Discogs is among a rare group of Portland startups — like Digital Trends and Panic — that folks in the Portland startup community have often heard of and used — but don’t realize it’s actually a local company. But it is. And perhaps even more rare, a Portland-area company that has gained and sustained worldwide recognition. But now, it’s grappling with balancing its community’s needs with the business’ needs. And, unfortunately, that’s putting one of the most amazing databases of music ever created at risk.
Discogs has served as a destination for vinyl collectors and music enthusiasts — for 23 years. Established as a primary database for recorded music, the website has historically been the go-to site for those passionate about music. From cataloging collections to accessing information on obscure artists, “Have you checked Discogs?” was often a common refrain.
What was initially conceived of as something of a Wikipedia for recorded music — although, founded in 2000 by Intel programmer Kevin Lewandowski, it predates the encyclopedia site by a few months — hasn’t changed a great deal since its conception, besides the introduction of the marketplace in the mid-aughts. Discogs is a fairly clunky, definitely old-fashioned website devoted to even older technology: a vestige of an earlier, more idyllic internet that has spent the last decade walking the record-needle-thin line between 2020s algorithmically driven tech monolith and niche unprofitable obscurity.
Now, a business decision to raise rates is causing concern within that vast community of audiophiles. Sellers are considering leaving Discogs for other platforms like eBay or Amazon, which boast a wider potential buyer base and better infrastructure. And that loss of community members translates into a loss of the collective knowledge that has worked to build the incredible Discogs’ database over the years.
Every business goes through struggles. After surviving on the Web for more than two decades, I’m hopeful that Discogs can work with its community to resolve this. And retain its prominence as the definitive database of music that it has become.
Even if few people realize that it’s an amazing “accidental entrepreneurship” Portland-area success story.
For more, read “Discogs’ vibrant vinyl community is shattering” on The Verge.