You’re Probably Listening to Spotify Wrong. Be a Power User
Music ain’t what it used to be. That’s largely for the better. Subscription streaming services like Spotify let you choose from an almost unlimited library of a few dozen million songs for a mere 10 bones a month.
With so many options, so many recommendation engines, and so many streaming services, it’s hard to pick where to start. But Spotify isn’t just for streaming. It’s smarter and more versatile than that. You can use the desktop version as a karaoke machine, keep tabs on what your friends are listening to, get a deal on pricing if you’re a student or part of a family plan, and keep your listening sessions private. Of course, you already knew all of that. But there are other, lesser-known features you might fall in love with. Welcome to the undiscovered side of Spotify.
Pardon the Interruptions
First thing’s first: Nothing’s more annoying than reaching the best part of your favorite song and having the drop interrupted by an incoming notification. If you’re using an iPhone, silencing those interruptions is easy: You flip the mute switch on the side of the phone, and incoming text messages, emails, and notifications won’t audibly interrupt your listening session. If you want to get more granular than that, you can configure and enable the Do Not Disturb settings in iOS. (It’s the little crescent moon icon in the the swipe-from-bottom Control Center.)
On an Android phone, setting your phone to “vibrate” mode may also do the trick. However, Android phones are so varied, there’s no one-size-fits-all way to keep pings and dings at bay. Even if your phone is set to vibrate, you may still hear audio drop-outs when you receive a message or notification. Luckily, there’s an app built specifically for shutting up everything else on your phone when you’re jamming out. It’s called Don’t Pause, and it’s free.
Spawn Algorithmic Cousins for Your Playlists
You probably already know that you can use Spotify just like Pandora. There are thematic playlists that are updated every day, and you can create your own radio stations based on your favorite artists, songs, and albums. There’s also the one-of-a-kind Discover Weekly playlist, an excellent source for new music you might like, generated dynamically based on your listening habits. But did you know you can create alternate-universe versions of your favorite playlists? Go to any playlist, tap on the ellipses at the top of the screen, and select “Go To Radio.” That’ll create a playlist that shares some of the DNA of your own favorite set, and just might reintroduce you to deep cuts you forgot about.
Share Songs Across Services
Depending on what your friends use, you may run into obstacles when you try to share your songs. If they’re on a mobile device or use a different service, they may not be able to hear that hot track you posted to Twitter. A song-matching service called Songl.ink is built to fix that. It’s like a hybrid between a URL-shortener and OneTab. You enter the name of a song, and it spits out a link to that song that works on several services: Spotify, Apple Music, Google Music, YouTube, and Deezer. Keep in mind it only works with individual songs, not albums or playlists.
Let the Universe Be Your DJ
Have you ever thought about how life makes its own playlist, man? Far out. The next time you go about your daily routine, hearing random songs playing at the gym to Starbucks to an elevator to your office’s hold music to a restaurant for dinner to a bar for drinks, you can create an ambient Spotify playlist that logs your daily adventures in sound. All you need is Shazam, because it’ll save everything in Spotify. Once you’re in any place where a song is playing, fire up Shazam to identify the song, tap the top-right “add” button, and instantly add that song to your serendipitous Spotify mixtape.
Collaborate on Themed Playlists
Back in the day, Turntable.fm scratched a few itches that haven’t been re-scratched by newer services. You could chill out in a virtual room with a bunch of friends and strangers, take turns spinning, and even collaborate on a nice “theme jam”—as in, everyone takes turns playing songs about food or songs about the weather or songs about technology. Spotify doesn’t offer the same interface or on-the-clock adrenaline rush, but you and your friends can still tag-team a playlist and play music-nerd games. For example, you can challenge each other to follow each song with the song it samples from, or co-create the ultimate flute-rock playlist. To make any playlist a group effort, hit the ellipses at the top of any playlist and select “Make Collaborative.” Keep in mind that in order for anyone to add to the playlist, they first need to follow it. That part’s easy: There’s a big ol’ “Follow” button at the top of each shared playlist. (If you’d rather collaborate in person and on the fly, tap the ellipses next to any song and select “Add to Up Next.”)
Re-Produce Your Favorite Albums
Do you ever listen to an album and think, “this would be better if the songs were in a different order” or “that nine-minute noise experiment ruins the flow of the album” or “all the skits on this rap album are stupid”? If you have Spotify Premium and are using the mobile app, there’s a way to take control of the mix without manually skipping or deleting tracks. When a song is playing in full-screen/album-art mode, tap the “hamburger” icon in the top right corner. That’ll bring up a queue of what’s playing next, and you can reorder and delete songs in the queue without affecting the album or playlist in your library. Just drag and drop each track from the three-line icon on the far right of the screen. And if you want to mess around with crossfading tracks and different equalizer settings, you can jump on into Settings > Playback and tweak away.
Bring Non-Spotify Songs Into Spotify
Spotify has pretty much everything, but there are significant gaps in the library. A lot of De La Soul, Prince, and Taylor Swift, as well as Adele’s new album are nowhere to be found in its ample stacks—not to mention all those (legal) concert bootlegs you have on your hard drive. You don’t need to jump around between services or music players to get all you want. As long as you have the songs on a hard drive and a Spotify Premium account, you can play everything you own in Spotify and sync it all to your phone. To do so, add your local files to a Spotify playlist on your computer. Then, make sure your phone is connected to the same Wi-Fi hotspot. Fire up your phone’s app, and you should see the local files on your computer’s hard drive grayed out in your new playlist. Surprise! Clicking “Available Offline” will download them to your phone. Keep in mind that it’ll take up some storage space there.
Listen to Something Nobody’s Ever Heard…
… on Spotify, at least. Of the 30 million or so songs on the service, there are a few million that no one has ever once listened to. Never. For your unappreciated-jam needs, there’s Forgotify, a wonderful service that seeks out unlistened-to songs on Spotify and plays one at random for you. Some of the ones it dug up for me are pretty good, such as “He Ain’t Got Rhythm” by Jimmie Lunceford & His Orchestra, which is appropriately about the loneliest man in town. Others, such as “How I Want to Dream” by Catman Cohen, have an appeal that’s… more selective. (Dude sounds like Cookie Monster, and that album cover is amazing.) Whether the results are good or bad, it’s not really discovery unless you’re the first person to have ever heard it, you know? You’re like the Magellan of music.
Find Subgenres With Advanced Search
If you dig around in Spotify’s main “Genres & Moods” section, you’ll find fairly basic genres like “country” and “R&B” and “rock.” But if you use advanced search terms like “grunge” and “turntablism” and “triphop”, you can dig deeper into Spotify’s crates. You need to use the correct advanced search syntax to do it, but it’s pretty simple. It really gets fun when you combine genres and timeframes: A search for “genre:hiphop year:1990-1997,” for example. The results aren’t always spot-on, but they’re helpful if you’re creating an era-specific playlist. And once you find something that strikes the mood, you can play a radio station based on that track or album.
Take Your Library Offline
If you have Spotify Premium, you already know you can save songs locally for offline listening. It’s a must if you take the subway, fly on a plane, or just want to limit your data-slurping ways to Wi-Fi hotspots. But that takes a bit of forethought, and sometimes, the urge to hear an unsaved deep cut hits you when you’re already on the train. No worries: If you’ve got 3,333 tracks or fewer across your playlists and albums, you can save it all to your phone without tediously going through each album or playlist. Just select “Songs” in the “Your Library” menu, toggle the “Available Offline” switch, and you’re golden. Yes, this will take up a lot of storage space on your phone—but isn’t that why you got the 128GB model?
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