Plastic fanatics - The DJs who built the biggest record collections

Plastic fanatics - The DJs who built the biggest record collections

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

by Tat

There is a famous meme on the internet which appeared in the New Yorker, which relates to the ‘self-inflicted’ problem of large record collections. In the image, seen below, a record collector says to his friend: “The two things that really drew me to vinyl were the expense and the inconvenience”.

I wrote about the issue of record collections spiralling out of control last year for this blog. One minute you have an Ikea Kallax filled with 12 inches, the next you are looking into renting storage space to keep the deep house part of your collection stored whilst you concentrate on backfilling with classic Chicago house records. And whilst it might seem like a joke, there are two examples in this article who did exactly that. 

I started buying records in 1979 and when my daughter came along I realised that I could not continue adding to my collection at the same rate and filling a house when another person had joined us in our rather small space. That led me to weeding my collection, something I now do periodically and as a result I have now sold over half of my collection, which probably peaked at about 15,000 records in total. To most sane people that is a large collection, and I still buy records, but to some in the list that follows, 15,000 records is small fry. My collection is now one where I feel comfortable with what is in it, the fillers, impulse purchases have been sold or sent to the charity shop. 

A big collection does not equate to a good collection and whilst it is subjective as to what a good collection is, there are plenty of DJ collections that are filled with thousands of rather average, dated club tools. How many banging techno records do you need before you realise you have a lot of similar sounding tracks? Eventually a collection will become overwhelming and the older you get the more you realise that you have less time to play them all. For the vinyl addict, label or artist completist, that is not relevant, the hunting down of elusive records becomes the buzz. This was captured in Dave Haslam’s brilliant short book, ‘A Life in Thirty-Five Boxes’. Vinyl sales in the UK and other parts of the globe continue to grow and there is a thriving second hand market. 

Before we look at some of the leading collectors on the scene, special mention must go to Brazilian Zero Freitas who started collecting records in 1965 and has gone on to own eight million records and CDs. Put it like this, if a person lived until they were 80, they would have 29200 days on this planet. To play all eight million records from the moment they were born, they would need to play 274 records every single day. Of course, unless you physically count each record or have your entire collection catalogued, you will never truly know how many you own, but there is no doubt there are some big collectors out there. John Peel also deserves a posthumous mention as someone who built up a six-figure collection. Peel may largely be remembered as a DJ who championed indie and alternative music, but he was playing underground electro, hip hop and dance music well before the mainstream had jumped onto the bandwagon.
Carl Cox

Carl Cox - 150,000 records

Carl Cox is the ultimate dance music fan boy, a genuine article who has loved music intensely since childhood and was a prodigal DJ who has gone on to be the best in the world. Since taking up residency behind the turntables he has amassed an incredible amount of records until he stopped buying them in the mid noughties. In an interview with Fact Magazine in 2014, Cox claimed that half of his collection was stored in a triple garage in Melbourne, and quite impressively was catalogued from the late sixties to when he ceased buying vinyl. Moving them was no mean feat and as the legendary DJ said in the interview: “It was a massive headache. And not only the amount of them – all the records were organised chronologically when they were in my old house, so when they got boxed up I had to make sure they were done by year.”

Daniele Baldelli

Daniele Baldelli - 65,000 records

Despite having less than half the size of Carl Cox’s collection, it is still rather staggering to think someone could acquire 65,000 records. Baldelli started his DJing career in the late 60s and is another giant of the DJ scene with a sublime taste in music that led to him developing what he referred to as the ‘Cosmic Sound’. Now in his 70s, Baldelli continues to DJ, produce and remix. He is the gold-standard open-minded DJ who can take you on a journey with his sets and remains an inspiration to fellow DJs and music lovers. 

DJ Shadow

DJ Shadow - Over 60,000 records

It should come as no surprise that one of the leading exponents of sampling and making innovative music from forgotten songs should be included in this list. DJ Shadow AKA Joshua Davis has amassed a similar number to Baldelli, except with a focus on hip hop. In an interview with The Irish Times in 2016, Shadow stated that he wanted to try and buy a 12-inch copy of every rap record ever made. That is quite a bold ambition given just how many rap records have been created and that an awful lot of them were never any good. This however, goes back to the completist mantra and Shadow is clearly a scholar of hip hop and someone who cares passionately about its place in cultural society. Thankfully for Shadow, a large part of the rap scene adopted CDs and then digital, relieving him of some of that burden. That said, with the emergence of Bandcamp and limited releases by underground hip hop artists, he may have his work cut out. Nevertheless, this is an incredible goal and we cannot fault the completist attitude by this great DJ and producer. 

Gilles Peterson

Gilles Peterson - 30,000 records

Whilst everyone was wrapping themselves up in the hype of Acid House and the subsequent fractured scenes, Peterson was chipping away with his own brand of on point music. Like the others in the list, Peterson was a music fanatic from a young age and as a result fell in love with vinyl. His enduring passion for music is obvious through various interviews and radio shows and that it is quite clear, like Shadow he still digs for new, old and interesting records to share with his audiences. 

Danny Tenaglia

Danny Tenaglia - Unknown

One of house music’s most respected DJs, Tenaglia shared a video of his legendary basement that was half nightclub, half record warehouse. Another DJ and music enthusiast who transcends the scene with four decades of playing, producing and remixing some of dance and pop music’s artists. Unlike many large record collections, it can almost become impossible to access a lot of the records to actually play them once furniture and other objects cram into the room. Extra brownie points to Tenaglia for having extra space, not only to access the records but to accommodate dozens of his friends to dance in the same space. 

Finally, a shout out to Australian Brad Miocevich whose 30,000 record collection resulted in him building a house to keep them in. Miocevich acquired the collection when he bought it as a job lot from Perth’s 720 ABC radio station in 2005. It is hard not to be impressed by the tasteful way the music fan has created a new home for this extensive collection. 

However you collect music, on vinyl, CD or digital, make sure you enjoy it and ultimately share it with others. 

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