One of my pet obsessions as a CD collector is: barcodes. I have written and repeated that the barcode is the best, surest and sometimes only way to find your CD online, for purchase on commercial websites or even just documentation. Many entries on many commercial websites are so flawed – and Amazon is the worst – that in such cases you have no chance of finding the CD you are looking for using the most obvious search criteria : composer, work, interpreter, label. Oftentimes those credits are false, or missing, the cover photos are wrong, for another edition or even for an entirely different CD, or missing. Good luck to the “uninformed” purchaser. Chances are, he won’t find what he’s looking for, or he won’t find the cheapest offer on the website, or he’ll unwittingly buy another edition than the one he tought he was buying, or will even find himself landed with a totally different CD from the one he thought he had ordered.
The barcode, on the other hand – if you know the barcode of the CD you are looking for – will take you for sure to that CD. That is because, on most commercial website that I frequent (the Amazons, Rakuten, Melomania, Tower.jp… – things are not as consistent on eBay, it depends if the individual sellers provide the barcode information), the entries are indexed on the barcodes. Most big marketplace sellers – Momox, Zoverstocks, ReBuyReCommerce, Round3, Worldofbooks, you name it (whatever happened to Caiman?) – simply scan their CDs for sale, and the offer is automatically added to the website’s relevant page (and that’s why they don’t even know – and don’t really care – when the information of the CD that they are selling doesn’t match the credits and product info of the page under which they are selling it, because said credits are false). So type the (usually 12, sometimes 13) digits of the CD’s barcode in the search engine, and it takes you to the entry for that CD. Even if the page’s product info and photo(s) are hopelessly false and misleading, there’s a very strong chance that it IS your CD that is sold there. I’ve found great bargains using that trick – because the entry was so flawed that nobody could know what was sold, and consequently nobody bought, and consequently offer prices were low.
It is very rare that the barcode trick doesn’t work. It may happen (on Amazon and Rakuten particularly) because those website have implemented a nasty feature which I guess they thought very clever: a search on the barcode will NOT yield results if there are currently no offers from marketplace sellers. Well, yeah, I guess the clever ignorants who manage the day-to-day computer operations of those websites said to themselves: “if there is no current offer, who would be interested to even go to the offerless entry”? Well: me, for instance because I am compiling a discography. But, okay, there are workarounds (too complicated to describe here). Using those workarounds has also enabled me to find out that on Amazon (and especially Amazon.uk, it seems), sometimes a search on the barcode won’t yield even though there ARE currently offers; I don’t know why.
Worse than that: on Amazon, again, sometimes a search on the barcode WILL take you to the wrong CD. The reason is that, in another example of Amazon’s bureaucratic un-wieldiness, for no reason that I can comprehend except sheer mistake or Gremlin in the machine, an entry will be indexed on two entirely different barcodes, the legitimate one (e.g. the one corresponding to the product info) and another one. They are not, mind you, barcodes of two different editions of the same CD (that would make sense, for instance, with many issues from the late 1980s and early 1990s, when labels like CBS – not yet Sony – or Deutsche Harmonia Mundi had a barcode for their European distribution and another one for their US distribution – but otherwise the two editions were exactly the same CD, cover art, liner notes). In the case of Amazon’s flawed listings, they are two entirely different CDs. It has happened to me a number of times, though infrequently (I think no more than ten in all my online-purchasing “career”) that I thought I had bought a certain CD, and received an entirely different one – usually junk pop music or “easy listening”. That was through no fault of the seller (except the fault of not checking, and not caring, if the entry’s product info matched their CD – see above), but because of the faulty listing indexed on two different and non-related barcodes. I’ve never had any problems getting a refund in those cases – but it was more complicated to buy the CD I was looking for, because I could buy it a number of times and always receive the other, infamous CD. If ever you are considering buying Koch Schwann’s 3-1146-2, barcode 099923114628,
…with Dvorak’s famous Cello Concerto but also his much rarer posthumous Concerto – don’t! Because chances are, you’ll receive instead “Painted Orange”, barcode 5014182482139, published in 1991 on the label Star Song, SSD8213 (there’s another edition of the same – probably US vs Europe, or the other way around – that has more online visibility, barcode 054438821324). I gave up trying (I junked the two copies I had received of “Painted Orange” and kept the jewel cases as spares).
Whenever I discover such faulty entries, it is an ordeal to get Amazon to fix them. Usually, Amazon’s agents misunderstand what I’m asking (“split page, create new page with barcode matching CD information”), and after tiresome explanatory back and forth, it takes them weeks to fix it – and sometimes they even send me a message that it’s fixed, and I check, and it’s not. All this is wearing and not much is at stake, so now I’ve more or less stopped even trying.
It has been exceedingly rare, however, that I’ve received the wrong CD because two entirely different CDs were actually attributed THE SAME barcode. I’m not sure who attributes barcodes, but the way it goes, each label has its own barcode. Among the barcode’s twelve digits, the first five or six are specific to the label (Universal’s, for instance, with the labels DG, Philips, Decca, but also at some point the French Accord, the Australian ABC Classics…, has been, from the start, 02894, Hyperion 034571, Chandos 095115, etc), the next ones individualize the specific issue (usually reproducing its label number). I’ve seen it happen that a label gave the same barcode to two entirely different releases, because of their choices of label numbering: the example that comes to mind is Tahra’s COL 001, a set devoted to the complete Pathé-Saphir recordings of French conductor Edouard Colonne, barcode 3504129000110 – with 3504129 being Tahra’s label designation – which has the same barcode as their Karel Ancerl set, ANC 001. Search the barcode on Amazon.com and it will take you to:
…but type the same in Melomania’s search engine and it will yield:
…and it makes things very frustrating for the buyer who’d be looking for the valuable Ancerl set, because he won’t find it on Amazon. Or maybe he will: maybe one or the other of those offers under Amazon’s Edouard Colonne listing is actually for the Ancerl set; but are you really going to take the chance? Are you going to try and buy the overpriced one-CD Edouard Colonne (best offer on Amazon at the time of writing is 25$), in the hope of receiving a bargain Ancerl 7-CD set (currently on sale on Melomania for 165€ – that’s got to be around 200$ at the current exchange rate)? I wouldn’t. I waited for the coveted Ancerl set to show up on eBay, where I was sure of what was being sold.
But okay: that’s the same label, obviously its label prefix is going to be the same which multiplies the risk of reproducing a barcode between two different releases (although I don’t recall seeing the same with any other label whose discography I compile, so it was pretty thoughtless of the single-handedly-run Tahra) (and a post-script from June 6: I’ve just happened on another case, Chant du Monde 288 015/17 and 288 051. See my blog post from June 6). But two different labels receiving the same label code? How can that happen?
But it does, apparently. Some years ago, I chanced on one such case: barcode 016861395520. That’s the barcode of a valuable CD I have, Emergo Classics EC 3955-2 with the Orlando String Quartet and George Pieterson (clarinet) playing works of Alfred Schnittke, Isang Yun and Tristan Keuris:
Hence my surprise (well… not really. You grow accustomed to these things) when, searching the barcode on Amazon, I was directed to an entirely different CD: “Photograph Single, Import” by Nickelback, Roadrunners Records RR 3955-2 (note the same label numbering). So, another case of those botched entries indexed on two entirely different barcodes? Not this time – and that was the real surprise: same barcode!
In fact, the Amazon entry is as big a mess as it gets:
And it’s been impossible to get them n to create an entry specific to the Emergo CD. I gave up trying.
Well: long introduction (thanks for reading it to here!) to say that yesterday, I found not one, but a whole series of duplicate barcodes. I was working on one of my discographies, that of the label Russian Disc (valuable for bringing to us many unavailable recordings, live or studio, from the former Soviet Union). Russian Disc’s barcode starts with the digits 74887; it’s flagship series goes by the label numbers RD CD 10 001, 10 002 etc, hence the barcodes 748871000124 , 748871000223 etc. (the penultimate 2 designates a CD, and the final digit goes down one when the label number goes up one, with jumps of four when come the tens, hence 748871000926 and 748871001022 – that’s one of the “mechanics” of barcode progression). But one sub-series of Russian Disc, “Great Soviet Artists”, goes by the label numbers RD CD 15 001, 002 etc., hence barcodes 748871500129, 748871500228 etc. – you get it. I was going to work on compiling that series, starting with 15 001, “Sofronitsky Plays Prokofiev” (backcover photo retrieved from an eBay offer, not high quality, but barcode fully legible):
Surprise again, because searching 748871500129 on Amazon didn’t yield the expected Russian Disc Sofronitsky plays Prokofiev, but a record from the label SOMM (and a series called “Ariadne”), 5001: Carole Farley sings Grieg Songs. But the real surprise came from seeing the backcover photo (for once duly provided by Amazon) and the barcode :
And this time, it’s not a one-off, the series goes on. Russian Disc 15 002 ( 748871500228):
SOMM Ariadne 5002:
…and it goes on. Russian Disc’s series was published in 1993, SOMM’s dates from 2018, so it’s really a case of SOMM parasiting the barcodes of Russian Disc. I’m conjecturing that what may have happened is that Russian Disc was attributed the five-digit barcode prefix 74887, which, when complemented with their label numbers 1500x, gives barcodes 748871500x2y, and SOMM was landed with the six-digit barcode prefix 748871, which, with the addition of their label numbers 500x, unfortunately gives barcodes 748871500x2y, same as Russian Disc’s.
SOMM’s Ariadne is not an uninteresting series, but what sucks is that they make it impossible to find on many websites, starting with Amazon, the Russian Disc installments. And what pisses me off even more at – again – Amazon, is that now, the reviews I and others posted prior to 2018 under Russian Disc 15 009 (barcode 748871500921), with a fabulous recording of the Violin Concertos of Khachaturian by the stupendous and tragically short-lived Julian Sitkovetsky (father of Dimitri – “Hearing these recordings as well as Sitkovetsky’s Sibelius, I am left with no doubt that, had he lived, he would have been viewed, indeed, as one of the greatest violinists of the 20th Century, an equal to Oistrakh. A tragic loss for music.”), now appear to be for SOMM’s “Great Classic Film Music, vol. 2”. Oh please! Well, heck… I’m haven’t even tried to get Amazon to fix it. [9 February 2023] I’ve now reposted my review on this website.
Melomania is again fine – probably because the SOMM CDs have not yet reached the shores of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. You can find Russian Disc 15 007 (Heinrich Neuhaus plays Chopin, recordings from 1953-1955) listed on Amazon (badly – no cover photo), because, bizarrely, its barcode is slightly different from the rest of the series: not 748871500723 as it should have been, but 12-digit 744887150075 (as often, information including front and back cover photos is the most complete on Melomania – link will open a new tab). The cover art is different from the rest of the series, and I wonder if that has anything to do with the discrepancy, or the fact that it was published in 1994 (but the rest of the series, which returns to the normal barcode numbering, also). I don’t know.
Also, apparently SOMM’s series stops at 5012 barcode 748871501225. I don’t know what happens next for the series, if it just stops there or is given another barcode. But the good thing about its disappearence is that finally, Russian Disc 15013, barcode 748871501324 (Samuel Feinberg plays Bach’s Well-Temperered Keyboard, 4 CDs, much-coveted and expensive on the marketplace) and subsequent releases are listed. Russian Disc’s Great Russian Artists series seems to stop in 1996 at 15 025, barcode 748871502529, Glière’s Symphony No. 3 “Ilya Murometz” conducted by Natan Rakhlin in 1974, see the excellent entry on Discogs.com.
And while I’m at it, here is, as an teaser to my future (?) discography of Russian Disc, a listing of the releases of that 15 00x “Great Russian Artists” series. There are some gaps, corresponding to issues I haven’t found trace of; since no corresponding listing appears on the existing discographies or on Discogs.com, I am assuming that they were never released.
RD CD 15 001 Sofronitsky plays Prokofiev Tales of the Old Grandmother (11.VI.55), Gavotte op. 12-2, Rigaudon op. 12-3, Légende op. 12-6 (9.VI.53), Prélude op. 12-7 (11.VI.53), Allemande op. 12-8, Scherzo humoristique op. 12-9 (18.VI.53), Sarcasmes op. 17 (10.IV.55), Sonata 7 (11.VI.55), Visions fugitives (10.4.55) (1993) 748871500129
RD CD 15 002 “Oistrakh Plays Tchaikovsky” Violin Concerto (Oistrakh 1939), Rococo Variations (Knushevitsky 1951) All-Union Radio Orchestra, Gauk, Romeo & Juliet (adaptation for Soprano Tenor & Orchestra) Samosud 1954 (1993) 748871500228
RD CD 15 003 Mravinsky conducts Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings (25.III.49 incorrectly dated 1961), Capriccio Italien (23.II.50), Francesca da Rimini (10.III.48) Leningrad Philharmonic (1993) 748871500327
RD CD 15 004 Neuhaus plays Scriabin Piano Concerto (All-Union Radio Orchestra, Nikolai Golovano 1948), Poems op. 32/1&2, op 59/1, op. 63/1&2, Prelude & Nocturne for the left-hand op. 9, Preludes op. 11/4 & 10, 8 Preludes op. 13 (1993) 748871500426 Front and back cover art with track listing on Discogs.com
RD CD 15 005 Shostakovich plays Shostakovich Cello Sonata op.40 (Rostropovich 1957), Piano Concerto No.1 op.35 (Moscow Philharmonic, Samosud 27.XI.57), Piano Concerto No.2 op.102 (Gauk, Moscow Radio Orchestra, 1958) (1993) 748871500525
15 006 not found
RD CD 15 007 Neuhaus plays Chopin Barcarolle (1955), Impromptu No.3 (1955), Nocturne, op.62/2 (1955), Piano Concerto No.1 op.11 (All-Union Radio Orchestra, Gauk 1953) Polonaise op.61 (1955) (1994) 744887150075, barcode 748871500723 not found. Front and back cover photos with track listing on Melomania
RD CD 15 008 Myaskovsky Symphony No. 6 op. 23 Kirill Kondrashin USSR SO (7.II.1959) 748871500822
RD CD 15 009 Julian Sitkovetsky Glazunov Violin Concerto op.82 (Kondrashin, Moscow Youth Orch. 1952), Khachaturian Violin Concerto ((Romanian Radio Orchestra, Niyazi 1954) (1994) 748871500921
RD CD 15 010 Maria Yudina Beethoven Diabelli-Variationen, op.120 (1961), “Eroica Variations” op.35 (1961) (1994) 748871501027
15011, 15012 not found
RD CD 15 013 (4CDs) Bach Well-Tempered Clavier Samuel Feinberg 1969 (1994) 748871501324
748871501423, 15014 not found
RD CD 15 015 Shostakovich From Jewish Folk Poetry, op.79 (Zara Dolukhanova mezzo, Nina Dorliak soprano, Alexander Maslennikov tenor, Shostakovich piano, 1956), Yuri Shaporin Six Songs (Dolukhanova, Berta Kozel piano 1952), Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov Four Poems of Rabindranath Tagore (Dolukhanova, Eduard Grach violin, Berta Kozel piano 1952), Dmitri kabalevsky Six Joyful Songs (Dolukhanova, Nina Svetlanov piano 1966) (1994) 748871501522 see cover art on Melomania
RD CD 15 016 to 15 020 not found
RD CD 15 021 Pavel Lisitsian Romances by Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky Recordings 1939-61. Pianists Naum Walter, Malvel Sakharov, Alexander Erokhin, Boris Abramovich, Andrei Mytnik, Nikolai Korolykov, Alexander Dolukhanian M. Pazovsky (1995) 748871502123 see cover art and track listing on Discogs.com
RD CD 15 022 Pavel Lisitsian sings Glinka, Dargomyzhsky, Cui, Balakirev, Arensky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Grieg, Saint-Saëns, Ravel Recordings 1939-61. Piano Malvel Sakharov, Naum Walter, Boris Abramovich, Andrei Mytnik, Nikolai Korolykov, Alexander Dolukhanian, Alexei Zybtsev, Orchestra conducted by Semyon Gorchakov (1994) 748871502222 see cover art and track listing on Discogs.com
RD CD 15 023 Zara Dolukhanova Arias by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Meyerbeer, Saint-Saëns, Verdi, Mozart, Rossini Moscow PO, Grigory Stolarov (1995) 748871502321 For track listing, good front and back cover photos on Amazon
RC CD 15 024 not found
RD CD 15 025 Gliere Symphony No.3 in B minor, “Ilya Murometz” Natan Rakhlin, USSR Radio TV SO 1974 (1996) 748871502529 cover art on Discogs.com