Spotify Premium puts more than 80 million tracks at your fingertips for less than $10 per month (much to the chagrin of some music professionals). But like it or not, streaming has taken over the music industry, and its dominance begins and ends with the Stockholm-based Spotify.
The music-streaming service has evolved quite a bit over the past few years, growing more predictive and personalized while pulling in an ever-expanding array of music and podcast content. The tips below largely apply to the $9.99-per-month Spotify Premium, but free listeners have some options, too. Read on for a rundown of all the hidden and not-so-hidden tools to take your music streaming to the next level.
You’ve been able to create playlists on mobile devices for a while, but AI-backed “assisted playlisting” uses machine learning for more customized listening. When you create a new playlist, the Spotify app will analyze the words you input as the playlist name to give you song recommendations. As you add songs to the playlist, the app changes the recommendations in real time to give you more tailored suggestions based on the songs you’ve already added.
Similarly, Spotify can create a radio playlist based on a single song. Open that song, tap the three-dot menu next to the track, and scroll down to Go to radio. Spotify will create a stream of songs based on your favorite tune.
Spotify has long offered the option to collaborate on playlists; just click on the three-dot menu in a playlist and select Invite collaborators to let other people add or delete tracks. In 2021, Spotify stepped that up with the launch of Blend, which uses Spotify’s recommendation algorithm to serve up a playlist based on the musical tastes of the people included in a Blend. It has since expanded to support up to 10 people in a Blend, up from two.
Inside the app, search for “Blend” or navigate to Search > Made For You and tap Create a Blend. Select people to invite, and once they’ve accepted the invite, Spotify will create the playlist, which can be shared on social media. Once you’re part of at least three Blends, meanwhile, Spotify will collect music from them to create a sort of meta social playlist known as a Friends Mix playlist.
If you want a live listening session, meanwhile, tap into a Group Session, which lets Spotify Premium users jam out, or listen to a podcast, together. On the play screen, click the Connect icon on the bottom left. Scroll down and tap Start a group session, which will produce a URL you can share with your friends or family. Or have them scan the Spotify code to join the session. Everyone can then pause, play, skip, and select tracks on the queue as well as add in their own tunes. (Those on iPhones or iPads can also listen together with Apple SharePlay.)
Your playlists are carefully curated masterpieces, I’m sure. But everyone gets in a rut. Give your playlists a boost with the Enhance feature, which slots in similar songs throughout your playlist. Tap the “Enhance” button at the top of a playlist and new tunes will be added immediately, designated by a star icon (versus the download button). Tap the plus button next to a song to formally add it your playlist. Not a fan of the selections? Tap Enhanced up top to remove them. At launch, Spotify said Enhance would add a max of 30 songs, but that seems to have changed, as a recent Enhance added 57 songs to one of my playlists.
Find a song you want to revisit again and again? Tapping the heart icon will add it to your Liked Songs playlist. But if you have a healthy number of faves, this playlist can get unwieldy. Narrow down your listening by filtering the Liked Songs playlist by genre or mood. Navigate to Your Library > Liked Songs and up top, you’ll see a scrollable row of filters. Tap one and your playlist will shift to include the songs that fit that option. Tap the “X” to return to the full list.
Looking for your song to shoot to the top of the streaming charts? Maybe cozy up to the music director on a popular streaming show. Just ask Kate Bush, who saw streams of her 1985 song “Running Up That Hill” surge by 8,700% in 2022 thanks its inclusion in the latest season of Netflix’s Stranger Things. Lady Gaga, meanwhile has also seem streams of her 2011 song “Bloody Mary” jump after fans of Netflix’s Wednesday did a TikTok dance mash-up featuring a sped-up version of her song. (In the show, Wednesday is actually dancing to The Cramps.)
Spotify recognized that people are looking to stream songs from their favorites shows and movies, so it now has hubs dedicated to popular hits from Netflix and Disney+, and other franchises. Navigate to Search > TV & Movies, where you can find playlists for Emily in Paris, The Witcher, Marvel movies, the Game of Thrones universe, and more.
For whatever reason, shuffle play was initially on by default for albums for Spotify Premium. That is, until 2021, when Adele requested that the streaming service knock if off. Acknowledging that people perhaps wanted to cry in the order that Adele intended, Spotify agreed. (“Anything for you,” it tweeted.) It seems reasonable that you listen to an album in order when first checking it out, but perhaps that’s the elder millennial in me speaking. If you want to throw caution to the wind and jump around, you must now proactively tap the shuffle button before hitting play.
Over the course of a career, a band or performer goes through various phases, and some are inevitably better than others. With Spotify search modifiers, you can skip all the meh years with the “year” search modifier. So if you search Madonna and include the search modifier “year:1980-1990” (no spaces), Spotify will only serve up her 80s-era music.
If you have Spotify Premium, you can download any podcasts, albums, or playlists (not individual songs) and listen offline. Go to the content you want to download and tap the downward-facing arrow; for playlists, you can also select the three dots and tap download. To preserve data and only download when on Wi-Fi, go to Settings > Audio Quality > Download Using Cellular and check that the feature is off.
(Note: If you go offline, you’ll need to go back online at least once a month so Spotify can verify your account. This way, you can’t download a huge amount of music to a device, cancel your Spotify account, and listen to that music indefinitely.)
Music may be its bread and butter, but Spotify has also invested heavily in podcasting. With more than 4 million podcasts on the platform, though, it can be difficult to cut through the trash. Word of mouth and recommendations play a big role here, but podcasters can be…wordy. Showcase the best part of a podcast by sharing an episode from a certain point in the show. Tap the share button inside an episode and you’ll see a toggle option to “Share from [timestamp].” Turn it on, select your sharing platform of choice, and the clip that gets shared will start from your selected timestamp.
In 2021, Spotify started testing some accessibility features for podcasts, including transcripts. For now, it only applies to Spotify Originals, but the company has a healthy offering of exclusive shows. To find them, navigate to Search > Podcasts > Only on Spotify. Find your podcast of choice, and there will be an Episode Transcript option up top. (Spotify notes that these are auto-generated, so don’t be surprised if there are some wonky transcriptions.)
If your New Year’s resolution includes reading more, Spotify has an audiobook catalog with 300,000 available titles for US listeners to purchase. Authors include Stephen King, Colleen Hoover, Michelle Obama, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Spotify doesn’t want to pay the Apple/Google app tax, so you’ll have to buy audiobooks via the web, though you can listen on the apps.
Data Saver Mode is an opt-in mobile app feature for data-conscious streamers. From the gear icon in the app, tap Data Saver and toggle it on or off. Data Saver caches data from recently played songs on your smartphone to help your phone consume less data when streaming music. Spotify says it can reduce data usage by as much as 75%, but if you’ve got an unlimited data plan, you can leave this switched off and save that on-device storage space.
Did you ever accidentally hit “delete” on one of your playlists, as well as the pop-up window that asked if you really wanted to do that? You did? Well, fortunately for you, my indecisive friend, Spotify has your back and allows you to restore your deleted playlists. Log in to your profile page on Spotify’s website, and click Recover Playlists on the left, where you’ll find deleted playlists. Click Restore to get them back.
One of the benefits of music streaming is paying a monthly fee for millions of songs; no more buying individual songs or albums. But these services don’t have everything; if there’s something in your music library that Spotify doesn’t stream, you can import local files into Spotify.
On the desktop, navigate to Settings > Local Files. Files from your computer’s My Music and Downloads files are automatically selected, but you can turn them off. To pull tunes from another location on your PC, click Add a Source. Spotify supports .mp3, .m4p (unless it contains video), and .mp4 files. (The iTunes lossless format (M4A) isn’t supported.)
To listen to these songs on mobile, you’ll need to be a Premium subscriber. First, import songs via the desktop app and add them to a playlist. Then open the mobile app, find the playlist with the imported songs and turn on download. If you’re having trouble, make sure the phone and PC are on the same Wi-Fi network.
Spotify Friend Activity lets you share your listening habits. But maybe you’re having an afternoon with NSYNC’s greatest hits and don’t want to broadcast that fact. Switch to a Private Session, which will temporarily stop music sharing. Navigate to Settings > Social > Private Session. Your account will remain private until you turn it off, restart Spotify, or after a “long period” of inactivity.
One benefit here? Not messing up your Spotify Wrapped. In recent years, many people found that their most-streamed music of the year included the ambient sounds they listened to while falling asleep, or endless hours of “Baby Shark” for the toddlers in the home. Stuff you listen to in a Private Session doesn’t factor into Spotify’s recommendations, or Spotify Wrapped, though. So before you doze to rain sounds for 2 hours, open up a private session. If you have a Spotify Premium Family plan, meanwhile, download the Spotify Kids app to keep their tunes separate from yours.
A Spotify Premium Family plan, meanwhile, is the only way to share your account. And the people you share your account with must all physically live in the same place. You can’t get a family plan and add profiles for your mom and sister who live in other cities, for example, like you can with certain streaming services. Spotify doesn’t really explain how it verifies that you all live in the same place besides having you type in your address when joining a family plan. But if Spotify somehow detects that you’re lying, it’ll kick you off, so it’s probably not worth trying to trick the system. A family plan is $14.99 per month and supports up to six different accounts.
Those with the Spotify app can use it to beam music to supported devices on the same Wi-Fi network. That includes nearby laptops, smart speakers, consoles, or Airplay- or Bluetooth-enabled devices. To use it, open the Spotify app, select a song, open it full screen, and look for the Connect icon on the bottom left. In the window that pops up, select the device to which you want to connect. Some setups require a Spotify Premium account.
Having trouble with a particular Spotify member? Block them. Prior to November 2021, the only way to banish an annoying or abusive person was to contact customer support, but Spotify has now built that functionality into its app. Navigate to the offending person’s profile, select the three-dot menu, and tap Block.
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