You probably heard of Spotify, a free, legal cloud-based streaming music service delivered via desktop software with a nice social twist. Up until recently it was available in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK, France and Spain but Spotify has finally expanded to U.S.
The basic version of Spotify is free to use for anyone who manages to grab an invite (either via another user or through a waiting list-based e-mail sign-up), although you can skip the waiting and sign-up for “Premium” service that also gives you access to Spotify’s mobile apps — and more.
So, if you are a lucky subscriber to Spotify and you’ve been playing around with it and forgetting your iTunes, here are some pointers to make your delving a little deeper into the music streaming software so you get the most of the service.
1. Advanced Search Options
While you’ll likely find tons of music you like by browsing around Spotify’s click-based system, there will be times you want to find a specific track and don’t want to muck around with fuzzy searches or the like. That’s where Spotify’s advanced search options come into their own.
Simple search terms include sticking title:, album: and artist: at the front of a text-based search query to narrow down results to those three fields, but you can further refine searches for an even more targeted result.
If you wanted a quick trip down memory lane, you could search year:1999 to bring up tracks tagged with that particular year. Likewise, you can search a range of years through year:1999-2004. You can follow the same logic to search by genre, so genre:blues will offer you up a vast range of blues tracks in a jiffy.
This gets advanced when you combine those terms to get a smaller list of results, hopefully containing just what it was you were looking for. Say you only like the old Fleetwood Mac. To get songs you know you want to hear, you could type artist:”fleetwood mac” year:1967-1975.
2. Use Keyboard Shortcuts
Those of you skilled in the ways of keyboard shortcuts will be pleased to note that Spotify has a ton that will have you control-clicking quickly around the software in no time at all. While some are the same as you’re already used to (e.g cut is control-x or command-x, and paste is the same with v), here are some of the main shortcuts we’ve found useful, for both Windows PCs and Macs.
Play and pause: Spacebar / Spacebar
Turn the volume up: Control-Up / Command-Up
Turn the volume down: Control-Down / Command-Down
Mute the audio: Control-Shift-Down / Command-Shift-Down
Skip to the next song: Control-Right / Control-Command-Right
Go back to the previous song: Control-Left / Control-Command-Left
Make a new playlist: Control-N / Command-N
Land on the search box: Control-L / Command-L
Go back: Alt-Left / Command-[
Go forward: Alt-Right / Command-]
Logout (close in a hurry): Control-Shift-W / Command-Shift-W
3. View All Versions of a Song
Spotify shows a little circular symbol with an arrow below a line when there is more than one version of a particular song. This feature can be useful if you’ve found the right song, but the wrong version.
As an example, say you look up Bob Dylan’s Girl From The North Country but it’s not the version you wanted with Johnny Cash. If you click the symbol, Spotify will display that version too, as well as any others it may have in its database.
This feature is not perfect — it didn’t group Gary Numan’s remastered version of Cars in with the other versions, for example — but is generally a handy way of finding alternative, acoustic, live, or radio edit versions of songs.
4. Enable Last.fm Scrobbling
This one’s not rocket science, but it is a feature that’s not exactly promoted so we thought it worthy of mention. As with other music software, like iTunes, et al., Spotify can scrobble the music you are playing on Spotify to Last.fm (i.e. send it to your Last.fm profile).
It’s super-simple to enable this link-up. Just go to the edit menu from the top-right menu bar, click preferences, scroll down three or so options and you’ll see a Last.fm box. If you enter your Last.fm username and password and check the “Enable scrobbling to Last.fm” button, it will do just that.
Now, your Last.fm “Recently Listened Tracks” will display your Spotify streams.
5. Decode Spotify URLs
If you’ve seen someone tweeting a track, or happened across a Spotify URL that you’re curious about but don’t want to launch the application (or aren’t on a Spotified computer) there’s a site that offers “decoding” of such mysterious URL strings.
Head over to http://spotify.url.fi/ and you’ll see a box to enter the text into. Once you do, the track or album will be revealed to you. It’s a pretty basic site, as you’ll see from the results screen grab above, but it works, and will get you the data you require with minimum fuss.
6. Clean Up Your Spotify URLs
As well as decoding them, you can also use a tool that will get a little more info out of your Spotify URLs. Instead of the seemingly random string of numbers and letters, Cleanify will take your HTTP link and add the artist’s name and track’s title while preserving the Spotify direct link.
7. Shorten Spotify URLs
There are a few services that help you shorten the long Spotify URLs so that you can actually get a word in edgewise if you wanted to retweet it, for example.
Here is a really neat option – spo.tl (slogan: Shorter, prettier Spotify links), a Spotify-focused URL shortener that not only squishes down the URL to a manageable size, but offers direct links to Facebook and Twitter for easy sharing.
Clicking through to Twitter auto-pastes the artist name and song title (as well as the new URL) in the text box, while Facebook click-throughs generate the album art too, just as with a direct FB share from within Spotify.
8. It’s Not Just Music
You may well have signed up to the Spotify service because of all that sweet, free, streaming music, but now you’re creating a zillion playlists, microblogging your music taste to all, and playing “guess the song” with your cubicle buddies. What else does Spotify offer?
Well, a fair bit more than just music. Comedy is one thing — there’s tons of stand-up material available. Audiobooks are another, with Chris Anderson’s Free the first such title to debut last year. There are also audio travel guides, speeches and podcasts — in fact, a veritable wealth of non-music audio exists on Spotify. However, there is a catch.
At present, there is no way to easily identify non-music content available, not even via a genre search. The only way you will come across such content is by searching by keyword or the artist’s name with the option to click through to “Related Artists” (on the top-right of an artist’s homepage) for more suggestions.
It’s a bit of an omission from Spotify, but I hope that an update will bring such functionality — and soon.