All my music is on CD. What's the best way to sort the shelf of CD boxes so I can find what I'm after quickly? By artist? By album title? What do you do with compilation CDs? As the collection grows it's getting harder to find things...

  • 2
    Keep it simple; sort by artist (and by release order within artist), all VA comps go at the end by title. May 27, 2016 at 15:27
  • 1
    A friend of mine sorts by release date [& his collection goes back to the early 70s, on vinyl. He's now nearly filled his second room]. Simple, as you never need to re-box, just add a new one to the end. You do, of course, need an encyclopaedic knowledge to ever be able to find anything again, which he has. Perhaps not recommended for everyone :)
    – Tetsujin
    May 27, 2016 at 20:08
  • Your ordering has to work for YOU. I personally sort by genre, and then by artist name. Most of my CD's are in a sort of file drawer system with CDs in plastic envelopes --otherwise they'd take up far too much space (similar to this: s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/db/f5/02/…). I also keep a few favorite artists representing multiple albums in CD books. May 28, 2016 at 1:50
  • 3
    There is no 'answer' to this question.
    – DA.
    Jun 1, 2016 at 22:37
  • 2
    What is a "cd"?
    – Neil Meyer
    Jan 9, 2022 at 11:52

4 Answers 4


Record shops tend to sort CDs by genre, then within that, by artist name, with a 'various artists' section at the end of each genre for compilations.

  • it may be used, but genre sorting doesn't work well in practice. genre is so slippery a facet that many, many records do not fit well into just one category. Aug 1, 2016 at 16:28
  • @AaronBrick I agree that genre can be very hard to pin down. Record shops tend to deal with that by having fewer, fairly broad genres, which reduces the proportion of uncertain cases. If organising one's own CD collection, you have the advantage of coming down on the side of one's own opinion about such matters, so you can potentially split things up more. For a long time I divided my mp3 collection up by genre, using about 40 genres... it worked pretty well for me.
    – user16
    Aug 1, 2016 at 19:20

the path of least resistance for popular music, as suggested by Johnny Bones above, is sorting first by artist, then by release date.

however, this approach falls over in several cases. with classical music, you may care more about the composer than the performer; when a musician joins several groups in succession, their work won't fall together; collaborations can only be filed under one artist's name; and there is no way to grab all the music of a certain genre, or from a certain country, or a certain year, etc. you need a faceted database like that of discogs or musicbrainz to answer these questions.


You won't be able to arrive at a sorting allowing all searches to be easy. My proposal: find a somewhat decent sorting (e. g. by main artist/year, but possibly simply by date of purchase) and maintain a database (including the physical placement) for more complicated stuff.


I had the same problem with my LP collection, so when I switched to CDs (35 years ago) this is what I did:

  • Put a ID-number sticker on the spine of each case, 001, 002, etc. when I bought it.
  • File each CD in order of date of purchase.
  • Record the ID-number, Artist, Title, Price, Where-bought, etc. in a text file on a computer, with one line per CD.
  • grep that file whenever I want to find anything.

That file now has nearly 800 entries in it, and has changed format many times.

The file is organized by Artist and several generic categories. Looking for something in a printed copy of it is a lot easier than looking through stacks of CD cases. Once I've found what I want, it's trivial to locate the case and disc as they are physically stored based on the numerical ID I assigned to it.

It's also easy to write a quick program to display the results in any order or format.

If I were starting all over, I'd likely choose to keep the information in a MySQL database. (I'm not sure why I haven't bothered converting it.)

Assigning the ID-numbers in order of purchase is handy, but not necessary. For an existing collection, just assign the numbers in whatever order the cases happen to be.

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