The digital music revolution continues at a frenetic pace — we'd only just turned in our CDs for MP3s when streaming services came along to upturn the apple cart again. There are now a whole host of streaming apps to choose from, but the original pioneer Spotify remains the biggest and the most well-known.
Despite the desktop app's simple appearance, you'll find many useful features hidden away that you might not yet have discovered, and we've pulled together some of our favourites below. You'll never listen the same way again.
Spotify launched its app platform late in 2011, allowing all manner of plugins and extensions to be built on top of it. One of the most effective is TuneWiki, which pulls lyrics for your tracks from the web and scrolls through them as the song progresses. Whether you want to set up an impromptu karaoke session or desperately need to know the words that are being mumbled/screamed, TuneWiki is an excellent tool to have to hand.
Spotify's search box may look a little bare to the untrained eye, but there's plenty you can do with it if you know a few tricks. Try adding the operator "year:2000-2005" to limit the date range, or the operator "genre:rock" to only look for a particular genre of music. Other operators you can use include "track:", "artist:", and "album:", and you can combine them together with AND/OR operators too.
If your collection of playlists is becoming stretched and unwieldy you can split them up into folders to make them easier to manage. Choose "New Playlist Folder" from the File menu and you're good to go — drag existing playlists into this new folder to move them. Clicking on the folder name shows a summary of all the music in the playlists contained within, so you could use folders as a way of splitting up your music collection into different sections.
Don't throw out all of those neglected MP3s just yet — Spotify can import everything in your iTunes or Windows Media Library so you can access these files in Spotify (it's one of Spotify's key advantages over Rdio). The import option is on the File menu, and once completed you'll find all of your tracks listed under a Local Files heading in the navigation pane. If there's a rare recording Spotify doesn't have, or other gaps in its streaming library, then this is a great way to plug the holes. Local files can be synced to your mobile devices if you're a Premium user (£10/month), and of course they reduce the strain on your internet connection too, because no streaming is required when they're being played. Right-click on a local track and choose "Edit Info" to make changes to the file's metadata.
If there's a killer track you're dying to share with your friends, family and the world at large then you can embed it on the web using a bit of code provided by Spotify. It's called the Spotify Play Button, and you can find it here — simply paste in the track link (which you can find by right-clicking on it and choosing "Copy Spotify URI") and your widget code is ready to go. You can import it into a blog post, sidebar widget, or anywhere else you like.
Some sites, such as Tumblr, include optimised support for the Play button, so all that's required is the link. The trick works with playlists and albums as well as individual tracks.
Found an unbelievable guitar riff or an epic bass line? Link to a specific point in any Spotify track by adding "#3:00" to any URL, where "3:00" is the time you want playback to start. Paste this text into the Spotify search bar, for example, to listen to a certain well-known section of a certain well-known song:
Click the "Play Queue" link in the navigation pane and you can see the tracks you've got coming up; switch to the "History" tab to review what you've just listened to. If you want a more detailed breakdown of your listening habits, we'd recommend Last.fm and its impressive scrobbling service — you can sign into a Last.fm account on the Preferences screen, add it as a Spotify app, and it works with iTunes, Windows Media Player and many other apps and services too.
With Last.fm tracking your listening you can look back on your favorite songs or albums of the last six months or the last six years, get instant recommendations of new music to listen to, and even befriend likeminded music lovers.
We've covered embedding songs and playlists on the web, but you can also send tracks straight to the inbox of your Spotify friends. Click the small Share button by a track (or a playlist or an album) and open the "Send to Friend" tab. Type out your friend's name, include a glowing review, and you're all set. If you want to start work on a collaborative playlist then this is one way of announcing it.
You may not have realised it, but you have a public Spotify profile that other users can see when they click on your name. This shows your followers, who you're following, and which artists you've listened to recently. To make one of your playlists visible to anyone else on your profile page, right-click on it and choose "Make Public." To change the default behaviour for new playlists, head to the Preferences screen (under the Edit menu) and tick the box marked "Automatically make new playlists public."
Whether you're ashamed of your love for Beyoncé or not, you need to know what you're sharing with your friends on Facebook—the option to toggle sharing on or off is under the "Activity Sharing" heading on the Preferences screen. You can also disable sharing to your followers on Spotify. To temporarily disable sharing across all your connected networks—when you want to hear Gangam Style, maybe—choose the "Private Session" option from the drop-down menu below your avatar.
If you have your own tips and tricks for using Spotify that we missed, share them below!