What does it all mean?
September 3, 2009 1:58 PM   Subscribe

What do these codes on my CDs mean?

On some of my CDs' jewel cases there are short, three- or four-character codes directly after the catalog number on the spine or the back of the case. The codes do not show up on the CDs themselves. The codes are printed in square boxes, similar to old-school track numbering and digital/analog recording identifiers (DDD, ADD, AAD).

I have only found them on records published by Decca (London, Argo, etc.), Deutsche Grammophon (and Archiv), and Philips. The only consistent trend between these is that they all have some connection with Polygram or Polydor.

Examples from DG:
445 542-2 [G][MA]
289 463 612-2 [G][OR]
439 006-2 [G][HS]

Example from Philips (this only appears on the back of the case):
420 354-2 [P][M]

Examples from London and Argo, respectively:
410 017-2 [10] [L][H]
414 595-2 [Z][H]
posted by clorox to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
All of the examples cited appear to be classical recordings. My conjecture is that by referencing unique codes (stock numbers?) on the CDs...and classical music radio station websites...and classical music reference websites...and books such as A Rough Guide to Classical Music, allow audiophiles and those who are really, really serious about their classical music to specify a very particular recording rather than the same selection performed by a different conductor/symphony/orchestra/ensemble/whatever.
posted by Cats' Concert at 9:45 PM on September 3, 2009

Best answer: I have a number of nonclassical CDs with similar codes following the catalog number, all on PolyGram or related labels. None seem to date past the mid-to-late 1980s—they stopped around the same time they stopped putting the red band that says STEREO at the top of the spine. I suspect they're pricing codes (full price vs. midline, for example).
posted by Lazlo at 10:19 PM on September 3, 2009

Best answer: Well, I'm now pretty sure I know what some of them are for, at least. The first box (second for the London record) identifies the label the album was published under. G for Deutsche Grammophon, P for Philips, etc. Z is for Argo (presumably) because Archiv is A.

On the DG records, the second box indicates the series that the album is a part of, similar to what Lazlo said. MA is for the Masters series of releases, OR is for the Original Recordings series of re-releases, HS is for the Karajan Gold series, etc. More series can be found on DG's website, browsing through the "Series" menu.

For the other labels, or for releases not in a specific collection, I think Lazlo is spot-on with his idea of pricing lines.

Browsing through the labels' websites, though, shows that these codes are applied both inconsistently, and inconsistently inconsistently. The best I can come up with so far is that they depend on when the particular label was swallowed up by the huge DG/Decca/Polygram/Philips/GPG/Universal music conglomerate, but I don't have the time or interest in getting all the way to the bottom of this particular mystery.
posted by clorox at 12:24 PM on October 14, 2009

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