Newbie - serching for a good music server software with MB support

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Good evening

I’m new to MusicBrainz: so first of all: Hello and amazing work!

I’m trying to support MusicBrainz a little by adding releases not already listed. But mainly I’m interested in enjoying my own music the best way possible…

Actually I believe in rich information - especially for classical music I think it’s vital to have informations like composers, conductors and about main solists available. Coming from iTunes I am now in the situation to decide which music server software to use as the new “home” for my audio files.

My question: which music server software do you recommend. Which solution offers a good integration of MusicBrainz (and supports for example multiple entries for tags)?
It would be perfect, if you give an argument why you choose software “ABC” over “XYZ”.

My IT skills are somehow limited so please nothing to sophisticated.
My hardware: Synology NAS as storage
Clients should be available for MacOS / iOS / PadOS

If you have a decent workflow for Plex - please let me know, as I’m using Plex already for movie files.
I evaluated emby and Kodi a bit - but still have not mad up my mind.

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I’m of a similar mindset as you and want my classical music collection to be well-tagged and available on all my (Apple-)devices. I have a Drobo NAS, but no server software was able to convince me away from iTunes yet. I’ve an iTunes-Match subscription, so for my streaming needs is taken care in the best and easiest and cheapest (24€ per year) way imaginable. How do I take care of the automatic tagging via MusicBrainz? With a program called “SongKong”. It uses the data base of MusicBrainz (and Discogs) to mass-tag my entire music library in -iTunes- Apple Music, and I can choose in which manner: for example Composer in front of the Album Title gives me “Strauss: Vier letzte Lieder / 6 Orchesterlieder” (iTunes-Store-nomenclatura) instead of MB’s “Vier letzte Lieder / 6 Orchesterlieder” whereas the Composer is simultaneously removed from the Album Artist field. SongKong is also capable of writing Work and Movement tags into the Music App’s correlating fields, including the Movement numbers – all automatically derived from the MB-database. The only thing remaining to do for me is to tick the box “show work/movement” in the Music-App.

Dear Hape40

Thanks for your feedback!
Actually I also have an iTunes-Match subscription. But I intend(ed) to get rid of it: Why having an NAS running AND online storage?

Your tip about SongKong ist very interesting. Seams to be a good solution.

I do have a few questions:

  • You are using Apple Music (not iTunes?) and SongKong works with it? Any problems??
  • Do you use multiple Artist / Album Artists? I’m not sure - does Apple Music supports multiple Metadata tags?
  • Does SongKong could handle audiobooks as well? Are you using audiobooks?
    Do you use SongKong directly on your NAS as a Docker?

Did you test other music server solutions like ROON, emby or Kodi?

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Hehe, why having a NAS running AND online storage? – My NAS has only one job left: to run “Transmission” (a BitTorrent-App), but most of the time it is switched off, because I can’t hide it in my little apartment and its noise goes on my nerves.

On your questions:

  • All my Apple devices are always up to date, so initially I remember a few hiccups with several programs (including SongKong) when Catalina came out. But they have been ironed out very quickly and everything has been running smoothly for a long time now. I’m using the Music App, not iTunes – and I love it.

  • I understand your question, but I think it comes from a wrong point of view. No, multiple Artists are not supported in Apple Music in that sense that “Jessye Norman; Kurt Masur; Gewandhausorchester Leipzig” would appear in certain list views as single artists. Apple Music treats this entry as one artist and would treat “Kurt Masur; Jessye Norman; Gewandhausorchester Leipzig” as a separate one because of the changed sequence. BUT: We talk about Apple here!!! Apple has a powerful search engine with Spotlight and in the Music App as well of course. So you would find Jessye Norman or Kurt Masur anyways. Lists are a thing of the past and of the Windows-world, we Apple-Fanboys left lists and file- and folder-structures behind us a long time ago, didn’t we? (I even scan all my paperwork just into the “documents”-folder and do not care about any structure anymore. Spotlight finds everything. This way I achieved the dream of going paperless.) But back to the music: I mentioned the iTunes Store-nomenclatura. Apple provides its music (for purchase) in most cases in the form “Strauss, R.: Four last songs; 6 Orchestral Songs” as the album tag and “Jessye Norman, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig & Kurt Masur” as the album artist tag Look here!. MusicBrainz Picard in its standard configuration has the composer in front of the album artists instead of in front of the album, but SongKong can take care of that, as mentioned. BUT: Did you ever wonder what the difference between “artist” and “album artist” is? Of course you know that artists change between tracks, the album artist is global for the whole album – right? So, in our example (and in most of the cases in classical music) artists and album artists would be identical anyways, as Jessye Norman sings in all tracks and Kurt Masur and the Orchestra accompany her all the time. Now think about this Album: Do you really care about the conductor and the orchestra when you think of Jessye Norman and the Four Last Songs? Shouldn’t be Jessye the Album Artist and no one else? This way all albums of her are sorted together in in the album view in Apple Music (or in any other music player software of course). Now think about Beethoven’s 9th Symphony: Do you care more about Karajan or about the soloists in the 4th movement? But they can’t be album artists anyway, because they appear only in one track! You get the idea, don’t you? My system is to have only ONE album artist: the soloist in solo albums (Gustav Leonhardt plays the Goldberg variations all alone on his harpsichord) and also the soloist in concert albums like piano or violin concertos. (This is justified by the fact that the conductor and the orchestra have to adapt to the solist’s tempi, not the conductor’s, as you can see in a famous announcement that Leonard Bernstein once made before a concert where he and Glenn Gould had differences about the tempi and Bernstein gave in. Look it up in YouTube!). The orchestra/ensemble only becomes an album artist in my system, when there is no soloist AND no conductor like: Ensemble415 or the Juilliard String Quartet (The Juilliard Quartet is the Album Artist, the four musicians are the track artists). Isn’t that the way we naturally think about our albums – just ONE main name? Jessye Norman or Yevgeny Kissin on concert albums, Claudio Abbado or Herbert von Karajan on orchestral music? By the way: The folder structure that Apple Music creates, is completely clean this way and would satisfy every Windows-Fanboy!
    So, I hope you understand now, why I tag my my “album artist” field with one single name. All the other artists appear in the artist tag anyways. And they are searchable thanks to Apple. The “multiple Artist/ Album Artist”-problem is a non-problem in my world.

  • I hate audiobooks and can’t say anything about SongKong’s handling of them, but I assume it won’t treat them differently than MusicBrainz Picard, because it is just another user interface to the same MusicBrainz database.

  • No, I don’t use SongKong on the NAS. Its purpose is to let it run over your existing iTunes/Apple Music library on your iMac. Don’t worry, it tells iTunes/the Music App what is has done and after some short flickering in Apple Music everything is just fine. If not: SongKong keeps track of all changes it has made and you can always undo it’s actions.

  • Bonus answer: I take care of the Album and the Album Artist tags myself. Often times I disagree with the decisions that are made in the MusicBrainz community especially regarding album titles. I like to copy it letter for letter and to use " · " as a divider instead of " / ". And, as mentioned, I use only ONE Album Artist. So, when I’m importing my music into the Apple Music app (via the “automatically add to Music” folder) from XLD, I first take care that THESE TWO tags are exactly like I want them. They will never change again, because I restrict SongKong as well as MusicBrainz Picard NOT to touch these two tags ever again. This way iTunes/Apple Music will never make a mess out of my music library, which is so often criticized by others. Furthermore you can also import scanned or downloaded booklets in .pdf-format into Apple Music and as soon as you tag it with the identical Album and Album Artist tag, it will stay together with its album forever!

I hope this explained my workflow and my objectives.

PS: I always let MusicBrainz Picard find the right release (or I force it to) and look that all my albums are golden in Picard first, before I even think of letting SongKong do its automatic tagging. This is to provide SongKong with the already correct MusicBrainz-IDs, because SongKong doesn’t provide an option to choose the correct release. Often times it finds multiple releases for one album (mostly for samplers), just like Picard does, but Picard lets you find the correct one and puts them all together again. Once the MusicBrainz-IDs are stored, SongKong can’t mess up anything anymore. So, you ask what purpose SongKong has at all? It provides work, movement and movement number, and it updates all tags in a manner I have chosen (also in the future as MB’s database improves continuously), what in Picard would mean to learn that nasty Regex-stuff first. I have better things to do.

PPS: Oh, I just remembered that audiobooks are stored in the Books-App now (since Catalina) just like TV-Shows and movies are in the TV-App now – and podcasts in the Podcast-app. Don’t worry, they function just like they did in iTunes, but they are neatly separated and the Music App is only for music (and the booklets!) anymore. The iTunes-mess is gone.