Don’t let your roommate’s vinyl collection fool you. Streaming has taken over the music industry, and its dominance begins and ends with Spotify. The music-streaming service’s desktop and mobile apps have 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.
The most basic of tasks to master on Spotify is how to create a playlist, but playlist creation differs for Premium and ad-supported users, so here’s step-by-step guide to get you started.
You’ve been able to create playlists on mobile devices for a while, but AI-backed “assisted playlisting” uses machine learning for more customized playlists. 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.
Not only can you organize tracks into playlists, but you can organize the playlists into playlist folders. On the desktop, select the three-dot menu on the top left and select File > New Playlist Folder. A new folder will appear below in the left-hand column. Give it a name, and then you can drag other playlists in and out of these collapsible folders. Notice that clicking on the folder will show all the sub-playlists’ tracks. You can even nest folders inside other folders.
Need new tunes? The Browse and Radio functions on the top left of the desktop are a good place to start. Every Monday, Spotify will also add a new crop of 30 songs to your Discover Weekly playlist. Songs are selected by Spotify robots based on your listening habits. Find it under Browse > Discover on desktop; favorite it to have it show up under Playlists. On mobile, tap Home and scroll down to Made for [your username]. If you find something, be sure to save it, as Discover Weekly is replaced with a new playlist each week. Right-click or tap the three-dot icon and select Add to Playlist.
Maybe no feature is more indicative of Spotify’s push into personalization than Daily Mixes, which serve up always-changing playlists based on previous listening, as well as songs you’ve favorited or added to playlists, usually grouped by genre. It’s a good mix of music you already know you like and a built-in discovery mechanism to stumble across new jams. If you’re a Spotify Free user, Daily Mix playlists have unlimited skips on mobile. Look for Made For You on the left-hand menu on desktop and Made for [your name] on mobile on the Home tab.
If you have Spotify Premium, you can download any podcasts, albums, or playlists (not individual songs) and listen offline. On the desktop, go to the content you want to download and toggle the Download button on the top right to on. Once a playlist is downloaded, you’ll see a green arrow next to it indicating that you can listen offline. On mobile, tap the downward-facing arrow; for playlists, you can also select the three dots and tap Download. To preserve data, go to Settings > Audio Quality > Download Using Cellular and check that the feature is off. This way, downloads only happen when you’re connected to Wi-Fi.
(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.)
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.
Right-click on any playlist on the left side of your screen and a pop-up window will offer a Collaborative Playlist option. Choose that, and a small halo icon appears above the folder’s icon. Once a playlist is dubbed collaborative, any of your friends with access to that playlist can add or delete tracks. If you find your friends are getting out of hand with their terrible music, shut off this option at any time.
While Search will help you peruse Spotify’s vast library, you can quickly rifle through any playlist using the Filter function. Just hit Command-F on a Mac or Control-F on a PC, and a search window will open atop your current playlist. Start typing what you’re looking for—artist, song title, or album—and Filter will find it in your current playlist. On iOS, pull down slightly from the top of the screen inside a playlist and a search bar should appear. On Android, tap the three-dot menu on the top right and select Find in playlist.
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 have, 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.
If you’re using a computer that isn’t yours, but you have the desperate need to jam out, you can access your Spotify account via your browser. Just log into your account via play.spotify.com and you’ll find your complete Spotify library with all your carefully curated playlists.
Spotify is quick to point out that it never censors music and will “make music available in whatever form it’s given to us.” So, if you ever come across an album that isn’t quite as real as it should be, scroll down and look for a pull-down menu on the bottom right-hand side, which will say “1 More Release” or something similar. It’s usually not clearly spelled out, but this is typically where you will find the “clean” and “explicit” versions of any particular album.
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.
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. On desktop, click your name on the top right and select Private Session. On mobile, 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.
Private listening has another benefit: not messing up your Spotify Wrapped. In 2020, 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, 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 Netflix. 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 the hassle trying to trick the system. A family plan is $14.99 per month and supports up to six different accounts.
For the wannabe influencers out there, Spotify has a built-in function for sharing songs to Instagram Stories. No screenshot needed. When you’re playing a song on the Spotify mobile app, tap the three dots on the top right of the play page and scroll down to Share > Instagram Stories. Your Instagram app will open with a Story ready to post.
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.
Dance parties were few and far between in 2020, meaning fewer chances to play DJ or just hang out and listen to music. But with a Group Session on Spotify, Premium users can 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 wil 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.
Video games have awesome soundtracks, but sometimes you want to add your own music. Link your account to your PlayStation, Xbox, or PC via the Epic Games Store to browse, listen to Spotify while you play your games, and control Spotify playback using your phone.
If you’ve always got Google Maps navigation open while you’re driving (or walking), you can add music to your trip without leaving the app. Sync Spotify by opening Google Maps and navigating to Settings > Navigation and then either Music playback controls on iOS or Show media playback controls on Android. Once your accounts are linked, a Spotify pop-up should appear as you’re driving for a quick tap to get your music started.
In Waze, click the search bar on the bottom, tap the settings icon, tap Spotify, and toggle Connect Spotify to on. Once you set up the integration, you’ll see a green Spotify logo floating in the top-right corner of the Waze app. Tap that to open a Spotify menu inside Waze (when your car is at a complete stop, please).
You may already have Spotify built into your vehicle’s entertainment system. If you drive a BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Mini, Polestar, Tesla, or Volvo—or your car is equipped with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto—a Spotify app might be sitting somewhere in your car’s dashboard screen. Check out Spotify’s full list of supported cars here. Of course if your car isn’t supported, you can simply connect your phone via Bluetooth.
Want to add a crossfade transition between songs? On the desktop, make your way to the Preferences window, scroll down and click Show Advanced Settings, and find the Playback section. Toggle Crossfade tracks to on and use the slider to create fading transitions between 1 and 12 seconds.
Android users can connect the Google Clock app with Spotify to set a custom wake-up track from Spotify catalog. Once linked up, you’ll see a Spotify tab inside the Clock app with personalized song recommendations from your recently played music, as well as curated Spotify morning playlists. Once you turn off the alarm, you’ll see an option to “Continue Playing” through the app as you start your day.