Apple Music and Deezer might have bigger catalogues, but by and large Swedish music streaming service Spotify is still considered the best in the game thanks to its superb recommendations algorithm, intuitive interface and wide-ranging support for third-party hardware like smart TVs and speakers. But there’s more to the service than usability. Here are our tips for getting the most out of Spotify, whether you’re new to the service or a veteran user.
- Local is plentiful
From Casper Nyovest (up to and including his latest single, “Check on You”, released last Thursday), Babes Wondumo, Moonchild Sanelly, and Johnny Clegg, to Fokofpolisiekar (last year’s album and LP being the most recent), Shortstraw, and The Kiffness, Spotify has no shortage of local content.
In the days of MP3s most of us used to make playlists for each album in iTunes, WinAmp or whichever music player we were using. The temptation when moving to a streaming service like Spotify is to do the same, but it’s much more efficient to just add tracks you like to your library (by clicking the plus symbol next to them in the player at the bottom or next to them in a playlist) or save whole albums to your library by clicking “save” next to the album art.
Hear a track you like and want to hear the whole album? Click the three dots next to a track (or right click on it) and select “Go to album”. The same menu also lets you view the artist’s whole discography, add a track or album to your queue, add the song to a playlist, share with other users, or even view the song’s credits.
To view songs, albums or artists in your library pick the appropriate category from “Your Library” at the top of the left-hand panel in the desktop or browser apps, or select “My Music” from the tabs at the bottom of the mobile apps.
3. Discover Weekly, Release Radar and Daily Mixes
Every Monday Spotify makes every use a 30-song playlist called Discover Weekly that collects tracks it thinks the user will like based on their listening history. This could be current tracks, classic ones or deep cuts that your history suggests you’ve yet to find. Every Friday users get another personalised playlist, Release Radar, that works similarly, but only adds recent releases. When there haven’t been enough new releases in a week for a whole new playlist you’ll see some of the previous week’s finds down the bottom.
Like Netflix, Spotify pays close attention to how you interact with tracks. Skip a track soon after it starts playing and it’ll assume that particular song isn’t really your bag. Add a song to your library by clicking the plus symbol next to it, meanwhile, and it’ll assume you’d like more of the same. Adding tracks to your library is one of the most effective ways to ensure Spotify gets better at making recommendations you actually like.
Another is hitting the thumbs up or thumbs down icon when listening to radio stations (more on those later) or the heart or no-entry logos when listening to your Daily Mixes. You get six of these and they’re suggestions of similar genres or tracks based on what you’re listening habits suggest you’ll like.
4. Save your favourite playlists offline
Streaming can use a lot of data, so save yourself from bill shock by storing your favourite playlists offline. Also make sure you’ve only set Spotify to download offline tracks when you’re connected to WiFi if you’re using a mobile device. With a Spotify Premium account you can save tracks offline on up to three devices and manage your devices via the settings menu.
If you update an offline playlist on another device, say your phone, when you desktop is next online and Spotify is open the new tracks will automatically be downloaded. This is great for playlists like Discover Weekly and Release Radar which you may want to keep offline on your phone or tablet. Hit “Save” next to the playlist art and every week when the playlists change and you’re on WiFi the new tracks will be downloaded.
5. Beware the 3,333 offline song limit
One of Spotify’s few quirks is that it’ll only let you save 3,333 tracks offline per device, and will only let you add 9,999 tracks to your library. There’s no workaround for the former, but for the latter you can add tracks to playlists, which aren’t subject to the same limits as your library. You’re only likely to run into this problem if, say, you get a shiny new 256GB phone and try to download your entire song list to it, only to find you get an error message when you hit the (pretty arbitrary) 3,333-track limit.
6. Create collaborative playlists and be social
Music is better when it’s shared, so why not create a monthly themed playlist with your besties and get everyone to add a few tracks to it? To make one, create a new playlist and then tap the three dots beneath the name (or right-click on it in the playlist list) and select “Collaborative playlist”. Now when you share the playlist with other Spotify users (using the same right-click menu or three dots) they’ll be able to add tracks to it, too.
You can also see what your friends are listening to, or let them see what you’re playing, using the social features in settings. Want to play the Frozen soundtrack or your favourite Britney album but don’t want your friends knowing about it? Choose “Private session” and your guilty pleasures will remain your secret. You can also link your account to Last.fm to keep track of your listening history or connect to Facebook for easy track-sharing there.
7. Follow other people’s public playlists
You can choose whether or not to make new playlists you create public in the settings menu. Many users happily share all of their playlists, while others share select ones. To find a user’s playlists click their username and you’ll see their public playlists on their “Overview” tab. Choose the ones you like and save them like you would any other playlist. If you’ve found some of your friends (or famous people you digitally stalk/follow) have similar music taste you can even follow their Discover Weekly or Release Radar playlists (assuming they’re public) to give you even more new music to listen to each week.
Spotify plays well with lots of third-party hardware, and with itself. If you’ve got Bluetooth or AirPlay speakers, a smart TV or Google Chromecast devices, you can prompt Spotify to stream audio to them. You can also get Spotify to play on other devices it’s installed on. So, for example, you choose music on your phone but get Spotify to play it on your laptop (assuming your laptop is on and Spotify is open, of course). This lets you use your phone or tablet as a remote control for your computer, or the other way round.
To send audio to other devices on desktop click the devices icon next to the volume slider in the player at the bottom of the app. On mobile, tap the “now playing” bar above the section tabs to make it full screen, and then select “Devices available”.
9. Keep the party going and see what’s up next
Last year Spotify added a new feature that’ll keep playing music when your queue runs out, as with most things Spotify, the tracks it plays depends both on what you were playing at the time, and on what you like to play generally. Not sure how to view your queue? It’s the icon left of the devices icon and volume slider on the desktop version, and look out for the same logo at the top right of the full-screen now-playing screen on mobile.
Listening to Dusty Springfield and desperate for more of the same? Pick an album or track, right click it (or tap the three dots icon) and choose “Go to album radio” or “Go to song radio” and Spotify will create a playlist of similar tunes for your listening pleasure. It’s also possible to find, add and listen to podcasts through the app, and if you’ve got your own music stored on your device you can add it to your Spotify library, too, but you won’t be able to upload any of it and share it across devices, so you’ll need to have it on each one you want to listen to it on.
What else would we like to see from the streaming giant? Primarily support for more wearables. We’d like to be able to sync a suitable Spotify Playlist (perhaps, “Run the Kilojoules” for example) to our fitness tracker. Samsung’s Gear 3 smartwatch offers this feature as does the Samsung Fit2 Pro, but here’s hoping other manufacturers (looking at your Fitbit, TomTom and Garmin) get on the bandwagon, too, and swiftly.
[UPDATE: Spotify sent out the cheatsheet below after its official South African launch.]