Tag Archives: collections

Diss Order

This question goes out to all you librarians and taxonomists in my readership.

I have a large music collection, and I make every effort to keep all of my file tags as clean, correct and complete as possible. This allows me to easily search my collection and drill down to the artist, album, and song I demand to hear at that moment. If you’ve ever seen my CD collection, you’re aware of my meticulous arranging and sorting by certain criteria. The same is with my electronic collection. Physically, I prefer to sort by artist, then by album release date. Electronically, I can sort by any taxonomy I so choose. Easy enough.

So, going back to my library research orientation in my first year in college, I learned that books are sorted by subject, then by the author’s name, last name first, and then by book title. If the first word of the title is an article like “a”, “an” or “the”, it is moved to the end of the title after a comma and the book is sorted appropriately. So if I were to search for H.G. Well’s “The Time Machine”, I would search in the fiction section under the author “Wells, H.G.”, then for “Time Machine, The” somewhere after “Ten Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”. This makes sense. If the author was a publishing group or authorship can’t be pinned to one author, then it would be sorted under the group name.

I do the same with my music collection. If the album is published under a band name, then it’s sorted alphabetically under the band name. Aerosmith would be sorted before Aphex Twin. But if the album is published under the artist’s name, then it’s sorted by the artist’s name, last name first. So Fiona Apple would be sorted between Aphex Twin and Apples In Stereo under Apple, Fiona. This makes sense.

When I first built my music collection, back when music software wasn’t so smart, I would manually put articles at the end of the album and song titles because the software could clump all of the “The”s together, etcetera. It’s a pain and a hassle to do it manually, and sometimes the “extra album info” features of the software would break because it didn’t recognize the album title, but I lived with it. Luckily, modern music software has gotten smart about the use of articles in the song and album titles and sorts appropriately in the music browser interface.

But the problem comes with the artist names, which I store in my particular, perfectly reasonable way according to my training and my experience with sorting physical media: last name, then first. However, the software doesn’t know that I’m listening to Fiona Apple; it searches the web for Apple, Fiona and finds no data to show. Just like the old days with the title articles, so it is with artist names.

So what do you guys do about this? Is saving the artist name as “Last, First” still viable, or is it a vestigial relic of an older technology? I like to sort by this method because it makes sense to me; I shudder to think about trying to scroll through a page of Michaels just to get to Michael Hedges. I don’t know, maybe doing the “Last, First” method is as obsolete in the electronic realm as typing double spaces after sentences; a complete necessity on technologies now rendered obsolete. Should I get modern and save artist names in the natural format? Most player software has a search box to allow me to jump straight to my desired songs, but I’d have to change my habits.

What’s your thought?