7 hidden Spotify features you probably didn’t know about
Spotify is pretty good at presenting you with songs, albums and playlists you may want to listen to next, but its user interface isn’t always intuitive when it comes to organizing your music.
There are features in Spotify that I feel should exist, but don’t, like custom visualizations to go along with your tunes. (There’s a workaround for it, though, more on that later.) There are also features that exist, they’re just not that easy to find. Here are some of its best hidden tricks.
Spotify’s Playlist folders
Recently, Spotify software engineer Emma Bostian shared a screenshot of a feature that lets you organize your playlists into folders.
At first I thought the feature was entirely new, but then I tried it out and discovered I have it already. According to Bostian, it’s being rolled out to users slowly. Some 25 percent of the user base currently has access, which will increase to 50 percent “soon.”
It’s being rolled out slowly. I believe 25% have it now and will reach 50% soon.
— Emma Bostian 🐞 (@EmmaBostian) April 8, 2021
To try it out, open Spotify’s desktop app, and right click on any playlist in the menu on the left side. You’ll get several options, one of which should be “Create Folder.” If you have that, you can create folders, name them whatever you like, and organize your playlists into them. That’s way cooler than just having a long list of playlists there.
Note that the folders will show up on your mobile phone, but there’s no way to create them there.
While you’re there, notice the “Download” option. Yes, you can download your playlists! Once you click on that, Spotify will download all of the songs in that playlist to your hard drive, so you’ll be able to access it even if you’re offline.
This feature is also available on mobile, but you have to be a Premium user to see it.
Talk to Spotify
This feature was added just recently. In case you missed it, Spotify now allows users in the U.S. to invoke Spotify on their phone by saying “Hey Spotify,” which will kick off the app’s voice search.
There’s a couple of caveats, though: Your phone needs to be unlocked and the Spotify app needs to be open for this to work. It’s unclear how many users have access to this feature right now; we’ve asked Spotify but haven’t received an answer.
If you do have the feature, you’ll have to enable it in Spotify’s settings, where you can also choose the voice Spotify will use to talk to you.
This is [band name]
For most artists, Spotify has a special playlist that’s basically a “best of,” and it’s called “This is [band name].” You may have seen these playlists, but you probably never thought of using it as a search phrase.
Guess what: It works. Type “This is [band name]” in Spotify’s search, and if such a playlist exist, you’ll get it as a top result.
And if you think that this only works for top artists, you’re wrong. I’ve tried it with some fairly obscure bands like Die Kreuzen, and the “This Is” playlist was there.
Add your own music
Another feature that’s easy to forget, especially as it’s turned off by default, is the ability to add local mp3 files to Spotify. To enable it, go to Spotify’s Preferences and turn on “Show Local Files.” Then you can choose which folders will be available in Spotify by clicking on “Add a source.”
The new files will be shown under “Local Files” in the “Your Library” menu on the left in Spotify’s desktop app. You can also use these files to create a playlist and, as explained above, you can further organize them using playlist folders if you desire).
This feature is also available on mobile.
This one’s easy to forget as you don’t often need a private listening session. But once you’ve hosted a wild party (I’m talking about pre-2020 era, also known as “The Golden Days”) with everyone DJ-ing on your laptop and messing up your music recommendations, you’ll see the advantage of a Spotify session that doesn’t leave traces.
Going private will also mean that people following you on Spotify won’t see what you’re listening to with Friend Activity.
To start a private session, click on the arrow in the upper right corner of Spotify’s desktop app, and select “Private Session.” On mobiles, it’s located in Settings under “Social.” As long as the feature is active, you’ll see a padlock icon on top of your avatar. You end the private session from the very same place.
This is technically a bit of a cheat, as the feature isn’t officially available. But there is a semi-official way to get them.
Visualizations are colorful visual effects that sync with music — something akin to a musical screensaver. They became popular with the rise of WinAmp, a software music app that ruled PCs in the late nineties and the naughts. WinAmp had a couple of built-in visualizations on offer, and it also supported third-party ones, but Spotify has none of that. So how do you get bouncy balls and streaks of light jumping to your music in Spotify?
If you try to search for it on the internet, you’ll probably see instructions to type “spotify:app:visualizer” in your search bar to get the built-in visualizer app, but that feature was quietly discontinued.
Fortunately, there’s a third-party app that can do what Spotify no longer can. Go to www.kaleidosync.com/visualizer, and follow the instructions. You’ll have to give the app full access to your Spotify account, so don’t do that if you’re not comfortable with handing out access to a third-party app. Then, you’ll have to switch the player in your Spotify app to Kaleidosync. You can do that by clicking on the little “Devices” icon in the bottom left, and the app will start displaying visuals, synced with music, in a browser window. It’s far from perfect, but once you set it all up, it works quite well.
Kaleidosync has a decent amount of options. You can choose different visualizers by hitting V, and you can go in and out of full screen by hitting F. Hover over the visualizer window to get more advanced settings (there are a lot), accessible via a gear icon in the lower right corner.
As for why you’d want this in the first place, here’s a couple of reasons: Visualizations are cool and can be mesmerizing when paired with the right music. They also provide a cool visual background on your monitor — much nicer than a typical screensaver.