Understanding the lyrics 'supply chain'

If you’re a subject matter expert on this, perhaps you can fill in the blanks–

  1. Artist writes lyrics and records an album
  2. Artist delivers music and lyrics to label
  3. Label produces CDs and puts music up for sale (SoundCloud) or streaming
  4. Label takes lyrics and…
  5. ?
  6. ?
    end: Roon users are delighted that when they play the album, lyrics appear.
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The world of lyrics is a complicated mess…


This is probably much more than you expected @nealsal, but here goes…

  1. An artist creates music. This may be from a song he/she wrote, he/she collaborated on or another songwriter wrote (wrote encompasses creating the lyrics and the song’s composition).

  2. An artist may or may not have a label deal. He/she can release their music themselves through various methods or the label may release it.

  3. A label may or may not have the lyrics for music they release. And even if they have them, they generally don’t have rights to deliver lyrics in any fashion other than in graphics on cd/album liner notes as they usually only represent the artist not the songwriters who wrote and own the rights to the lyrics.

  4. Music publishers are the people who represent songwriters and license the rights to the lyrics and the song’s composition. They have the right to publish lyrics in sheet music and in digital form.

  5. A songwriter may or may not have a deal with a publisher so it may not even be obvious who can grant the rights to use the digital lyrics for a song.

  6. Additionally, the rights for the song may not even be figured out at the time an artist’s music is released and becomes popular. As an example, let’s say you’re an artist in a room full of 10 of your friends and band mates, you’re half drunk or stoned or whatever and you collaboratively create a song that becomes popular. If you have a music publishing deal, the music publisher (who now sees money to be made) will work with you to capture who owns the rights to the song (maybe at this time you decide to give a 1/10th equal songwriting share to each of the people in the room when the song was created or whatever). If you don’t have a music publishing deal yet this is when a publisher will now come knock on your door to sign you… But at the end of this process, the publisher has what they need to license digital lyrics to someone because they know who to pay. By the way, there are literally 100s and 100s of music publishers that own rights to some amount of songs…

  7. Just because the music publisher has the rights to license digital lyrics, that DOES NOT MEAN THEY ACTUALLY HAVE THE DIGITAL LYRICS. Very few publishers actually have a complete database of accurate digital lyrics for the songs they have rights for. Believe it or not, many don’t have any… This sound absolutely ridiculous but it is true…

  8. Because of #1 to #7, companies like Lyric Find and others (and at one time my company, Gracenote) focused on building a digital lyric business because no one could provide a simple solution for companies like Roon that wants to license them. To do this they had to license rights from 100s of music publishers to have a comprehensive catalog of songs covered, and they had to create their own database of digital lyrics because the publishers couldn’t provide them. You often can get the digital lyrics by searching on the web and copying it but this is technically illegal as someone else created them but companies like lyric find live in this murky world when creating a database of digital lyrics. Sometimes the only way to get the lyrics to a song is to have someone listen to it and try to figure out what the lyrics are and capture them. It takes a large staff to to do all this and build a comprehensive database of digital lyrics BUT even with the best effort, the coverage for songs is no where near complete. While you can get decent coverage for the most popular songs, there are 100s of millions of tracks of music in the world…

  9. One additional complexity of digital lyrics is what version do the companies that provide digital lyrics actually provide. If it’s a popular song, you might have the lyrics as the song writer wrote them, the lyrics the way the band performed them (and they might have changed something) and you might have many other bands also performing the song and changing the lyrics slightly… And then there is the complexity of providing translated lyrics in other languages … but I digress…

  10. Major streaming services often have licensed the rights to display lyrics with the music their subscribers are playing, but generally they have no rights to license digital lyrics to other companies.

  11. That brings me to Roon. Because you don’t subscribe to play music from Roon itself, they almost certainly don’t get lyrics from the streaming services. So they most likely have to license lyrics from companies like lyric find (I’m not sure exactly who they license from but lyric find is the most likely culprit). And because the database they license doesn’t come close to covering 100% of music Roon users may play, this is why so many songs in roon don’t have lyrics. And this will likely always be true…

Believe it or not, this is the simple version of the *****ed up world of lyrics… There is even more complexity and corner cases I left out of this… :slight_smile:


Well that’s going to get bookmarked. Thank you for that, really interesting.


I’m resurrecting this thread because it does an exceptional job explaining many aspects of lyrics.

I am still having trouble understanding though.

I more and more frequently see lyrics shown like so:

It isn’t even selectable to copy/paste.

What did I do to the lyrics?

How do I ascertain where I am pulling them from? Have I embedded this data overriding what may have been? Is this something that is a bug? How do I get words instead of mocking? :slight_smile:

If resurrecting this was the wrong approach please advise.

Why does it even matter? Just enjoy the music. I turn off lyrics because I hate seeing them scrolling across the screen.

Jim, I can’t stress strongly enough for you to do as you wish. If you insist on telling me what I should be doing I will feel it imperative I tell you my opinions.

Respectfully, help or move on. Listen to your music.


I did not tell you anything except to enjoy the music. Do as you please. I asked a question.

However, I am free to express my opinion that lyrics don’t matter to me.

Hi- OP here. I’m still dreaming of a turnkey service to get any album’s lyrics done (imagining a guy in India who will do them for $5/album or something). I haven’t seen a link as you screenshot here but that would be a start if the link was alive/copyable…

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Jim, another POV on this- I’m do a fair amount of listening to recent Progressive Rock music. The intensity of the lyrics are, for me, a valuable ingredient in the experience. And the music can get to be so dense that they’re not so easy to follow. That’s why I’m hungering for a solution here.

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You can of course always type it into your browser’s address bar and check it out

Of course but lots of precise typing on the iPad controller…

Really? https://muzikum.eu/

It would be more ideal as a hyperlink. IMO
I note the url isn’t always at the same service song to song either.

Just thought asking would prove useful.
Still unsure how to undo what I’ve done. Understanding how things work is what works best for me. It is why I ask a lot of questions. They’re free.

There are oodles of apps for doing this. Just in Python alone:

Well I don’t think that link should show up in Roon in the first place - it should show the lyrics.

As you know, content can never be copied in Roon, so that’s just a consequence here. I just meant for @nealsal who wanted a start into the world of people who might transcribe lyrics for him. He doesn’t need to go to your particular album for this, just the website :slight_smile:

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For fetching lyrics that someone already transcribed and are in some online database. Useful, instead of looking them up manually in 50 places. But there are lots of songs where nobody did, or in a non-standard way. I believe he’s after those, as he wrote “any” album’s.

Beware Roon lyrics, many are inaccurate IMO, that’s before bugs, mis-assigned lyrics and the like. I quite like the feature and use it when I’m bothered by a lyric I can’t make out.

Some kind of transcription software might give you what you’re after, and more. I’m not aware of any capabilities here but there’s a few projects.

Music transcription:

It seems far from a solved problem:

8. Conclusions

As already mentioned before recognition tasks in music are considered to remain complex. This could be confirmed as well for our lyrics recognition task in particular. The following reasons are determined: Today as then the community laments a lack of well structured, aligned, large data sets for music information retrieval tasks. Furthermore, few literature for reference was available.

but the streaming big boys have the training corpus chops. I doubt the labels would allow it though.


If this is an issue report for a particular lyric, please post it in a new topic in #support:metadata. It won’t have an effect in the discussion area