Analog music storage

(It’s been two years since I first sat down and wrote the post below. Things have changed, and I’m super happy with the way I’ve got CD’s and 7″s stored now. You can see and read the update here.)
After 25 years of buying and collecting music, I’ve got quite a few flat round things with music on them. Some have music on one side, some have music on both sides. Storing all these discs has always been something that was kind of secondary to the collecting of CDs and records, but I’m at a point now where I’m tired of not having things in order, and there’s just so much of it that keeping it as tight and small as possible is vital. Getting rid of some of them isn’t an option right no.

LP’s have been around the longest of any of the formats I’ve got, and there are plenty of record collectors out there who’ve tackled this problem. The easiest/best looking way to keep LPs that I’ve found is to use the Expedit shelf system from Ikea. They come in a number of sizes/formations, and are the perfect size for LP’s. They even have doors you can buy for each little cube, if you prefer a cleaner look:

Mostly LPs, with some 10″ records in the top right cube. (This is about 500 records.)

We also have a pretty swanky old-school record cabinet that we got from an awesome local furniture restorer. This one is fancy so it can live in the living room next to the stereo and it might be my favorite piece of furniture that we own…

pay no attention to the plunger.

Cats in this image may be larger than they appear. (About 125 records here.)

Like I said, LP storage was never a problem. Worst case scenario, I had milk crates galore to use for that.

7″s have always been a little more difficult to keep in good shape. I think this is mostly due to the format being relegated to singles outside of the punk and independent music scenes. They haven’t been as collectible to mainstream music audiences as LP’s, so there doesn’t exist a TON of furniture or storage units devoted to this format.

That said, they’re my absolute favorite format for records, so i have quite a few. Somehow, somewhere, i lucked into some milk crates that are a different size than the normal American milk crate. It’s almost as if they were designed to hold records. They’ll hold LP’s upright and square in one direction, and 2 rows of 7″s in the other direction.

Two of these are commercially available, and one was apparently liberated from a Dutch dairy somewhere in Europe. I have no recollection of this, but the inside of the box is the same size as the two red ones:

this is about 550 7″s.

And then I pilfered this raisin crate from my dad’s collection of random stuff (it’s from South Africa, circa 1954!):

this one holds about 50 records

And that concludes the vinyl portion of this post. We’ll now be moving on to the Compact Disc portion of music storage.

For several years, I’ve kept my CD’s in a few of the classic large Case Logic CD wallets. I never was a huge fan of those, for a number of reasons, but kept them around because they were the best way to keep CD’s that I could find.

1. They don’t allow for easy alphabetizing or other organizing. Once you load them up, if you need to insert one in the middle somewhere, everything after it has to be shifted by one space. And if you come home with several new CD’s, forget it.
2. They tend to be redesigned every year or even more often than that, so once you have two or three big wallets, each one works slightly differently, or looks different.
3. They’re not that visually pleasing to look at, either open or closed. Closed, they look like a Trapper Keeper for someone who wears a suit to the office, and open they remind me a lot of bad jukeboxes from bad bars.
4. At this point in my life/CD collecting, I’m no longer interested in schlepping a pile of 500 CD’s around with me. I don’t need a portable solution.

So, how to store all these CD’s? Well, you should know that I DESPISE jewel boxes. Can’t stand them. They take up space that’s unnecessary. They break. They’re horrible plastic bits of crap that are bad for the planet. They’re the reason i moved as much as I could into wallets in the first place.

So, I’ve been looking for a solution to how to store my CD’s in a way that i really like. I asked around, and everyone seemed to have a method of storing their CD’s that worked sort of, but nothing that would work for me.

Here are some parameters for my ideal CD storage solution:

1. Easily expandible as time progresses and I own more.
2. Easily alphabetized, and easy to keep in order once new CD’s arrive.
3. Looks somewhat visually pleasing. I don’t need to get an erection when I see it, but I also don’t want it to be ugly.
4. Must accommodate 100% of my CD collection. It’s not huge, by any means, but I do have a number of demo CD’s that came in a paper/cardstock/no sleeve at all, discs that came in a cardboard+plastic digipack, and any other assortment of cardboard digipack sleeves or folded cases.
5. Must accommodate liner note booklet, CD itself, AND tray card. I hate having the tray cards in a separate box. I know CD’s aren’t favored for their artwork, but sometimes bands will opt to include the tracklisting on the tray card and not the CD or liner notes, so finding a song or song title is a pain if the tray cards are all boxed up separate from the CD’s.
6. Must not cost more than the collection of CD’s themselves.
7. Must be fairly simple, and robust. I’m looking for the ultimate CD storage system here, so that I don’t have to go through this again in 5 years.

I looked all over for some kind of audiophile solution, but none seemed to exist. There were plenty of jewelbox-laden wall unit sized monstrosities made of wood and costing $999 or more. No thanks.

I found a couple of DJ storage/portable briefcase/suitcase looking options that held up to 1000 CD’s, but those didn’t allow for the tray card. Nope, Chuck Testa.

There was one system I found that held 600 discs in this odd looking tower device, and each disc was in it’s own sleeve, with 100 of them per drawer, but again, this didn’t hold the tray cards.  It was also pretty ugly and had a huge footprint for being so tall. Very close, but no cigar.

A number of CD storage products looked like they had been designed by NASA engineers, and built by Hasbro. Lots of moving parts, hinges, spinning bits, all made from injection molded plastic. Nein, danke.

While in San Diego for Awesomefest, I stayed at a friend of a friend’s house, and HIS roommate had a ton of records, CD’s, and even a few laserdiscs.

CD’s on the left, DVD’s on the right. Floor to ceiling, custom built-in shelves. Sorry it’s so dark. I shot this with my built in laptop webcam, and it was dark…obviously.

In case it’s not clear, he’s got them all in jewel boxes. Well, most of them in jewel boxes. On the bottom shelf were a few wire mesh baskets holding CD’s in clear plastic sleeves. I’m guessing these were demos and other non-jewel boxed CD’s that didn’t work on the upper part of the shelf.

These mesh wire bins stuck in my brain. I went to bagsunlimited.com, and checked out their different options for plastic bag/sleeves. These are the thin poly bags that 7″s and some LP’s come in. Not shrink wrap. The company sells an amazing assortment of products for storying all kinds of music and printed ephemera. Bags and boxes for records, comic books, Little Golden Books, and many other random collectible things.

One of their products is called the “Big Little Book” bag, and is 5 1/4 x 7″:

Bags Unlimited’s SBLB25 2.5 mil poly bag

This size bag is a little big for CD’s with tray cards, but since it also fits comfortably digipacks, and those slightly oversized cardboard sleeves, it will handle all the CD’s I currently have, plus hopefully any others I come across.

I emailed my friend in San Diego whose house we stayed at, and asked him to ask his roommate where those wire mesh bins came from. Turns out there are a ton of companies that make something similar, but the problem with most of them is that they’re very unattractive first, and too small second. Some of them were made from fabric. Some of them were made from wicker. Some of them were made from fabric AND wicker. ugh. Most of them are designed to hold CD’s with the spine facing up, so as to be readable in storage mode. Not compatible with wider tray cards oriented with the spine on the side, the way records are stored.

The Container Store sells a wire basket for storing DVD’s which is where this whole plan comes together:

Silver Mesh DVD Bin from the Container Store

They’re 13 bucks, and they’re 8 inches wide. (Which, incidentally, means they’ll also hold 7″s comfortably.) And at 6 inches tall, they’re stackable when loaded with CDs. (Math majors will note that there are not stackable when filled with 7″s).

So, I’ve put these two together, and this is the result. CD’s go with liner note booklet and tray card into the Big Little Bag, and then the bag goes into the wire mesh bin:

This is about 450-500 CDs, with liner notes and tray cards.

This way, you can flip through the CDs as if they’re 7″s or LP’s. They are VERY space efficient, as you can see, the bins look nice, adding new CD’s to the middle doesn’t disrupt the alphabetizing, the bins aren’t going out of production anytime soon (per the CSR at the Container Store when I grilled him), the bins are stackable if they need to take up less space, they hold CD+liner notes+tray card easily, and finally, they fit previously-jewel-boxed discs as well as digipacks and cardboard sleeved albums all the same.

Special note for anyone still reading: you can click on most of the above images to see a much larger image, in which you can make out a number of records and/or CD’s in the photo. Have fun browsing my collection.

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3 Responses to Analog music storage

  1. xpadrex says:

    I use the Expedit for LP’s as well. For 7″ I use Ikea DVD holders, and slip them into the Expedit.

    For CD’s, Ikea used to make a narrower Billy bookcase, and had these inserts that would allow each shelf to hold two rows of CD’s. It was easily the best CD storage system I ever had.

    But I’ve decided to get rid of all my cd’s. So what I have left is relagated to milk crates.

  2. veganboyjosh says:

    a> do you still have some of those CDs you’ve decided to get rid of?
    b>i tried putting the wire mesh DVD bins into the Expedit, and they fit two high, but only one wide. I’m ok with that,because i believe they’ll fit with the doors closed. once it’s time to settle down somewhere, i’m pretty sure the DVD bins will be what i switch the 7″s to. too bad that’ll make it one bin per cube…

  3. Jerry Young says:

    I do. Most are listed on Amazon.

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