Getting more out of Spotify
July 26, 2013 8:33 AM   Subscribe

I signed up for Spotify recently, and I love having zillions of tracks at my fingertips. But at the same time, I feel like it's changing (and maybe diminishing) the way I listen to and explore music. Can you help me get more out of my listening experience?

I really like the "library" model of listening to music--e.g., my iTunes library, where I have all sorts of data, like playcounts, the last time I listened to a track, smart playlists, searching within playlists. I feel like I want to tend a well-curated garden.

Spotify (at least the Mac and iOS clients) really don't seem to take that approach--it really is organized much more like radio on demand than I was expecting, and music is presented in a way to just wash over you. So, for the first few weeks I listened to at least one new album a day, I have a really hard time keeping track of what it was I listened to--which three GBV albums did I listen to on Saturday? Which Yo La Tengo album was Monday's commute? I realize there's a history page somewhere in the desktop client, but I don't think it's on iOS. I have a big playlist of "save for later," but I don't think there's a way to search within the playlist, so finding what I've added is hard.

On a broader level, having millions of songs available means that I don't give music as much of a chance. A couple of my all-time favorite bands grew on me over the course of a few years of periodically listening to an album. With Spotify, I feel like I'm giving really beloved albums by acclaimed artists a single listen and then moving on to the next item on my musical bucket list.

And is there a good way to find well-curated public playlists?

For those of you who have been on Spotify in particular, are there better ways to use the service to track what I'm listening to, and what I should listen to next? For users of streaming radio services in general, have you found a way to make listening a more meaningful experience rather than just an endless binge at an all-you-can-eat buffet? It seems so overwhelming.
posted by Admiral Haddock to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
I have this same problem and will be following this thread for relevant solutions.

One thing I've tried, to recreate the "listen to a whole album" experience, is to add whole albums of artists I like as playlists. When I look at my list of playlists I'm not overwhelmed by the "here is a list of all music from all time what do you want to listen to" problem and I can put one album on quickly without having to build a whole playlist.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:37 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Whenever you search for a term in the search box, it turns up results for songs, playlists, and albums. Sometimes I type in a genre and follow the user playlist with the most followers, because it's an indicator that it's a good playlist. Oh, and I discovered a lot of new artists bv following the promoted playlist for Blue Moon beer. Sometimes brands will create a playlist to promote their product like that.
Also, just for fun, I type in random terms (maybe how i'm feeling that day) to see if there's a related song. It's fun to stumble across random tracks that I wouldn't have found otherwise.
posted by Cybria at 8:39 AM on July 26, 2013

For songs, check out - all the playlists you could want, whether genre-specific or new. It's also an app on Spotify.

For albums, will give you a curated weekly list of new albums on Spotify. It includes albums that have been reviewed on a range on major(ish) music sites, so it's not just absolutely everything on Spotify. My method is to go through their playlist and create a new weekly playlist of five or six albums that I want to hear, then play those throughout the week. (I still feel this isn't quite working as I might only listen to each album two or three times, but it's not bad - and my backup approach is to move the albums I like into another, more permanent playlist).

Another approach I use is to look up playlists for festivals I like, either official or unofficial.

For tracking my listening I use the plugin within Spotify, so my plays are automatically scrobbled (this only works intermittently on my phone, though, so I'm not keeping track of everything). Within Spotify, I star albums to indicate that I've listened to them. (the Spotify equivalent of using favorites as a bookmarking system rather than to indicate that I like the post ;-)).
posted by Infinite Jest at 8:58 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Are you trying to replace iTunes, or augment it?

If you want to replace it, then yeah, create a playlist for each individual album you want to check out of artists you're interested in. You can make it work that way if you like, although it doesn't hold all the data that iTunes does.

HOWEVER. I see Spotify as a different beast. It's a way for me to find new music, create "mood" playlists rather than collect everything I can by my favourite artists, and above all, create awesome playlists for other people and vice versa.

Here are some awesome things you can do with Spotify:

- Create a playlist to send to someone, like a mixtape. Create your playlist, make it public, right click on it to "copy http link" and then send them the link. I love, LOVE doing this. It is just like the old days with cassette tapes.

- Follow the playlists of radio stations you like. BBC 6 Music have introduced me to some stuff I absolutely LOVE, they update weekly, and their vibe is almost always to my tastes.

- Create a collaborative playlist - do you work with people who have similar tastes to you? have a group of friends you used to copy albums on tape for? Invite them all to a collaborative playlist and drop in your current favourite findings every so often. I have one with three colleagues, it's much easier than constantly sending each other links or mp3s

- Finally, the "similar artists" bit in the top right. It's a real rabbit-hole - you're listening to Jeff Buckley and you look up and see Simon and Garfunkel and think, why not, haven't listened to them in a million years, then you're there and see The Animals, that takes you to Suzanne Vega, in her similar artists bit you see Gerry Rafferty and think, who? So you check him out and are like OH MAN he did THIS SONG? riiiiight and then you find other songs that he did that you actually like and there it is, you've found a new earworm.

Oh she's a fickle mistress to be sure but I do love Spotify.

PS. be creative with your playlists. I organise mine by colour
posted by greenish at 9:01 AM on July 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you want to be using Rdio, not Spotify. Rdio keeps way better track of what you listen to, and surfaces it in many ways. Also Rdio's UI is way nicer and prettier than Spotify's.
posted by topogopo at 9:03 AM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have a big playlist of "save for later," but I don't think there's a way to search within the playlist, so finding what I've added is hard.

In the desktop client, open the playlist and click Ctrl+F. You'll see a search field open at the top right.

I've been a subscriber for a few years. What I find useful is, when I hit upon a track I like, I search the record label. Because Spotify's search is stupid, you have to enter label:"sup pop" or whatever in order to just get label results.

I also use stars like crazy. The benefit of this is over time the Starred collection turns into a really great, diverse playlist.

I also have a "To Listen To" playlist, much like your "save for later". That's where I'll drop whole albums rather than just starring a track.
posted by schoolgirl report at 9:22 AM on July 26, 2013

I have a big playlist of "save for later," but I don't think there's a way to search within the playlist, so finding what I've added is hard.

In iOS you can scroll up to the very top of a playlist and search or filter.
posted by ellieBOA at 10:26 AM on July 26, 2013

Like Infinite Jest, I use to keep track of my Spotify listening (and all my other listening too).
posted by cincinnatus c at 11:42 AM on July 26, 2013

Make as many playlists as you want, organized by genre, year, mood, recommendation source, whatever. Tailor them to how you search out music and/or how you look for music to play. And, most importantly, I would recommend thinking of these playlists as repositories. This is how you organize music to listen to. Select music from your playlists to listen to from your Play Queue.

(Though of course you will need listenable playlists for mobile and it's nice to have some playlists qua playlists set up so you can hit play and forget about it (but you have to maintain them)).

Songs Friends Are Listening To. Favorite New Metal. 90s Hip Hop I Missed/Forgot. Recommended Baroque. Bands with upcoming shows.

I have all that sort and then a Rock For This Day playlist where I put new stuff I want to listen to... and then remove it after I've listened once or twice (sometimes relocating the tracks to other playlists such as Recent Favorites! or genre lists).

"Local Files" (under Collection) shows you what's on your machine. "Library" shows you what's in your playlists. Both are searchable. So, again, make many long rambling playlists.

In "Top Lists" (under Apps) you can pick "for me" and get a list of recent Artists, Tracks or Albums. For more tracking you could use a account which allows you to view every track you've ever scrobbled to them or aggregates for any individual week or the last month, 6 months, year (as others have noted).

One good way I've found to get recommendations is to watch what your friends are listening to in the activity bar. Follow people that talk about good music and check their playlists.
posted by mountmccabe at 1:36 PM on July 26, 2013

I have a playlist for every month. Anything I listen to in that month, I drag and drop it into the playlist, which is easy to do once you get in the habit. New month? New playlist. After using Spotify for a couple of years, it's fun to go back and listen to playlists from this time last year, or a winter playlist in the summer, or whatever. I can remember my moods and what was happening with me at that point in my life. I never edit them once the month is over, but during the month I will prune them a bit. I was just listening to November 2011!
posted by zoetrope at 3:07 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can link your Spotify account with, which does a lot of what you ask for here.
posted by Wordwoman at 3:22 PM on July 26, 2013

Second Rdio. I used Spotify for a year and switched to Rdio for a better interface and the "Collection" feature, which lets me pretend that I have some control over my Rdio "library."
posted by benbenson at 7:46 PM on July 29, 2013

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