Recommendations for file naming / tagging

I have about 20,000 mp3s in my music library.
These are stored in folders as ARTISTNAME \ ALBUMNAME \ TRACKNAME.mp3
Many of these are classical pieces where the actual ALBUMNAMEs and TRACKNAMEs may be identical across multiple Albums. For example, I have 16 versions of Bach's Goldberg Variations by different Artists. Each ALBUMNAME for these 16 is identical. And within each Album folder, the 32 TRACKNAMES follow exactly the same naming convention. I have catalogued the metadata for each Album's 32 Tracks to an identical standard over many years.

Every other media player software I use (principally foobar2000) understands this and provides me with 16 unique Albums, one per Artist, regardless of whether I sort by Album or by Artist.

When I ask SONOS Music Library to display this under Artists it understands that each Artist has one Album with 32 Tracks. So I can successfully play the complete work. However, when I ask SONOS to display this under Albums it doesn't show me 16 Albums and allow me to choose which one to listen to. It takes all 16 x 32 tracks and tosses them in to one Artist + Album display, (I think it just happens to be the first alphabetic Artist) and I get 16 Track 01's, 16 Track 02's, 16 Tracks 03's etc. Hopeless for selection and listening.

I'm reluctant to undo a naming and tagging convention that has worked well over the years in other cataloguing software, tagging software, and playing software. Any suggestions how I can encourage SONOS to take account of the fact that the same Track by two different Artists shouldn't be arbitrarily, and wrongly, lumped together?

12 replies

Userlevel 2
Badge +2
Hi there, Walter Eagle. Sonos reads metadata that is embedded within the file itself, not by file/folder names. This metadata can be edited from numerous different programs like iTunes. You do not have to change how the files are organized, but it sounds like you need to add metadata for the tracks that are missing that data. Do you have a program like iTunes to edit metadata of these tracks?
Hi there Keith

Thanks for your answer.
I understand the purpose and requirement of metadata in mp3s. I'd tried to make that clear in my post - "I have catalogued the metadata for each Album's 32 Tracks to an identical standard over many years." Apologies - maybe I wasn't as clear as I hoped!
I really had taken pride in being incredibly detailed and thorough in ensuring the metadata was complete and correct for every track I own. (Incidentally, no, I wouldn't dream of using iTunes, but that's quite another matter.)

It appears to me that when I ask SONOS to display the music library sorted by Artist, it first reads the ALBUMARTIST metadata tag and groups by that, then it reads the ALBUMTITLE metadata tag, and groups and sorts by that. Result: all the tracks by a given Artist on a given Album are collected together and displayed absolutely as I want.
However, when I ask it to display the music library by Album, it's as if it jumps straight in at the ALBUMTITLE metadata tag and then gathers all tracks which may have that ALBUMTITLE tag, regardless of the ALBUMARTIST tag value. Result: I get all the tracks which appear on any album entitled Goldberg Variations, regardless of ALBUMARTIST, bundled in together in the display.

To move away from the classical genre, imagine if Fred Smith had recorded an album named "ABCDE", and then Mary Jones had also recorded an album named "ABCDE". If you asked SONOS to display all Fred Smith's albums you'd get his "ABCDE". If you asked it to display all Mary Jones' albums you'd get her "ABCDE". However, if you asked it to display Albums, I think you'd get one entry "ABCDE", containing all of Fred and Mary's tracks together. I think that SONOS software needs to comprehend that duplicate ALBUMTITLE tag values can easily exist (especially in the classical genre), that ALBUMTITLE tag values are not unique identifiers, and that, regardless of the display method, it must always take ALBUMTITLE and ALBUMARTIST into account when grouping and sorting tracks.

It looks as though I could get around this issue by renaming every Album I own with a unique name - say adding (i), (ii), (iii) ... etc as a suffix to otherwise duplicate names. But this is would be a travesty. None of these would then represent what the actual albums are really named by their performer or record company. It also seems like an unnecessary kludge and a lot of hard work for me to overcome an inadequacy in SONOS' metadata interpretation.

Still open to suggestions, but feeling a little bit isolated that no-one else appears to have this issue :(

Userlevel 1
Badge +1
Another Keith here, Walter.

No need to feel isolated. I can't give you an answer but I can share your problem. McFly and Take That have both made albums called Wonderland. Under artist, the albums appear fine. But under album search, there is one long list of songs, the McFly ones listed first followed by the Take That ones.

I've had a similar issues with Microsoft databases- if the album name is not unique it causes all sorts of problems. For example I have versions of albums in CD, vinyl, picture disc, box set copies- to work properly in my database everyone has to have a unique name.

I am guessing that Sonos is coming up with a similar issue.

Interestingly, iTunes displays each album separately.

Userlevel 2
I can relate to this problem. After finally getting all of my album art modified to correctly show on the Sonos app, I just discovered that all 25 of my albums labeled "Greatest Hits" are basically missing, but listed under one album on the Sonos app. My only fix is to change every album in iTunes to "Greatest Hits - The Cars, Greatest Hits - U2", ....etc. What a pain!
Userlevel 1
Badge +1
Robbski, most infuriating. I think unique album names is the only solution.

It's not a major issue for me on Sonos, as I tend to search by artist. But in my database, it is a big issue, especially as I have over 200 greatest hits albums.
Userlevel 2
I agree completely, MrKeith. I've only been using Sonos for about 4 weeks, but I've invested nearly 3K into the system. Seems like everyday, I find another "issue" that tells me Sonos really isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Don't get me wrong, it's an awesome system, but it's riddled with problems. I just took a look at the controller on my iMac, and under Albums, it shows Greatest Hits by Blondie (That's the first Greatest Hits album alphabetically.). When I go into that, it has over 200 songs in it by about 25 different artists. With a Master's degree in Computer Science, I'm obviously a technology freak, and I want my stuff to be RIGHT! Especially when it comes to metadata! I still have a couple weeks left with this equipment before it can go back to Best Buy (45 days on returns). Way too many promises from Sonos that aren't happening, in my book. That's why all of my Sonos ONEs already got returned, when the "Does everything Alexa does." according to Sonos turned out to be a lie. Live and learn, I guess.
Userlevel 1
Badge +1
I love what Sonos does in terms of playing music and wouldn't be without it. But the controller isn't a good way to manage music.
I still use iTunes to organise and tag all my music, as well as managing my play lists.
Well, this is a time for mixed emotions. I'm happy that I'm not alone, but I'm disappointed for everyone else suffering the same problem :(

This particular issue does seem to me to be capable of being solved in SONOS controller software really easily. We already know SONOS can read the key metadata tags in all the mp3s. And we already know that it can take identical tracks (designated by tag TRACKTITLE) and separate them in to the correct Albums. For example, in my jazz mp3s I must have about 25 versions of 'Round Midnight'. SONOS doesn't bundle all these tracks together, so it obviously looks at the ARTISTNAME and ALBUMTITLE in order to work out where they belong for display and playing purposes. This idea of reading the contents of multiple tags is all that is required to fix our current problem.
If a track has the ALBUMTITLE tag value of "Greatest Hits", group it with other tracks having the same ALBUMTITLE if and only if the ALBUMARTIST tag value in each track is identical as well. Er, that's it. I think I've written the code requirements. And d'you know what, SONOS? I won't charge you anything for that consultancy, requirements definition and software design.

And MrKeith, the issue of a Microsoft database (Access?) having the same problem is why it's best to use a unique database key field to separate all the entries. The main cataloguing software I've used for years is an application built on Access foundations. Every album, track, artist ... etc that gets entered is automatically assigned a unique key - in this case simply a numeric value. This key can never be duplicated, otherwise you'd have two identical entries. Is there an upper limit to these keys? Sure, up to about 2 to the power 32. I'll take that risk. But once this key has been allocated, all the other fields are simply descriptors of that entry. The database doesn't care if they're all the same. As it happens, among the problem tracks I referred to in my original post, I have two different recordings of the Goldberg Variations, by the same artist, Glenn Gould. The only real difference is the dates when they were recorded and the duration of some of the tracks. The titles (tracks and album), artist, composer, instrument etc are common for both recordings. Would I like SONOS to be able to tell the difference? Yes, please.

Thanks for all the responses.

Userlevel 1
Badge +1
But in a relational database, such as Access, surely there has to be common information between tables to allow you to create reports, queries, etc. So if I have two albums called Wonderland, and tracks on those albums also called Wonderland, unless I differentiate between the two in a common field, then surely everything will be grouped together under the one entry.
I'm interested in this because all my tables do have the unique key. I can't see away around this issue other than by making sure that every album title (where there is a potential for duplication) is also unique.
Userlevel 2
Great discussion, guys. It sure would be nice to see SONOS chime in an propose a solution to THEIR problem with this obvious database issue of theirs. So the problem seems to be there isn't really a unique identifier (key) assigned to each song. It's bizarre to me that it can sort out where the songs belong under the Artist-Album path, but it doesn't differentiate where the songs belong under the Album-Name path. At this point, if I really want to see ALL of my albums in the app, I'm going to need to rename every album with the title 'Greatest Hits'. Sorry, but this is completely unacceptable. I cannot believe this major ISSUE has not been discovered a long time ago. Or has it, and people just accepted it? Not cool in my book.
Userlevel 2
Badge +2
Hello everyone. Thank you for the honest and detailed feedback so far on how sorting is handled within the Sonos Controller. Although I personally cannot propose a solution to this, I can make sure that this feedback is forwarded to the team. Thanks again.
@MrKeith - now you're getting up to and beyond my knowledge of RDBMS. I bluffed and you called me out! The cataloguing software I use effectively hides Access from the user under a lot of very customisable application code with loads of XSL, XML, CSS determining what you see and where you see it. However, the core information is in an .mdb file and I can open it with Access. I do not want to start tinkering around under the hood/bonnet and endangering the integrity of the database. Every album has a system-assigned AlbumID, every track a TrackID etc. So two albums named Wonderland would have two different AlbumIDs, and if they both had tracks named Wonderland these would have two unique TrackIDs. I'm guessing that at some point Wonderland AlbumID = 99 has a list of the TracksIDs that 'belong' to it, and Wonderland AlbumID = 100 has a corresponding list of TrackIDs that 'belong' to it. I've no idea how other media players (e.g. foobar2000 I mentioned earlier) handle this, but it does. See the snapshot of Greatest Hits. The items in '[ ]' after the album name are not part of the album name. They are the artist name, appended solely for display purposes so I can tell which Greatest Hits is which.

@Keith N - thanks for coming back to this discussion. I think we all feel that SONOS is almost close to being a really good system. Some aspects are genuinely excellent. But these excellent points throw the less satisfying issues into a really deep shadow. Somehow they make the topics like this one have an importance that some might consider as way out of proportion. But the problem is, SONOS has raised our expectations. If this were an overall so-so system, I don't think I'd be so bothered. I'd write it off as yet another nuisance. But you guys have set the standard and you need to ensure that all aspects of SONOS are deeply satisfying to use. This is like having a Rolls-Royce whose windows won't go up or down. Anyway, push that development team hard - we just know they can fix it. :D


    • :D
    • :?
    • :cool:
    • :S
    • :(
    • :@
    • :$
    • :8
    • :)
    • :P
    • ;)