Classical Metadata is (still) a big mess

I have read with interest this impressive description of the Roon metadata model.

When I look at this search results page, I see an unstructured mess

How does this sort of result reflect a consistent metadata model?
Roon has many great features, but classical metadata definitely is not one of them. And I haven’t really seen it improving over the last two years. Or did I miss something?

I looked a and found an organized structure.

This is more along the lines of what I would be expecting, reading the description of the Roon metadata model. I wonder how they did it.

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They “did it” with consistent application of tags. Roon is reflecting the haphazard organization of the databases and libraries it uses.

I have been very impressed with Idagio for Classical. But it is the polar opposite of the roon approach. From what I can see after a bit of snooping, well over half their staff are manually tidying up label metadata to get the results you see. I don’t know how sustainable that is. But I agree with you, it is impressive.

I feal your pain but its not just a ROON problem. I rip CDs using dbpoweramp CD ripper. It gives the clearest illustration of the problem. It show the scema for saving a ripped file.

[IFVALUE]album artist,[album artist],[IFCOMP]Various Artists[][IF!COMP][artist][][]/[album]/[track] [artist] - [title]

No I don’t know what all this means except the file is saved under album artist then other stuff. Also notic in Roon metadata model it describes a album the same way.

The mess is a result of use stupid classical listeners wanting Composer to be the primary identifying item in the file path name. Notice composer is never in the path name or mentioned in Roon Metadata Model doc until the very end tuched away in the meta data of a track.

Frankly if there was a fix it would involve changing the path names of every track in my library. The thought scares me to death.

No pain at all, just a plain nuisance.
I have been using dbpoweramp / jRiver to tag a fairly substantial classical library for many years.
First step was to use composer as album artist. I then decided that the primary navigation point should be the album artist (which I took to be the conductor for symphonic works and the primary soloist for concertos). The challenge was to make the switch, including the directory names. I managed to do this largely automatically using jRiver scripts (quite a learning curve, but finally got it done with only limited manual cleanup). In jRiver I then added conductor and soloist tags, but only for new rips. Too much effort for existing albums.
This is probably as far as one can go with a two level structure.
Roon’s approach is very different, that’s why I had high hopes for them to get this fixed. The have an object oriented approach, where they can attribute “Tags” (not in the ID3 sense) to the different roles. As this does not rely on ID3, it is not limited to the available ID3 tags. Once those roles are populated, the library content can be viewed from whatever perspective is desired. A view like the Idagio one I posted is absolutely possible.
The problem with Roon is that the database is neither clean not complete. Also the way the populate the search queries is not consistent. Consider the search result I posted. Poor Otto gets designated as:

  • Otto Klemperer
  • Otto Klemperer / Philharmonia Orchestra
  • Philharmonia Orchestra / Otto Klemperer
  • The Philharmonia Ochestra, Otto Klemperer

Clearly “The Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer” is NOT an object. “Otto Klemperer” would be one and “The Philharmonia Orchestra” would be another one. And Roon needs to decide which object they display in the view (like Idagio) and be consistent about it.
I assume this is the case because Roon tries to do as much as possible in an automated way (see the discussion on the artist photos and the automatic cropping) But in the case of classical music tags someone with knowledge needs to sit down and get the stuff fixed (like Idagio did and does).
I have tried to make @brian aware of this a number of times, but Roon’s priorities seem to be with finding a way to automatically crop artist photos and not with the requirements of an (admittedly) small classical community.
Now if Idagio had Qobuz, hires content, RAAT …….

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These are compound artist strings that we get from TIDAL, who get them directly from the digital wholesalers/labels. They are horrid and we do plan to split up as many of them as we can. Not an overnight project though.

Thank @joel for getting back to me.
Glad to hear this is in progress. As we are dealing with classical (most of it historic) recordings, the number of objects is limited (not too many Philharmonia Orchestras exist). This might be doable in an automated way.
Another thing that really bugs me is the following:

There is no consistency which objects are displayed in which order on the album screen. Sometimes its the conductor, sometimes the orchestra, sometimes the soloist is there, sometimes not.
Could the screen be set to display i.e.

  • conductor
  • orchestra
  • soloist

I don’t really mind which objects in which order, but it should be consistent.
Thanks a lot.

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I have been asking for this for a while. It is really disorienting going from screen to screen as the order is jumping around randomly (alphabetical). But my preference is the other way round how the labels do it (mostly).

  • soloist
  • orchestra
  • conductor

Not again! No one has got this “right” not even the major classical labels who have been the business for close to 100 years. The latest trend for some labels is to include everyone (except perhaps for the cleaner and the tea lady) in the artist credits. There is no agreement even on how a composer should be referenced (is it Beethoven, Ludwig van Beethoven, Beethoven Ludwig van), let alone artists. I really do not know how Roon is meant to solve this issue. The only short term solution is to determine a metadata structure for yourself and rigorously implement it - both for your own music and music you incorporate into your library from streaming services (which is very easy to do with Roon).


On this one, we’ve fallen victim to MusicBrainz’ insistence that the composers are album artists. There is probably something we can do better here and I’m going to make a ticket to track this.

true words - if I’d only understand Roons logic in trying to “improve” on file tag metadata…
see what can happen, when you try to want Roon to follow your structure… :wink:

I’ve never understood why Musicbrainz did this. Seems brainzdead to me…

lots of people have used this tagging approach for their files. I also never understood why.
I guess a lot of these composer=album artist mappings happened in order to have a decent display on software and hardware players who normally would not show the composer tag.

My understanding is that it’s backwards compatibility. I guess Musicbrainz consider players like roon the outliers.

When there was no composer tag it made sense to put the composer in the album artist tag as that catered for the simple search and list ordering that were all the first players could really do. Wouldn’t matter much if you searched by artist (pop) or composer (classical), you would still get a sensible result.

So ID3v1 (introduced in 1996) had no composer tag, but ID3v2.3.0 (introduced in 1999) did, and those three short years are the boat anchor dragging us all back? Hmm.

yeah - but to play the devil’s advocate: which hardware player would display the composer tag in the early 2000’s?
People looked for a workaround… There are even people who would abandon the ALBUM tag and use it for WORK :wink:
I d think it was wrong to do it this way, but I can relate to some of the reasons.

Dunno about hardware player, but I’m pretty sure Windows Media Player 7 (introduced in July 2000) supported the composer tag from the beginning…

the iPod for sure did not support it… neither did most of mobile mp3-players at that time.
Anyway: we agree that it is not “best practice”. But it shows that people have very “creative” ideas when there is no established tagging standard. We still do have these kinds of discussions today in this forum - everytime someone wants to have folder browsing… :speak_no_evil:

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I wasn’t trying to sound like a stick-in-the-mud, just observing really. My working life was telecoms. We spent a lot of time figuring out how to sweat the copper wire for another 100 years. It didn’t stop progress. The same in IT. My wife has just started working for the Danish Tax office. The COBOL is not going to be retired. But they have only just figured out they can use middleware to wrap it in aspic.

Yup, KPN (the Dutch Telecoms company) was, up until a month ago, still trying to do it. They explicitly stated a few years back that their strategy was to put the brake on investing in fibre-optic cables, and push VDSL tech to its limit. They appear, finally, to have realised that their cash cow was now a dead horse, and stopped flogging it.