American Discography Project History

The American Discography Project (ADP) has a long history of conceptualization and a few efforts at realization, dating back decades. While such early discographers as William R. Moran and Ted Fagan may not have envisioned the ADP, their view of systematic discography as an approach to documenting the recorded output of the American record industry is the progenitor of the ADP.

One of the earliest attempts at something akin to the ADP was the American Vintage Record Labelography (AVRL), a proposed master discography project of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) compiling discographic data on all 78rpm record labels. While much concerted and laudable effort was put into the creation of the AVRL, it never became a reality.

When Bill Moran asked UC Santa Barbara to take over the editing of the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (EDVR) in 2003, there were no initial plans beyond completing the work of Mr. Moran and Mr. Fagan on the EDVR. However, it became evident over time that the EDVR had the necessary institutional support, expertise, and technical infrastructure to expand beyond the Victor Talking Machine Company and to incorporate other record companies—and potentially realize the AVRL dream.

After the debut of the EDVR database in 2008, the editorial team from the UCSB Library's Department of Special Collections approached the Packard Humanities Institute with a proposal to support the expansion and reengineering of the EDVR platform to include previously published discographies, particularly to support the efforts of the university and the Library of Congress in digitizing and providing online access to recordings controlled by Sony Music Entertainment that could be streamed online through the National Jukebox and the EDVR. Sony had granted the right to tens of thousands of recordings online, but the discographic data had not yet been edited to enable online access to these recordings. By licensing the data from previously published discographies, ADP staff could put content online much quicker than if it were edited from scratch.

The Packard Humanities Institute agreed to provide funding, and UCSB’s editorial team began work on four discographies previously published and owned by the Santa Barbara-based publishing company ABC-CLIO: Berliner, Columbia, Okeh, and Brunswick. The discographies were sent to a pre-media firm in India to be keyed into a tabular structure so they could be loaded into a master ADP database at UCSB. After the discographies were loaded into the master database, the ADP editors began the task of verifying and normalizing information. While the data is not being re-created from scratch, it is being edited to fit the framework of the ADP and match existing editorial conventions.

The editing work of the ADP is ongoing, and new content will continue to be added for years to come, but the realization of a comprehensive, authoritative discography of 78rpm-era recordings is now at hand.