What is optimal classical metadata structure for Roon?

I have consistent metadata except at track level, which needs more work.

I have set Roon to prefer my metadata where the option exists.

I have the Composer, Conductor and Orchestra tags appropriately populated, but Roon seems to take limited notice of them, especially Orchestra.

For historical reasons, I still have Artist and Album Artist using the composer’s last name in almost all cases, with information about choirs and individual performers in the Comment tag. I am not sure if Roon looks at that at all.

I know this usage of the Artist and Album Artist tags is no longer appropriate, and am ready to change it.

However, it is not a trivial exercise, so I want to do the right thing first time.

To get the best outcome in Roon, how should the Artist and Album Artist tags be populated?

Is there any other tag I should be populating?

Unless I am missing something, a new feature request would be the option to make Roon prefer data in all these tags.

All comments and guidance appreciated.


Hi @Simon_Chick,

This is a very good question. I’m still fairly new at Roon, but metadata is very much my domain now. I expect that we will end up publishing recommendations in this area (but we need to get it right first time as there will be no going back). One thing for sure, we would not recommend using ARTIST to hold the composer name; for us, an artist is a performer. ALBUM ARTIST is the name of the headline artist(s) on the cover of the album, which could be the composer, but generally isn’t.

Sorry I can’t give anything more comprehensive at this point.


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@joel - I agree that you (Roon) need to get your recommendations right, but saying “I expect that we will end up publishing recommendations” is, to my ears, pretty weak.

I realise that there’s a lot of work and rethinking going on at the moment around metadata and how it is handled in the upcoming 1.3 version. But once it’s released, I, and I suspect many others, very much want to see clear guidelines and recommendations for metadata documented in the KB.

That’s fair.

Joel. You should take a look at the musichi site. There are a number of articles titled the zen of classical music. It’s a very useful treatise on classical music tagging.


I do have some experience in classical professionally having had a career in radio as a presenter. It’s a bit meaningless in terms of going forward digitally because you can have it be any way you want it to be. But if I could throw out a few insights.

[1] The composer in classical music has always held the most weight in classification. Grove’s, Schwann, Fanfare, etc., all are prioritized toward the composer in their reviews and listings. Unlike rock music where the performer is the major selling point, the classical buyer generally is after, say, Beethoven Symphonies first, and then decides on whether they want von Karajan, or Bernstein, or the L.A. Phil, etc performing. That isn’t to say performers don’t sell. They do. And you’ll get recordings marketed using the performers to a great degree. But it’s still Rossini’s Barber of Seville at the top and Domingo 2nd when it comes to organizing it as data in the traditional powerhouse publications.

[2] For the classical fan most decisions to listen to specific music are composer-based. Contrast that with rock. No one says, “I want to listen to music written by Donald Fagen (regardless of who plays it).” No, they generally want to listen to Steely Dan. Classical is the opposite. No one says, generally, “I want to listen to piano music played by Alfred Cortot.” They’d probably say, “I want to hear some Erik Satie.” Alfred Cortot might be in that mix. Again, these are not 100% blanket. There are times when I want to hear a specific clarinetist or opera singer. But overall I’ll probably want to hear a composer’s music.

Functionally a popular performer and a classical composer are not the same. But in terms of what they represent as listening magnets, classical composers and popular performers are roughly equal.

Hope this helps in thinking about this.

I should also add this is why being able to assign genres to tracks (not just whole albums) is super important to classical fans because the music on albums can vary so widely. It’s easy to get a recording that has Webern (20th century) on it, as well as a Schumann piece (romantic) and a Bach (baroque). The way genres work now on Roon is utterly useless for classical.


Interesting. As a classical music philistine I follow it much the same way I do Rock artists, except it’s usually preceded by 'What primary instrument am I in the mood for? Let’s say Violin… Then the next line of enquiry becomes … Am I in the mood for Anne Sophie Mutter, Marianne Thorsen, Jascha Heifet or Janine Jansen. Following that I’ll choose composer if I’m familiar with their work.

that’s exactly how all my classical music tracks are tagged :smile:

We have a debate going here then. Good. All the following is imho, so I won’t repeat that in this post.

As I understand it, Roon benefits from being able to read well tagged files, because that helps it to do its magic accurately.

Classical is the problem child because tags were not originally designed for it, and all available tag sources are pretty rubbish generally.

All tagging systems should have consistency as a core requirement. This is why I have a lot of trouble with the vague guidance to use the “headline” artist, which might be the composer. Any chance of consistency is then already out of the window, so I think that is a bad approach.

Many classical loving computer audiophiles have invested enormous time in trying to bring consistency and accuracy to the tags in their collections. The lack of a clear standard, and the pride in the effort invested, mean that there are multiple home grown solutions, and human nature means the creators will be quite to extremely protective of their solution. I know this includes me, but I am trying to stay open to other options.

There will very likely never be a single standard, so I think Roon should accommodate users’ own tags where users want that, and if they conform to an identifiable standard then learn to use the source data in Roon.

If that could lead to a better crowd sourced set of tag data, hurrah, but I recognise the major obstacles to achieving such an outcome.

I totally agree with @jlo that composer must be the primary focus, and am really glad somebody else said so first!

I am also not surprised that others use Artist and/or Album Artist for the composer - because in many ways it works really well.

So here is my suggestion, or at least opening bid, for a standard which might become one of a handful accommodated by Roon. Fundamental to this will be extending the number of tags that the user can set to prefer their own. My provisional list is

Album Artist: Heresy it seems to many, but use the composer’s surname for most cases. It is intuitive and makes alphabetic sorts a breeze. It is also good for auto folder structures. For cds with say pieces by 2 or 3 composers, I split them into separate albums, as I don’t see why I have to be constrained by the cd format if I am using a server. I don’t always split up cds if they are of a single composer though. (For album name, if you have multiple instances of the same piece, put conductor in brackets after it so it is a unique album name for that composer). Where the surname is shared use Mozart L., Bach J.C., Strauss R. etc. If the cd is say a celebration of Callas then either use Maria Callas as the Album Artist, or Various Artists as there will be a lot of composers and there is a reason to keep the pieces all together as one album.

Artist: Now here I deviate from my own current practice. I now think that THIS is where the solo artist names should go, plus choirs which support an orchestral piece, although it will create some interesting auto flle naming. It also copes with different soloists being on different pieces on one album, or where only one movement of a symphony has soloists, which cannot be done if this goes in Album Artist.

Composer: self explanatory. Use the full name, Ludwig van Beethoven (I personally find Beethoven, Ludwig van hopelessly inelegant). Where there are variant spellings, like Rachmaninov or Rachmaninoff, use the spelling in Wikipedia. Russian composers particularly need an imposed standard as we know.

Conductor: Full name and just Simon Rattle, not Sir Simon Rattle. Makes sorting easier and some recordings will be before he was knighted so you can validly need to have both versions. Leave it to the Roon profiles to give them their proper honorifics.

Orchestra: Roon will have to learn that Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is the same as Wiener Philharmoniker, all the variants on radio symphony orchestra names and so on. For purely choral pieces then the name of the choir could go here.

Comment: Odds and bits of information that don’t fit elsewhere, maybe not very much left in my case.

and maybe Op. no. too but my own tags haven’t reached that yet, and I haven’t investigated its availability. I try to keep Op. nos. in the track tag.

That’s about the longest forum post I’ve even written, which probably means it is too much in one go, but so be it.

Hoping for some great debate and an end result that helps us all to get better results for classical in Roon.

Excellent stuff - please keep it coming. My original rather non-committal response in this thread was purely down to a recognition that there is no single way to get this right and, even then, we (Roon) are going to have to cope to a greater or lesser extent with classical tagging which does not conform to any recommendations that we may end up publishing. Another possibility (which could go hand-in-hand with guidance) would be to allow users to indicate in settings which fields contain what information, in the presence of a Classical genre. However, even that is not foolproof as there are definitely album examples where the Classical genre is applied, but a “classical” metadata structure does not apply.

Thank you for your patience; we are committed to delivering a truly world-class classical experience with Roon.

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Yup, using Album Artist for the Composer (unless the composer in question actually is the Album Artist) is heresy, and I refuse to be drawn to the Dark Side.

And, as far as I’m concerned, the Artist tag is to be used for the artists actually involved in the track, which was its intended use from the very beginning.

Happy to use the full names (without honorifics) for Composers, Artists, and Album Artists. No need to use constructions such as “Beethoven, Ludwig van” here, because they belong in the Sort class of tags (they do exist, you know). Of course, Roon should also be keeping an eye on this class of tags as well (I don’t think it does at the moment).

@Ludwig, from what I’ve seen in the forum, you’ve probably got more experience in this area than most of us - care to join in the discussion?

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Cheers. I think this is why a few alternative and equally valid structures will be needed to suit different preferences rather than try to create the one true way. It’s just too splintered now to get everybody on the same single path.

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I second this one :wink:

One more thought on this.

Before iTunes there were a number of radio music library programs that seemed to work without the ambiguities of the iTunes scheme. One for pop music was Selector. It was focused on creating playlists. I remember earlier versions than the one below, which had numerous fields for Album, Title, Artist etc.

I’m not suggesting modeling anything off that. Just an example. But as far as classical, one of the stations I worked at had a custom library built from Filemaker. It had 2 primary fields relative to what’s at issue here: Composer and Performer. The fields were searchable by keyword, so it was important for the data entry people to be consistent.

Album was of secondary importance. If you wanted to find an album, just look up Composer and/or Performer, and you’d get a list of all the albums in the library meeting the criteria. Or you could include the Label and probably nail it. The point is, Album wasn’t the front facing information you’d see when opening the library. Albums are just where the music is stored.

So, a few fields might look like this:

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Title: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37
Performer: The New York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, conductor; Murray Perahia, piano.

One interesting thing to note, in the iTunes era we classify Baroque, Classical, Romantic, etc., as Genre. That is not correct. Those should be classified under Period. Rossini’s Barber of Seville is a Romantic piece of music. That’s the Period. The Genre is, more or less, opera. Folk is a genre. Rock is a genre. Baroque is not a genre.

So, in the Filemaker library we had Period as field, which was heavily used for searching. There was also Genre. And there were a number of other fields to help aid finding just the right music for a show, most of which wouldn’t be worth the home user’s time to manage.

I would think if Roon would want to be a gold standard for classical, then maybe stopping the shoehorning of classical into Apple’s category structures and starting over is the way to go. Album Artist is problematic. Why even use it? Artist is a perfectly good field for all the musicians who play the music. The Period field isn’t a heartache. There is lots of agreement on the majority of classical pieces in terms of the periods they fall in.

Perhaps it’s possible to have a Classical View? When you click Overview you see your library in terms of all the titles you have, and under those title you see the albums they’re on. Idk, that’s probably getting too fancy.

I would suggest looking into eliminating Album Artist, use Composer for composer and add a category called Period.

And tack this on, Performer isn’t so vital to add. Artist would handle classical performers just fine. Getting rid of Album Artist cleans things up.

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Joel, et al:

Please take a look at ArkivMusic.com, the classical music CD website. That, to me is the gold standard in classical-music-finding functionality. Whatever metadata is necessary to support a system like that (where you can drill down by composer, conductor, ensemble, performer, or label, in any order) is what I’d like to see.

[quote=“Jim_Austin, post:15, topic:13328, full:true”]
drill down by composer, conductor, ensemble, performer, or label, in any order[/quote]

It seems to me that we can already do the vast majority of this by using the Focus feature starting with Albums or Tracks. The Focus feature in the other starting points (Works, Composer or Artists) gives other attributes (such as Country of Artist, or form of Work) that allow additional refinements.

This is 100% spot on. It’s essential to be able to assign different composers, artists, and genres at track level too as classical albums commonly have multiples of these. But definitely, fundamentally, I think of classical works Composer first - I want to listen to Beethoven’s 7th Symphony -> who’s performance do I want to listen to -> which performance/recording of that artist/conductor (e.g. Karajan’s 1960’s set, his late 70’s recording, etc.). Really the opposite to popular music, in general.

Lots to discuss here. I can’t draw it all together too well, but perhaps my comments will clarify a few things.

First of all one has to decide on three things:

  1. Are we discussing what private schemes people consider ideal in the context of their own collections, or are we discussing a scheme which is logical and covers ALL classical situations, and is consistent with other genres?
  2. What is our ambition? Do we want software to be able to do sophisticated linking/searching using our tags, or are we happy for the dumb display and (maybe) sorting of text?
  3. Are we talking about the tags, or how Roon uses and displays our tags? These are not the same thing. Roon does lots of automagical stuff with the tags it gets, and can do more. (See the bit about “munge album composer” below)

If the answer to 2) is sophisticated, then many personal views about tagging schemes (themselves entirely OK in the private context) become irrelevant. The scheme has to be 100% consistent and logically defensible in all genres.

For a scheme to be 100% logical and consistent, Album Artist CANNOT BE THE COMPOSER. (Unless he or she was also the main performer.) Making Album Artist = Composer means that across genres “Composer” and “Album Artist” swap around from genre to genre which is totally illogical, unnecessary and impossible in use. It also makes it impossible to browse properly in a large classical collection. I really don’t want to look at 500 albums that all claim to be “albums by Beethoven” and have to read the small text on the cover to find out who actually did the work of planning, performing, editing and probably funding the album, hundreds of years after the composer died.

[If you want to organise your library that way, be my guest, but I’ll have nothing to do with it, and I’m glad to read from @joel that Roon doesn’t recommend it either.]

What Roon could usefully do, IMHO, is munge “Album Composer” from the track composer tags. This would allow that tag to be created without any change in actual metadata, and allow classical albums to be browsed by composer. This is a very long-standing request.

Also on Roon’s table: that Rovi’s metadata is inconsistent in this respect speaks merely of the inconsistency of training of Rovi’s metadata entry people. Roon needs to deal with this, somehow.

A few other points.

Performer: The New York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, conductor; Murray Perahia, piano.
That will kill all linking and searching dead. This is a case where it’s fine if you want it merely displayed as dumb text, but if you use the sophistication of software such as Roon, it’s a really bad idea. (The appalling tags on Qobuz downloads follow this technique, and are really damaging.)

Romantic is a genre, not a period. A period of time is defined by dates. A genre can exist in many different periods, and a period of time can encompass activity in many genres. (Instrumentation used to be a Genre in Sooloos, but the Roon team has corrected this. I hope Instrumentation comes back in a more usable (clickable, editable) form than currently.)


Roon does not currently read an Orchestra tag. I would suggest you duplicate that tag with the “Performer” tag which Roon does read. This duplication could be automatically done with a good tag editor (I recommend Metadatics on Mac) in five minutes for a whole collection, assuming not done over the network. Duplicate rather than move over, because maybe later Roon will see the Orchestra tag and call that data “Orchestra” on-screen rather than “Performer”.

Roon does read Composer and Conductor. It reads them differently depending on whether you have a “Classical” Genre, so make sure you do. And even if you do, they are used inconsistently because of the concept of “interestingness” which is thankfully being revised for a future version. (This is why Roon doesn’t display all composers and works equally.)

If you put composer in Track Artist, Roon displays “performed by Ludwig van Beethoven”. Roon’s behaviour is rooted in a correct understanding of tags; the tagging is not.

A final note. I’m really glad that @joel is on the team and I’m sure he and @brian will bring classical metadata in Roon to an altogether different level. Hang on in there, classical collectors!


Think of this in terms of my question above asking whether we are really discussing Logical Tagging for use by a computer system, or how we want Roon to display our library.

You can already go your desired route in Roon by at least three ways:

  1. go Browse Composer/click Beethoven/type Symphony in filter box/choose no. 7/view all performances.
  2. go Browse Works/filter Beethoven Symphony/choose no. 7/view all performances.
  3. go Browse Albums/filter Composer:Beethoven/spot a performance of no. 7 you want to hear. (This is more fuzzy but works perhaps quickest in small collections.)

And all that works perfectly already, even with Album Artist being used in a logical and correct manner. No need to change the current tagging structures for that to work.


Thank you, this gets more and more interesting. I am a bit gobsmacked that Roon doesn’t even read the Orchestra tag though. Why on earth not?! I just spent some significant time to populate that tag because I understood Roon did read it :unamused:

I will investigate copying across to Performer as suggested. As @Ludwig says, it wouldn’t be hard.

All my classical music is in a single Classical genre, so at least Roon should be seeing the other tags OK. My intention was to let Roon offer me its own subdivisions.

I don’t enormously care any more care how Album Artist should be populated - and it would be better if it didn’t matter - so long as Roon delivers a great experience when I am browsing, wanting to be inspired or searching for something specific in classical music.

It does seem that Roon needs all the help it can get on this front because classical music organisation and description is hard, and commercial sources of the data are generally rubbish. So letting the user provide the raw data seems to be a crucial option.

All I’m really after is the best consistent way to organise my Classical tags to make it as easy as possible for Roon to do what it is supposed to do, and for Roon do it reliably and consistently. The amended tagging then also being conveniently read by other music players would be helpful, but is unlikely to be an issue as all they need to do is display the data.