Music File Management

What I’m about to post overlaps with the long “Browse by Folder Structure” conversation, but I think it’s different enough to deserve its own conversation. Plus, I intend to color outside the lines a bit.

I started using Roon a pretty long time ago; just renewed for the second time, so that’s three years +. And still there are some things I’m unclear on–and I don’t think it’s totally my fault.

I’ve just had a look at the Knowledge Base entry on “Adding Your Music”, and–I’ll be honest–I find it not just incomplete but evasive. The Knowledge Base almost seems to assume that you’ll take advantage of iTunes to get your music onto your computer, which then makes Roon’s job way easier, apparently. Because otherwise that whole bit about how it gets into the form you want it in in those “Watched Folders” isn’t addressed, or not thoroughly.

OK, so I can add music to a watched folder. There are many ways that could be done. What’s the best way? What does Roon recommend?

I understand that Roon doesn’t care THAT much–and yet there are suggestions about precisely how files should be named and how directories should be organized, and sometimes that seems to matter in whether your albums get identified, or organized correctly. I know a guy–this is probably common–who just dumps every damn thing into his watched folders without worrying about it at all. Roon seems to work fine for him. But he’s creating a nightmare of organization. If he were to decide to move on beyond Roon–or simply to make sense of his music collection–he’s in deep shit. I’m not willing to abandon care to quite that extent, so I still have artist folders, and within those I file the artists’ albums. My collection is pretty modest in size–maybe a couple thousand albums. If it were ten times that large, maintaining it this way would be a serious pain in the butt. another order of magnitude and it becomes unworkable.

Does Roon make recommendations about this? What’s Roon’s official position on how we ought to be organizing our libraries inside those watched folders? Is it written down? I don’t care about accessing music via folders. I do care about keeping my folders in decent shape. Is it Roon’s position that that ain’t your problem?

Then there’s the issue of metadata. Spend some time on the forums and you learn that if you want to have a reasonable chance of a well-ordered Roon library, you’d best get comfortable using a metadata editor; otherwise, those boxed sets will go astray. Managing metadata doesn’t require a PhD in CS, but it’s a nontrivial IT task. Does the KB even mention external metadata editors? (Answer: Yes, once, in passing, before showing us how to remove a credit from INSIDE Roon. As far as I can tell, Roon’s metadata editor isn’t suitable for, e.g., trying repair boxed-set problems. Correct me if I’m wrong.)

My point(s): Much of what’s necessary to have a successful Roon experience exists only outside of Roon: File management (unless you’re willing to totally give up on orderly folders) and metadata management.

You will note that I said toward the beginning that I had just re-upped for the second time. So, consider this tough love–though not especially tough.



I think that’s an accurate description of the current state of affairs, but I don’t see much of a problem with it. For some (maybe most?) users, this is just fine — there’s no need to use anything beyond Roon. For the others (including me), it’s just a matter of finding and using the tools that match one’s OCD level. Good file-management tools usually come with one’s OS of choice, but more industrial strength enhancements — I like this one — are available. And for me, a good metadata editor is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.


I’m still using iTunes for the task of automated organisation - drag a bunch of files and they end up with the /Artist/Album/ folder structure.
I’d love for Roon to revert to its previous import behaviour which mirrored the above but now if you drag files onto Roon for import and let it move to the RoonServer directory it adds it to a Roon Import folder based on import time rather than anything useful.
For now if I am tempted to import using Roon I immediately use its export function which saves the files into an /Artist/Album/ structure which I then add to the root of the RoonServer folder and delete the previously imported files.

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I admit this sounds naive, even to me–but acknowledge it then?

When you write, “For some (maybe most?) users, this is just fine — there’s no need to use anything beyond Roon. For the others (including me), it’s just a matter of finding and using the tools that match one’s OCD level,” I’m not sure which side is which. Anyway, it’s difficult for me to envision a serious music collector with minimal IT skills using Roon successfully: There would be too many botched boxed-set experiences–and didn’t Roon discontinue the feature where you could add music by dragging and dropping?

I suppose this is less a problem with Roon than with this whole area of audio: It requires skills that most people don’t have. I see Roon as a solution to that–a potential solution, anyway. Except that it’s not.


That’s an iTunes feature? It’s been so long since I’ve used it, I don’t remember anymore. My memory of iTunes is that anything you buy or rip from within it ends up in an /Artist/Album structure anyway.

This actually suggests an interesting possibility for a new Roon feature. Roon understands a library’s structure very well–it just implements with tags rather than in folders. So why not allow users to–optionally–reorganize folders based on Roon’s internal organization? You dump in a bunch of new music and, if it looks the way you want it to–correct album, artist, composition, composer, etc.–click “organize my music” and it puts it into /Album/Artist form, or some similarly organized pattern.

I rather like that idea: Take advantage of Roon’s excellent INTERNAL organization to optionally allow users to improve the file-based organization.


Uh, Jim, maybe you are having a flashback. Organized folders were an alternative to watched folders in Roon a major software update or two ago. But organized folders were retired because too many people did not read or did not understand the implications, then complained to high heaven that Roon had rearranged all of their personal music folders, that Roon had moved their cheese, so to speak.

In short, organized folders were problematic and are not coming back.


Thanks Andrew. I remember that quite clearly–and indeed mentioned it earlier in the thread. I managed my own music that way for a while.

In my original post I used the word “evasive”. That seems pertinent here. Roon is currently a program that’s suitable for moderately sophisticated computer users. If they’re happy with that niche, fine–go ahead and suggest some file-management and metadata-management tools in the KB, along with a warning that such tools are not for beginners. But, if Roon’s management envisions getting the program into the hands of a wider swath of happy users, then, in my opinion, they’re going to need to do some things differently. Be upfront that Roon is for more sophisticated users, or give it the features it needs to be appropriate for less sophisticated users. Not sure why exactly, but I feel like I’m getting mixed messages.


Why aren’t they for beginners? Everybody has to start somewhere, and if you want your music files organized a certain way and/or tagged a certain way, why shouldn’t you learn how to achieve that?

Of course that’s just my opinion. I don’t much doubt that the Roon team want everything to happen automagically, especially with respect to really good metadata. And I don’t doubt that they’ll continue to close in on that goal. But I want stuff to be a certain way now, and I’m willing to do what it takes to make it so. FWIW, if there’s one thing that bugs me about Roon now, it’s that it can be somewhat less than tractable in letting me have metadata displayed exactly as I want it to be.

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So ripping, which is a necessary precursor to tagging is an absolute doddle, requiring nothing more than knowledge of how to turn on a PC and login? But the next step, that of using a tagger, that requires specialist skills challenging the user that is able to rip their cd’s?

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Hi @Jim_Austin. a more productive discussion around music file management is long overdue but don’t get me wrong. What exactly is the feature request?

I can see benefits to revisiting the KB but in concrete terms do you mean as a feature request better interoperability of roon with 3rd party music file management tools? Or do you mean for roon to extend its music file management functionality? Maybe both?

I don’t see a problem in principle with providing easy options for beginners but allowing flexibility for more advanced users to do their own thing. Frankly, to me, the metadata problem seems like a bear; they’re faced with having to fix problems that others created, to work within a system that never really was designed to work. (They didn’t design CDs with a place to store metadata, and some of these cheap-*ssed boxed sets spend very little time with such things as tag-compatible filenames. And their are so damn many variations of everything, including, for example, original albums split apart to make them fit in a boxed set, and when you burn a CD, the software only sees one disc at a time. ) That’s important for Roon, but I’ve got no answers. File management, on the other hand–that, to my untrained brain, seems tractable. Oh, and don’t forget backup–FILE backup, not just database backup.


This is an existing Roon feature. See Export Files.

Roon doesn’t have an official position about how users should organize their libraries. Artist/Album is almost ubiquitous and works very well for non-classical libraries of any size. Classical libraries can have different systems and tagging is generally a better guide for Roon in those cases. See File Tag Best Practice.

[quote=“andybob, post:12, topic:37507”]
You can already do this. Export Files will export Roon files with Roon tags as file tags. mp3tag or a similar program can then create a folder structure from those file tags.[/quote]

That’s not doing what I suggested–but it does suggest how easy it would be to take the extra step.

[quote=“andybob, post:12, topic:37507”]
My preference would be not to spend development resources getting Roon to do things that can be done with other programs. We need Roon to do the things that we only want to do in Roon; a proper mobile solution for example.[/quote]

In case it isn’t obvious–it should be–I don’t expect Roon to change the direction of their development just because I want them to–or you, for that matter. Rather, I put ideas out there on the change they might provide a perspective people haven’t thought of–not likely, but not impossible either. I’m not an especially frequent poster here; I only post when something has stewed for a while, as this had. I’m actually doing OK–but it is striking that so much of what’s necessary for a successful Roon experience lies outside of Roon. Some of the most basic aspects of using Roon successfully require the use of accessory software: metadata editors; file backup programs. None of that is covered in the knowledge base. I’m OK with it–I can figure it out, and enjoy the process well enough–but it seems … dissonant. I don’t expect you to agree–and that’s OK. Roon will do what Roon will do. But there are many more listeners out there who would be totally in over their heads using Roon than there are people who can manage it.


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My comments are more thematic, but seemed to fit better under “Feature requests” than elsewhere. My comments are just these: For people who aren’t IT whizzes, dealing with metadata is hard. Keeping a large library of music well-organized in folders and subfolders is hard. I use a remote (laptop) to download music, which I then have to load onto an SSD connected to the NUC, and then have to back up to a network drive. Keeping track of all that is hard. So make it easier.

Take the hard stuff and make it easier. That’s my feature request.

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I edited my post while you were replying, partly because having looked at Export Files, Roon does create an Artist/Album folder structure so there is no need for the external program I referred to. You can, given enough time, export your whole library to another drive with Roon derived folders and file tags but it would be a slow process. I wouldn’t want to see the extra step of a replacement function, too much risk of “Roon wrecked my files” issues as with the bad old days of Organised Folders.

I also edited out the parts about development priorities, because Roon can already do this.

I get you. That’s more or less what I do as well. There are a lot of steps and a lot of 3rd party tools involved. It’s a much bigger issue than a folder browser and I would love to see that workflow tied together somehow so there was much reduced manual intervention.

But realistically I cannot see any business case for roon to do more than a few simple things. It’s the numbers that don’t stack up. I can see 13,122 users logged in, which is probably close to the active roon user base. And of those only about 200 ever comment at all, even once, in any one month. There are maybe a few dozen active posters. I cannot find the link but I have a recollection of roon commenting that the sort of largish or even medium sized private libraries where file management becomes a priority are rare with roon users. Most are interested in SQ. I guess that explains the pre-occupation with multi-room/MQA/DSD/convolution etc.

Having said all that, the workflow has obviously become a problem for some of us. I never seem to find the time but I rather suspect that the pro-audio recording/mastering world has workflow tools tying together long complicated pre/post production activities. That world does have a critical mass of customers and prices have come down a lot so there might be a pro/consumer overlap. But I really don’t know. Maybe someone has experience? In the early days of computer audio it was common to use pro-audio soundcards and build DAW’s so maybe it is time to revisit.

It would be ironic if there was an overlap as anything I have read on the pro-audio forums like gearslutz mostly finds the audiophile pre-occupation with high rez and MQA totally bonkers.


One of the things that attracted me to roon was that I didn’t have to be anal about files and such like with roon taking care of that for me. I rip my CDs straight into the roon watch folders and albums appear. I don’t care beyond that, I don’t care if I am listening to my rip or Tidal i just want to play an album and use roon to do a bit of exploration of artists etc.
I used to use jriver but it was a pain in the backside with the UI changing like the proverbial and UPnP belied it’s U part.

I can understand why you want to curate their music library, especially if you have a large classical library or many box sets. But compared to the mainstream of music sales /streaming (classical is very small) and the mainstream of consumption (hey Alexa play party songs) you are an edge case. In my experience of major software development, edge cases don’t get into the roadmap; especially when the ask is outside of the ethos of the product.

Not saying it shouldn’t or won’t be available in the future, but being realistic I wouldn’t expect it to be in V1 or V2 timescales. My opinion based on how I have seen roon develop and being in dev teams.


I think that Roon is paying attention to those customers who have classical and large box sets. Roon can and should do a lot better in the metadata for both of these. It may not ever get to the point of everything being identified like a famous pop album, but there still is ground to cover to get to that point from here.

You mention classical, imho, Opera is perhaps the worst in terms of metadata. Roon has gotten better, but, has a long way to go in the Opera department.

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Andy, well, if that works and works well, that alleviates at least some of my concern. I could then (if I chose to leave Roon) make some sense out of the mess my Watched folders had become. Has anyone tried this? Does it work well? Whether this would change how I manage my music files … I’m not so sure. Still not sure I could just dump files in haphazardly and let Roon do its thing (and I don’t consider myself to be too far toward the anal side of that spectrum).

Not the first time I’ve seen this comment–and I admit I don’t really understand it. If the function, including the part where you indicate preferences, were very clear and well-designed, then I don’t see the problem. “Do you want Roon to manage your music files and folders?” Answer yes and Roon creates a folder structure that mirrors, in some intelligent way, its most basic internal organizational scheme. Answer no and it doesn’t touch your files. A well-written informational pop-up could explain the choice clearly and carefully. (“Choose ‘yes’ and Roon will create an organized directory structure …” etc.) The only difficulty I see is in dealing with unidentified works, but that seems like a problem that could be solved.

I understand that this sounds very much like “organized folders” (or whatever they were called) of old. I stopped using those mainly because of boxed-set metadata issues–too often I had to make extensive metadata adjustments before I could get it to work–but that turned out to be equally true with watched folders. Ultimately I think I stopped using organized folders because Roon started recommending against it.


Tony, good post. I don’t presume to know anything, or even to speculate on, Roon’s business case, except maybe to say that I presume they want to grow, and grow significantly.