in the article or by posters you like the best, don’t worry about being “professional” about it, just do it because you like it.

Duane A Sevilla

I organize my collection in alphabetical order by band name and in chronological order by year of release.

Mario

Me too. I do exactly that way.

Rob T

Me too, but artist sorts by letter of last name while band names sort by letter of first word. Joan Armatrading goes in the A’s, while Pink Floyd goes in the P’s. Chuck Mangione goes in the M’s, and so does Motley Crue. Frank Zappa goes almost last but Z.Z.Top goes really last.

Rob T

Then 7″, 10″, 12″ in visual order per artist, and each is chronological within sizes.
The only mess up would be bands that start with the word ‘The’. It is now up to you where to place these special people. The Beatles and The Who typically dont go in the T’s but rather in the B’s and W’s. But if name is hardcore The, then they go in the T’s. The Knack, The Band and of course The The.