Spotify has changed and it keeps getting better. For those not in the know, Spotify is a streaming music service. It’s like having the whole iTunes music store on your own computer. The cool thing is you can get all this for a low monthly subscription. You can also get it free with ads if you go for the new “Open” model (limited to 20 hours per month). I was quick enough to get in on the beta when it started up so I have it free and unlimited. I just have to put up with the occasional adverts [that’s what the mute button was made for ]. If I’m having a party or mates over for dinner I can get a 24 hour ad-free pass too. It seems like Spotify have a model for everyone. It’s a shame the “Open” model isn’t completely unlimited but if it keeps Spotify on the record labels’ good side (if they have one) then I suppose its justified.
The one issue you have to really contend with is how do you go about organising this unlimited supply of music? Add to this the fact you can know import your personal music library and you have an organisational nightmare. I thought I’d share the way I do it to maybe give you a few more tips.
Playlists are the core of Spotify. That’s all the original version had. They can be ones you create yourself, ones you have subscribed to or collaborative playlists with friends. Now we’ve got the option to make these public (which I do with all my playlists) it’s like you’ve got friends (and strangers) flicking through your virtual CD shelf. Maybe the chore of alphabetizing your collection disappears in the virtual world but how can you make this experience better for visitors.
The first thing a visitor sees is your “Starred” tracks. At first I thought of these like Follow-Up Flags in email but now I see it as more of “My favourite tracks” list. Its a highlight to all users of my kind of music. It’s the playlist I’ll put on most often as a kind of ideal radio station.
You can’t organise the playlist/library panel by artists or album So you tend to get a long list of playlists which you just keep for easy access, just like you would have each album in a cd on your shelf in real life. To get around this I created a “Favourite Artists” playlist and dragged it right to the top of my library. I put a track by all my fave bands and singers into here. The key point of this playlist is to a) show visitors my musical preferences upfront and b) to use Spotify links to jump quickly to an artists whole back catalogue. It’s kind of like having a saved search and it works really well. I also use the to replace the loads of custom “Best of …” playlists I had.
I try to listen to Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show as much as possible because it plays such a wide range of new music. I’ll hear a song on the radio, check the artist and title on the shows online playlist, listen to it a couple of times and then probably forget about it. In the old days I would have bought the whole album and often end up disappointed. I now use my “Cool New Artists” playlist to add the whole album to Spotify. I keep around 8 albums in here but listen to the albums individually enough to know whether I like them or not. More often than not I’ll then go and buy the real thing because I want to take it in the car or when I’m running. I still like buying physical CDs and ripping them to my PC. I don’t like iTunes on the whole and get a warm felling when I open up a real CD case. This has recently happened with The XX and Biffy Clyro. I doubt I would have purchased these unless I listened to them fully, several times, on Spotify first.
These are more traditional playlists. I label them all “Mix-…” and use these to jump to the music to suit whatever my mood is. A couple of examples are
I also have a playlist each for my three sons (age 10, 8 & 5). They add there own tracks or I’ll stick in music that I think they’ll like. It’s a great way to find out what they are into. My 10 year old seems to go for lots of British rappers, my 8 year old is almost purely Michael Jackson and my 5 year old has got loads of songs from kids movie soundtracks. I’d love to be able to stream my whole Spotify into my car radio. Maybe that’s a future project
Search, don’t save
The search box in Spotify is the gateway to their immense library. Sometimes if it’s just a particular album or a something you’re not going to listen to that much, it is easier to just do a search for it each time. That way you rid some of the clutter out of your playlists.
This Spotify blog article shows how you can search for music using keywords like “title:” or “year:”. You can also search for other users or buy music label here too. To search for a person (i.e. if they aren’t a friend on Facebook) type spotify:user:<username> e.g. spotify:user:thommck (that’s me btw). For a record label simply type label:<name> e.g. label:kitsune (cool indie stuff) or label:sony or label:motown
Finally I have my guilty pleasures. I don’t mind people seeing I listen to the odd Will Young or Cheryl Cole track. I think its far better to admit it than hide it away. I just want to make sure people know it is purely a guilty pleasure and not part of my mainstream tastes. By sticking all these potentially uncool/embarrassing tracks in here seems like a good way to do this.
So what do you think of my tips? How do you organise your Spotify Library? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Since the August 2010 update you can now sort your playlists into folders. This works as expected and is very simple to do. For me, it means I no longer need to prefix my playlist names with a category (e.g. Mix:Cheese). The only issue is that the new folders don’t appear in your public profile. Hopefully that is something they can remedy, otherwise it messes up my prioritisation!