No artist listed for unidentified comps

Hans Beekhuyzen has recently posted a video about audio metadata and best practice:

He actually suggests putting ‘various artists’ in the album artist tag for compilation albums, simply because different software handles things differently, and using an explicit tag works for most cases.

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I was hoping that roon has the hinted logic; any new users of roon, such as I, could find this confusing; thus a specific option inside roon to specify as a compilation of various artists makes sense (to me) and avoid this confusion, and doesn’t involved chasing the album artist meta data.

@Rugby @Geoff_Coupe

Sorry for the slow response here guys – I know you’ve both been waiting on some clarity here, and I didn’t get to this last week.

There are a few issues intermingled issues here and what @anon94274355 is describing is different from what @Afullmark is seeing. I’m going to provide some detail about the current behavior, but I should mention that significant metadata work on our metadata infrastructure has started, and we’re not married to the current behavior.

Feedback is absolutely welcome, but keep in mind that whatever changes come in 1.3, they have to work for people who’ve painstakingly groomed every tag in their library, and for people who’ve been accumulating content forever and have never edited a tag. My plan is to end up with some clearly documented rules for default handling of file tags, which will go hand-in-hand with full editing.

Unidentified Compilations With No Track Artists

The first thing to understand about @anon94274355’s question is that when you see an artist name next to a track row, it’s because Roon has a credit for what we call the track’s “main performer” – this is generally going to be metadata that comes from one of our metadata providers, in the form of a credit for a role like “Main Performer” or “Featured Performer”.

Making sure we use the right data for track performer is one of the reasons you’re less likely to see nonsense artists in Roon such as Santana ft. Rob Thomas or Various Artists, or incorrect performer credits such as DJs (who may have selected the song, but didn’t perform it themselves) or, say, Beethoven (who may have composed the work, but didn’t perform on the recording you’re listening to).

Right now the general rule is that we use track artist tags when album artist is also present. We may consider changing this in the future and things will be a lot more flexible when full editing is released in 1.3. That said, across the millions and millions of files we’ve analyzed we’ve seen enough inconsistency here to be wary of making assumptions about these tags.

The tags in your files are always imported into the Roon database, and used to group files and identify albums, but for now the Album Artist field needs to be present in order for us to pass this data through and turn the artist tag into the “track main performer” credit you see in Roon.

@anon94274355 – if you want to upload an album or two in the state you’ve described to Dropbox and PM me a link, we can look at the file and see if there’s another pattern we can look for here as we update the file tag handling rules. It’s possible we can do better here.

Identified Compilations With No Track Artists

As for @Afullmark’s issue, this is a separate issue where our metadata for the compilation is itself missing track artists (or “track main performer”). In that case, an album can be identified with full metadata, but because there’s no info in our database, you won’t see a performer at the track level.

I’m a big collector of compilations myself and I can understand how frustrating this is, so after a lot of discussion we implemented a workaround for cases like this last year. Because we use artist tags when album artist tags are present (as described above), we will expose these tags as track main performer when this data isn’t already present. We’ve found this type of mixing tends to be pretty clean, because the album artist tag is a good indicator of quality tags

I should also mention that the album @Afullmark flagged actually had an additional issue. Because it wasn’t present in AllMusic, we were depending on secondary metadata providers. After looking into the report, I noticed we were poorly handling the track level artist credits from one of our secondary sources and failing to use it properly as the track’s main performer. So once that’s fixed, this album would get track performers automatically, regardless of the tags.

For now the work-around is to ensure you have Album Artist tags, but I want to be clear that although the rule appears to be working as designed, ensuring we handle track artists properly is a huge priority for us and something that we are planning to consider and possibly revisit with some of the metadata changes we are scoping right now. Again, feedback is welcome guys.

@mike - are you able to say something about your approach to “full editing” in the 1.3 release?

So, for example, will edits affect only the content of the Roon database, the track metadata, or both?

In the world of photo metadata, I’m a great believer in the maxim of “The Truth is in the File”, that is, metadata you apply to your photos is part of the photo, and available to any application that knows how to read it. In that world, we have the advantage that there are some well-defined standards that have been around for a while.

For audio metadata, it would seem things are a little trickier. The de facto standard of ID3v2 tags is a start, but not sufficient. As I understand it, Roon has an extra layer of metadata (meta-metadata?) that it uses. So for 1.3, will you aim to manage both “standard” ID3v2 tags as well as your own Roon-specific metadata? Thanks.

I’m thinking that 'various artists ’ should be invisible in terms of album artist; if there is no album artist then the requirement to put the text ‘various artist’ is being justified as a workaround to satisfy many music management programs. Tagging as various artist should be a firm, selectable (checkbox etc) but invisible (in terms of populating the album artist tag) feature of roon. The current handling holds no aesthetic value; an album artist called ‘various artist’ should not be apparent/visible in terms or album sorting or visable to search: I only have experience with iTunes, and ‘various artist’ appearing as an actual artist just to appease how a program identifies compilations is not very beautiful.

Appreciate the reply @mike. The learned responses from @Rugby and @Geoff_Coupe were helpful too.

I couldn’t of said it better… I have no issue with “Various Artist” as a tag but I really don’t want VA comps populated within the regular A to Z named artist, my feeling is that all comps need to be at the very end of your library. @mike, @Rugby, @Geoff_Coupe.

BTW I’m starting a new rock band called “Various Artists” so where does that fit in with all my comps. :slight_smile:

Well you could use ZZZ_Various_Artists to move them all the end. :grinning: And really, I agree. Various Artists would be a hilarious name for a band.

The editing we are working will allow for full editing of metadata in Roon, including editing of artists, performers, composer and works, as well as the links between them. We don’t have any current plans to extend that to the editing of file tags right now.

Interesting. I’m a big collector of compilations myself, and they represent nearly 15% of my collection. Even in Sooloos, we’ve always sorted compilations by name, since Various Artists isn’t an actual artist, and because we wanted it to be possible to “jump” to these albums. Looking for Dusty Springfield? Type D-U-S. Looking for the Pulp Fiction soundtrack? Type P-U-L.

I haven’t heard a lot of feedback about this, even going back to the Sooloos days before we offered the “Sort To Various Artists” option. The thinking behind this was that if you don’t own many compilations, having them bunched up around V wouldn’t be as bad as it would be for, say, me and my thousands of comps.

I have a ton of VA comps as well. I prefer them at the end. Failing that, at the beginning. Or at V. But not the way you prefer. Still, seems like the toggle choice under setup already works well for either preference.

@mike - thanks. that’s helpful, and useful to know. It means that (for the time being) I can assume that Roon will not alter metadata held in my Watched Folders’ tracks in any way. It also implies that Roon needs a good, automatic and transparent backup mechanism for its database…

This was the very first default setting I changed when I first started using Roon. In my case, when I feel like listening to a comp I always need to go to the section because I don’t always remember the title of the CD, but I do remember the covers. For example the reissue label Numero Group puts out so many great comp, I buy each one when they are released and I’m a big Krautrock fan and have 10-20 VA comps but only remember a couple titles but can remember all the covers… What I’ve done which works best for me is to create a “Various Artists” bookmark which has been the fastest way to find what I’m looking for.

Yup, we’re working on it.

Here here, such a big fan of those guys.

I am not sure if I’ve got this slightly off topic or missed the point, but this is one thing that really matters to me. Anyway, I feel there is a general issue with Roon’s use of album artists, rather than track artists. Take the overview screens above, iTunes lists the track artists, JRiver does the same, Roon insists on only listing album artists, or very many tracks by the ‘various artists’ combo. It strikes me that this is a pretty fundamental factor behind many artist / ‘various artists’ issue. Can this be improved, is this just a fundamental quirk as to how Roon works and utilises metadata?

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That’s presumably because in the Track view, Roon only displays the Album Artist for each track. There’s no separate column for Track Artist (and I agree that it would be a useful addition).

However, in the Album view, the Track artist is shown for each track on the Album…

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Geoff - Agreed, you are absolutely right. However, I do see the ‘various artists’ issue creeping in elsewhere, as shown:

Hmm, that looks like a bug to me. It would certainly seem logical for the track lyrics to show the Track Artist, rather than the Album Artist. @mike, what do you think?

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Yup, agreed. Ticket in.

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This is exactly my issue as well. I’ve posted elsewhere about this and only now I found this thread, so sorry for any duplication.

The very core of the problem imho is that Roon displays Album Artist, not only in Track view, but also in Playlists, while the Track Artist tag is properly set (and I set Roon to prefer file tags).

Wouldn’t it be much more logical to display Track Artist in Track view and in Playlists when the file has the Track artist tag set?

I agree. @mike - the display of Album artist in place of Track artist in the Track view strikes me really as more of a bug than a feature. Can this be addressed?

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I agree, and if the track has more than one arttist, they should all be displayed in track and playlist views.