About compositions

Below are my findings after 6 month roon usage. I hope roon team will fix the whole composition handling. As it is today, it isn’t in a very usable state (better than nothing, but also very time consuming to maintain).

Behavior of the system

I have noticed three different behaviors when maintaining the metadata for composers if no composers are added during identification:

  1. Adding a composer also adds this composer to the composition and can be regularly maintained. Visible is only what has been applied.

  2. Adding any name to the composer (doesn’t matter which one), all composers magically show up in album view. In this case the composition has already been identified but isn’t added to a track. In such cases I have to proof whether everything is correct (which is very time consuming) as this requires to use the track menu to go to each track’s composition and check for correct names.

  3. Adding a composer to a track does only add this name, but there could be composers already added in the composition, so to opposite of the behavior in #2. Also very annoying as I don’t know whether everything is correctly set. Example of this is with Power Station’s album and here track “Lonely Tonight”. Composer seen in album view is “Bernard Edwards” but in composition editor “Robert Palmer” is added; which is correct in this case, but there are other cases where this might be totally wrong. Therefore, I have to go through each track and verify the data.

  4. Adding a composer does not allow to enter the composition. In this case the roon capabilities are not allowing for any further usage, so, only documentary when viewing the album. This is the worst as it really is annoying. I assume a flag in the roon database closing such tracks from further maintenance.

Composers and tracks management

There are four different states how a track is being handled by roon:

  1. Unidentified record: This - of course - does not have any metadata which are not tagged in the files. But, whenever a composer is added to a track, it directly gets recognized as such. Therefore, a relation to the same composition (identified by track-name and at least one composer match) will be made. Also, in this case, a manual merge of compositions is possible. If roon software would allow to maintain all metadata incl. bio, album reviews and aka relations, then I would prefer having a “naked” system where I would be able to add all needed data.

  2. Identified record with composers added on all tracks: In all cases, when composers are added during identification to all tracks, the composition editor can also be opened using the track-menu --> Go to composition. Unfortunately the metadata roon uses isn’t very good as often there are some composers missing or not correct. However, this is the best state one could get when integrating an album. On the other side, this also opens the gate to roon for changing data even if you proved everything is correct, roon could mess it up with “corrected” metadata at any point in time. Here a switch is needed to close the updates from happening.

  3. Identified record with partial composers added: There are two behaviors I have seen.

  • One is that only few composers are added which are normally the tracks not written by any member of the group, so cover versions. In this case, the chance is less than 50% that adding a composer to the missed tracks allows also to use the composition editor. An example for this behavior is Foghat’s first album where track 1, 2 (wrong but at least added) and 7 “Maybelline” (shows three composers (again wrong) but only Chuck Berry in the composition editor) are exposed with composers, but none of the rest, all the ones without composer won’t make it to a compostion.

  • If the identification is the other way around, the chance of using compositions on the cover versions of tracks won’t be recognized in about 90% of the cases. Examples: CCR’s Cosmo’s Factory (I heard it through the grapevine) and Humble Pie’s Performance (Rollin’ Stone)

  1. Albums with bonus records: In most cases, when bonus records are not identified in the metadata with composers, adding them, does not allow to use the composition properly. Example: Power Station Japan release of Living in Fear has 2 Bonus tracks which will not be recognized as a composition even if a composer is added.

Multiple composers who are in fact the same person

This is a problem which is not only a problem to roon. Two different conditions can be observed:

  1. Same person with different names. Examples of this are Dr. John / Mac Rebennack. Same person with aka name. In some cases metadata has Dr. John, in some it has Rebennack. In the system they are identified as “aka” but in compositions these are 2 different people and therefore don’t allow to merge the tracks in compositions.

  2. Same person but entered differently. Sometimes composers are added by only using the last name or abbreviations and also using the full name. Although it is a metadata source problem, it is annoying to users of roon.

Writer vs. Composer

I don’t know where the difference is in meaning, but in 99% of the cases roon will not change the composition behavior if a writer is manually turned into a composer in the tracks. So, when you see a writer popping up, in one or more of the tracks, this album cannot be maintained completely.

musicbrainz (where Roon sources some of its metadata) uses writer when no more specific information is available about the creator’s contribution. The musicbrainz hierarchy for work creators looks like this:

I think Roon doesn’t use a hierarchical model below the composer category btw.


As for getting data right – from my point things should happen at the following places (in particular order):

  1. at the metadata source (allmusic, rovi; musicbrainz) - best choice, but a lot of work if you have to initiate the update or do it yourself

  2. in file tags - a lot of work too, even more so if you cannot get metadata from a good source

  3. only minor stuff (like artist pictures) and maybe a merge now and then within Roon.
    You cannot be sure that what you do within Roon will survive a future (data) update - and there may be good reason why that is so, not just oversight.

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