Metadata confusion: performers, composers


I have three albums with Rachmaninov’s Vespers (All-Night Vigil), one by Hillier, one CD rip by Söderström/Finnish National Opera Chorus, and one rip of a hybrid SACD of the same Söderström album. The Hillier and the hybrid Söderström are identified, the CD is not.
I also have one album of Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances with some other works on it. Plus various Rachmaninov works on other albums. The three Vespers albums have the composer marked as both “Rachmaninov” and “Sergey Rachmaninov”; the Symphonic Dances shows only “Sergey Rachmaninov”.
Here are the results:

  1. Search for Rachmaninov, and the systems shows:
  • Top result: a box for Rachmaninov: click on this it shows an Artist, and Appearances on the three Vespers albums
  • Performers: the same box, so Rachmaninov is considered an Artist and a Performer.
  • Composers: Sergey Rachmaninov with a lot of works, including the Symphonic Dances but only 2 performances of Vespers, the Hillier and the hybrid Söderström, but not the CD Söderström. So it missed one even though the album has the Sergey reference. And it does not treat “Rachmaninov” (without the Sergey) as a real composer, which is good, but that object did appear as a performer which is not good.
  • The four albums (3 Vespers plus Symphonic Dances), but clicking on each of these gives odd results under By This Artist:
    (a) The two Söderström Vespers show only those two, linked by the same Finnish Chorus
    (b) The Hillier Vesper shows none of the Rachmaninovs (he is not considered an Artist here) but other works by Hillier
    © The Symphonic Dances links to other performances by Maazel, but not the other Rachmaninovs
    So obviously By This Artists does not consider the Composer an Artist, but the original search result did.

The metadata is obviously somewhat whacky, not Roon’s fault. (And I can’t edit inter-object references yet.)

But given that the metadata is as it is, the treatment in the UI seems inconsistent.

I think it’s really important we get a way to stop composers from being Album Artist when the metadata from Roon thinks it is. That would solve a whole load of this…

Frankly, Roon only really works properly for classical when Rovi metadata is there. Otherwise we’re better off with file tags.

@brian I have been traveling, only just now looking at 1.1, forgive me if I’m blundering about…

I noticed similar confusion for Bach, where I have many more albums.

One thing is bad metadata, sometimes he shows up as Bach, sometimes as Bach, Johann Sebastian.

But that’s not all.

@Ludwig points out the performer inconsistency; we are obviously never going to get the metadata clean, can you introduce special logic to deal with the composer, either making the always performer or never?

And what is Production? Bach shows up as a producer…?

Some of my albums do not show up under search, and not under composer, but they do show up under focused album list. I can provide details if you want.

1 Like

I cleaned up the metadata in my files (removed “Bach” and “Rachmaninov” etc.) and all the problems went away.
The situation is still unsatisfactory, but I can’t make any concrete suggestions for fixes, so I withdraw this issue until I find something more useful.

The world’s data is a mess. Go figure.

1 Like

Before roon’s arrival, with iTunes as my music server manager, it made sense for me to include the classical composer’s last name as performer/artist so that all my albums/rips would be located in alphabetical order, i.e., Adams, Bach, Chopin, Debussy et al. That way I would only have to sort by composer’s last name and then by conductor or orchestra or soloist etc. I am not eager to remove the composers last name from artist/album artist. And roon is not my exclusive player.

Perhaps, roon developers will find a metadata protocol that works to alleviate the triggers for confusion, or not. I am happy to cooperate so long as I don’t mess my synergy when not using roon, i.e., when I am playing from iTunes using the Amarra engine. My music directory is organized under the entire name of the composer, i.e., Ludwig von Beethoven, but sorted by Beethoven…


Assuming your items were identified with good metadata, the fact that your files tags containing this bogus information are being displayed in parallel is new. What’s the point of giving us great Rovi metadata and at the same time screwing it up by also using the tag metadata, the quality of which is an unknown? I don’t understand the logic (except to punish is for having bad metadata in our tags) and need it to be switchable. I don’t particularly want to have to clean my tag metadata for 5000 discs which have good Rovi metadata anyway… @mike can we discuss please?

@Ludwig I cleaned up a few albums as part of troubleshooting, now I know the cause of the confusion. I imagine Roon’s three level metadata selection technique will help, although we haven’t see that yet for the inter-object references. Right, @Mike?

I already like the three level editing for the areas we do have-- @Mike, you were smarter than I realized.

I think it’s really important we get a way to stop composers from being Album Artist when the metadata from Roon thinks it is. That would solve a whole load of this…

This is an interesting idea.

Were we to do this, what string should we use for the album artist?

It’s not going to be easy…

The most consistent way to do it would be to have a setting allowing only rich metadata to come from the Roon server (currently meaning metadata sourced from Rovi). I say this because Rovi has a very consistent and logical scheme which has Album Artist = Performer-listed-on-the-front-cover rather than composer. For me, as a classical collector, this is the only way that makes sense.

Your secondary metadata source(s) follow a different and less consistent scheme, with sometimes composer as Album Artist (and with more basic work titles which are also not consistent with the Rovi ones, tripping Roon up completely). This makes no sense in my opinion both in isolation, and absolutely no sense in the Roon world - at least not if you are using Roon’s interconnected nature to its full potential.

During the “Identify Album” process we can in fact switch this metadata off and use our own file tags, which we can edit externally to be right. It might though be good to optionally disallow all metadata from secondary sources. Or prefer file tags by default when Roon server produces secondary source metadata, but still allow some aspects of the secondary metadata to be copied across during editing if the user wishes, so it’s not actually thrown away.

That way madness lies. If you try to munge it to change poor metadata into Rovi-quality metadata, I think you’re going to have a really tough time. For example:

Album Artist = Beethoven
-> Roon could know this is a composer who never recorded and swap it with principal performer.

Album Artist = Stravinsky
-> Roon might know this is a composer who did recorded, but how can it tell for sure that Stravinsky did indeed record this album?

Album Artist = Mr Unknown Composer
-> Roon might just not know this name, and will not know whether it is actually a composer or a performer.

In all cases, identifying the name as a performer or composer by consolidating against the other credits is then entirely reliant on the accuracy of said other credits. And in all cases, you would/could get very different levels of success.

In short, I don’t think it would satisfy your desire for consistency and accuracy hand-in-hand.


(PS secondary metadata sources are of course useful! In a lot of circumstances it’s great to have them, and for many users and genres they may be AccurateEnough ™.)

I was thinking that the composer should never or always be included. Consistency helps.

But always is problematic on rock and jazz and some classical albums, where we get a lot of them.

For Sooloos and other players I want them there, too hard to find all the Bach stuff if it is scattered under myriad conductors and soloists. But Roon has the composer view.

@brian, I imagine it will be rare to have no other album artist. I think “never” is right as a guiding principle, and then you deal with the exceptions if you have no album artist, plunk the composer in there.

I’m glad you see the complexity here :smile:

Your secondary metadata source(s) follow a different and less consistent scheme, with sometimes composer as Album Artist (and with more basic work titles which are also not consistent with the Rovi ones, tripping Roon up completely). This makes no sense in my opinion both in isolation, and absolutely no sense in the Roon world - at least not if you are using Roon’s interconnected nature to its full potential.

@jeremiah would be really interested to see some examples of this. All of our sources nominally have a field that means “performer as displayed on the front cover”. If they have truly wrong data, we can get it fixed at the source.

I suspect that in many cases the problem will be more like @AndersVinberg’s situation, where the bad data was in his tags, not coming from us. This is made worse when people trying to work around less smart software edit their album artists to composer names (which seems common in the real world, even if it is destructive).

Stepping up to a 10,000ft view, album-based navigation of classical music is really important right now because our classical-specific browse interfaces leave much to be desired. It seems like once we do some work on that stuff, browsing classical music using album/artist UI may become less of a pain point.

With your best metadata and good file tags, Roon works very well with classical already. But having got this far already at 1.x it’s going to be amazing at 1.3…

@brian I agree album based navigation is necessary for now.
It annoyed me with its perverse effects. My favorite example in Sooloos: I used Stravinsky as album artist just to find his stuff, listening to Firebird, see Rite of Spring under By This Artist, and Nielsen’s Fifth pours out because Telarc combined the two on an album. I would argue that an album is just a grouping by the publisher, no different from other groupings like my tags, or playlists.

But in practice, many album groupings are useful, like a few Bach cantatas, easier to navigate than hundreds of Works under Composer.

@AndersVinberg Roon has you covered on the first one. You can go to Stravinsky and “play” him (essentially swimming amongst his works until you’ve heard them all), or swim in your entire collection starting from his works. With no Nielsen. (Bizarre coupling!)

I have several complete sets of Bach Cantatas. I navigate by typing Cantata into the focus window on Bach’s Composer Detail page (then sorting by BWV). But it depends what kind of navigation you want to do. Although you can’t swim within those results.

I can look into that. Where do you want these? Here, Redmine, email? And each album individually? (Just do a search in the metadata server for Album Artist = Beethoven, and you’ll find thousands…)

One ticket in redmine, with examples added as you run across them, will be most helpful. That way Jeremiah has plenty of meat to work with once he reaches that point in his queue.

As far as I can see we are now getting many if not all of our file tags displayed alongside the Roon server tags. Have you outlined the reasoning for this new handling anywhere elsewhere? If not can you do so now? It’s causing me chaos but I’m sure you’ve done it for a good reason even if I can’t perceive it just now. What’s the thinking?

We described what was done in the 1.1 release notes, but not to a huge extent why.

The rationale is all about supporting people with well-groomed collections or good pre-existing tag data. It provided a good answer to many, many questions like “JRiver/whatever shows , how do I see it in Roon?” A large amount of content is poorly covered by our English-centric metadata sources, and supporting as many tags as possible allows people with clean collections to have a fairly rich experience.

Personally, I think I’m in the same boat as you: I’ve been ignoring my tags for years and using Sooloos/Roon style approaches that completely re-invent the metadata since 2007, so my tags are junk and I don’t really care about them anymore.

In most cases, when data is available from our metadata services, it overrides the data from the tags by default. In some cases where our data was sparse (particularly with track credits), this will cause data to be added. In other cases (release catalog#, country, label) we decided that tag data is probably more reliable than whatever our automatic identification comes up with, so it should be preferred by default.

What kind of chaos are you seeing from the 1.1 changes? I’m guessing that it’s mostly related to track credits, but maybe I’m wrong. The way we merge local/Roon track credits right now is pretty crude–I think we can do better.

With your best metadata and good file tags, Roon works very well with classical already. But having got this far already at 1.x it’s going to be amazing at 1.3…

A few of the big things we accomplish next time we iterate on this stuff are:

One is work-level identification. Instead of doing dumb text munging in Roon, we’re going to try to match works against Rovi’s database. Right now we only perform identification at the album level. This would add a second layer of identification at the work level that could afford to be much fuzzier about text.

Rovi has a very good list of works for the most significant composers, and they generally have well-structured data for new releases. They have very, very poor coverage of box sets. I don’t think it will be hard to use their work data to identify when works appear within, say, a large box set. This requires more smarts than text matching–we can rely on composer’s name, catalog number, number of movements, etc. to narrow down candidates. This requires a lot of domain-specific work for classical, but it’s worth doing. Our current work munging happens in the app, without the benefit of this master work list. It must be moved to the cloud (big work) in order to do this.

Another we need to do is to figure out how to represent non-classical works in this system without polluting the classical browsing experience. I know that a lot of people will want to keep classical separate and clean. I think this is right from a UX perspective, but wrong from a data modeling perspective.

I’m loathe to create two systems for this because the core idea is the same: someone authored a piece of music and some number of people performed it. This is a universal idea, not specific to classical. I think the solutions to this will be focused on filtering/navigation, not creating a separate cathedral for classical music sitting alongside the rest of the system.

As much of a mess as the munging stuff we are doing makes in a large classical collection, it nails use cases like this to an extent that even the best metadata sources (Rovi, Discogs) have not approached (or attempted to…):

JVH is a significant composer that didn’t really record albums or perform. In most music software he’s completely invisible. Obviously I have some bias as a serious Jazz collector, and our product shows it, but it’s important to preserve good results like this while improving our handling of large classical collections.

1 Like

Hello Brian,

When it comes to metadata, I am a simple sailor with a simple mind. I am attempting to grasp the synergy you are seeking to create for a complex equivalence of a metadata system that is consistent for all genre and avoids 2 systems. As a simple sailor charting my album selections, it’s more convenient for me to sort by artist/performer/composer or composer/artist/performer. Perhaps, I missing the complexity by sorting simplistically. But I am not getting what the problem is. For example, it’s easier for me to go first to the composer of classical music than sort by conductor/orchestra/soloist. Then with all the composers located by last name I can then sort either by title/conductor/soloist. Does that not work? Metadata nuance is not one of my strengths that’s my reason for attempting to simplify.

Would not the same synergy work for artist/performer for Jazz. In that example, composer is not as important. Rather song title would be more important, i.e., Accentuate The Positive or Johnny Mercer. But If I want all those Mercer songs played by Miles Davis or Bill Evans, I would prefer a system that is organized by Performer (which for me is the equivalent of composer). Then album title. Then song title. Given that album artists, i.e., Miles Davis have a variety of trios, quintets, sextets, etc doesn’t the organizing principle begin with Miles Davis, then Kind Of Blue, then So What and which is more essential then Coltrane, Philly Joe Jones, Paul Chambers etc.

Wouldn’t that also apply to all genre? Or am I missing something? Isn’t there already a method for sorting by composer/performer, album title, song title that would consistently allow the one system you desire (and so do I)?

Running out of reasons to be perplexed. Time to yield to those who have a better command of the organizing principles for metadata.


I think most of your feedback is focused on the browsing/UX side–you’re right about that stuff, but the hard problems are mostly a layer deeper. Browsing doesn’t work well if the data isn’t clean and well-structured.

“Work” and “Performance” are first-class entities in Roon–as real as artists, albums, and tracks.

There are a lot of practical difficulties in making this work cleanly, and well, and reliably given the (poor) state of the data that we’re working with, both from file tags and from our metadata sources.

The problem is: once you’re browsing a composer, you really want to be browsing works, not tracks. Many works are made up of multiple parts. Works also have additional metadata that doesn’t make sense at the track level.

Determining what constitutes a work, and then which tracks in your collection comprise a performance of that work reliably is a difficult data handling problem. It’s especially difficult for classical.

When everything works well, our richest metadata source (Rovi) provides a solid set of performance and work metadata to associate with some tracks and the experience is beautiful. The problem is–Rovi doesn’t cover everything well (major pain points where data is almost always absent: classical box sets and popular/jazz material), so we have a gap to close, and this requires making some careful judgements to synthesize the missing data.

Most of the information required to synthesize the missing data is there–we are doing some synthesis right now, but the results aren’t very good. I think we could do much better (hence my comments above). Our synthesis works way better for pop/jazz than for unidentified classical albums because track titles are often identical or nearly identical from release to release in pop/jazz releases, whereas in classical releases, they are all over the place.

There are some browsing issues on the fringe of this like: I might want to browse classical works without having popular covers of them sneaking into my views. There are also some less fringe issues. For example: the current works browser is nearly useless because it blends too many kinds of works together in a flat list without enough sorting/filtering tools.

Dear brian,

Thank you for your time. Obviously, I do not have as comprehensive an understanding or experience with what you are working with that forms the basis for your synergy and builds on it or how it can innovated to branch, expand and integrate.

If you were actually responding to my last post, tracks were not my suggestion for an organizing element/foundation. Clearly, at least for me, posting is not the best interface for a complicated organization that metadata presents and perhaps the Library of Congress might offer a model or suggest one that might work as I am out of my depths. I manage 6000+ albums preferring to manipulate my metadata rather than leave it to iTunes’ organization which nearly wrecked my library organization.

Probably best for me to make a speedy retreat and leave the complexities and modeling to those more informed and nuanced than I am. In any case, I enjoy roon at a level never before and am very grateful for that you, danny, mike et al. do for us. Good fortune with your development of this marvelous product.


@brian I’m like you, I relied on Sooloos and not the tags, but for Roon I found my original RIPs were in chaos so I exported from Sooloos, and that meant my perverse “album artist” arrangement required by Sooloos navigation restrictions was preserved in the tags. So you see, it is ultimately your fault anyway :smile:

@REShaman There have been a lot of threads discussing the needs behind all this discussion. My simple way of describing it is this: any system can navigate a single structure like artist/album/track, my phone can do that, my car can do that. But when you want to surf your library, or get into “serendipitous discovery” (my favorite), you actually navigate a richer data structure in your brain, “this guy played with that guy”, and then you use the system only to get some music that you have already decided you want to listen to. But Roon (and to some extent Sooloos before that) can make such surfing and discovery enjoyable. A few years Paul Motian died, I read the obituary in the Times; I did not have any music archived under his name because he was a drummer, but Sooloos allowed me to look him up and discover he had played on Bill Evans’s breakthrough albums in the 50s and on up to very recent albums with young artists that I have; and I noticed him on a few albums with Keith Jarrett, but not many, why is that, click on Jarrett and of course, he mostly played with Jack DeJohnette, click on him, aha, he has also played with a lot of other seminal guys in the old days and with some young recent musicians. And compare this with that – I spent a whole weekend navigating among these relationships. And Roon makes it much better. I have rediscovered my library. That’s why we have all these discussions. Of course, this is my view, others have their favorite scenarios, but it all comes together in a well-organized database. If @brian does it right, it will even support whatever unique need you have!

Hello AndersVinberg,

Honestly, do you think the points you make alluded me until you called them to my attention? Really AndersVinberg? What is the point of your reply that addresses what I posted? I purchased a lifetime license/membership without even using the program based on the marketing and for the very reasons you describe that roon provides a person whose been listening to music for 69 years. Posts being what they are, it’s possible to miss your intent, but presently, I find your tone and content condescending. The first time I have felt someone respond to me here at roon in a way I would prefer not. If I have misunderstood you, then accept my apologies in advance. But, the last thing I care to experience is being schooled by someone who knows nothing about me.


Thank you, anyway, for your response. Moving on,

Speaking of serendipity, your mention musicians I am familiar with. I just typed Paul Motian’s name in my iTunes Library and 17 albums, 7 artists, 1 composer (Paul Motian), 113 songs. Bill Evans, 93 albums, 18 artists, 14 composers, 950 songs. Jack DeJohnette, 18 albums, 9 artists, 3 composers, 109 songs, Keith Jarrett, 38 albums, 13 aartists, 11 composers, 257 songs. And Jack DeJohnette takes me to Kenny Barron who then takes me to many, many musicians. Bill Evans takes me to Tony Bennett, who takes me to many, many artists, and musicians, i.e. Bill Charlap. Please imagine how many hundreds I am leaving out because this reply who turn into a novel. I left out Oscar Peterson, Monk, Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery. As I said hundreds and perhaps a thousand musicians

In other words, what part of your reply to me do you think I don’t get? What I do not have access to that I love about roon, is that I can get a reasonable abstract about Bill Evans that my library does not offer me. Lyrics that my library doesn’t offer me unless I Google. And so many more wonderful pieces of information.

My remarks to brian are about organizing my library so that I can locate the music I have collected and albums I have forgotten I have in my collection. I have use TIDAL now in addition to discover Bill Evans albums I did not know where available. And some of them would cost me several hundreds of dollars to collect, but those are now in my collection for as long as I subscribe, I guess.

However, the metadata is resolved and the system innovated, I can always add my touches so that I have the advantage of roon’s organizing and access my library in a more expansive comprehensive view. I couldn’t be more happy with roon. But roon is not the first or the last venue for discovering music. At we members share our libraries and discoveries and that alone leads to discoveries that are valuable to share. Actually, it’s endless and I am sure that’s the way I want it…

Enjoy the music,