Spotify is one of the world's most popular music streaming services, with 157 million active users (as of December 2017) and over 35 million songs. Originally born in Sweden, it quickly gained popularity as it expanded outside of its home country. Frankly, it's hard to believe that Spotify hit U.S. shores almost seven years ago. For many who were accustomed to mainstays at the time like Pandora and iHeartRadio, Spotify represented something different. And to some of us, its disparity to those other services was off-putting.

I was one of those people who was initially excited about it, then quickly became frustrated with it when I tried to use it like Pandora, which was my go-to back then. Fast forward to the very recent past and I decided to give Spotify another try — at the behest of Artem, no less. When I sat down to figure out how to best utilize it, I wanted to learn how to not only get going, but how to use Spotify to the best of its abilities in both the free and premium tiers. If you haven't given it a try yet – and I highly suggest that you do – then these tips and features are great ways to get started.

Spotify Music
Spotify Music
Developer: Spotify Ltd.
Price: Free
While I did my best to incorporate the important things, I myself am still learning Spotify and its intricacies. Most of this will be dedicated to getting started with the free account type, though I will note when something is exclusively a Premium feature. If I left something out, or you have a cool tip that you think everyone (especially newbies) should check out, feel free to let us all know in the comments. And while you can do most of these things on the mobile app, it's much easier if you use the desktop version (if you are able); there's even a Linux version! The web interface is pretty good, too.

1. Discover Weekly

Arguably the most important and coolest part about Spotify is the Discover Weekly playlist, i.e the way to fight off the Monday Blues. At the beginning of each week, Spotify curates this playlist for you, and it's a highly-effective means of content discovery. For example, I thought I knew all of the bands in the Scandinavian melodic/folk/symphonic metal scene, but Spotify proved me wrong. It's also how I've found new synthwave to listen to.

Discover Weekly is made up of 30 tracks to help get your week started right. Actually, one of the first things I do on Monday mornings is to tell my Google Home to start playing what Spotify has for me. I deeply regret all of the times I ignored Discover Weekly, so do yourself a favor and make use of it.

2. Release Radar

Despite my strange ability to remember almost everything (just ask David or my wife, they'll both tell you it's kind of creepy sometimes), I tend to miss when artists release new stuff. I have a few on my list that I follow constantly, most notably Nightwish, but in general, I'm terrible about keeping track. Luckily, Spotify has my back.

Similar to Discover Weekly, Release Radar is another method of content discovery. This one, however, focuses on new releases for artists that Spotify thinks you'll like. Again, I ignored this feature when I got started in Spotify and I regret it. While Discover Weekly comes on Mondays, Release Radar hits your account on Fridays. It can be a bit eclectic, but that's part of the fun.

As a side note, you can also find the New Releases for You subsection of the Discover area, which is a more complete list of new releases from the artists you follow, versus whatever Release Radar has for you.

3. Playlist creation

Part of Spotify's strength lies in playlists, as we've already discussed with Discover Weekly and Release Radar, so let's talk about all of the opportunities here. There are pre-made ones, usually by other users or Spotify employees, which are a great way to get started — if you like synthwave, then I highly suggest the /r/outrun Official playlist. But that's only part of the fun.

Spend some time and create a playlist. Pick a good name, set a cover image, and start curating songs! If you run out of ideas, Spotify is there to help you by offering recommendations based on what you've already added — it can even give you suggestions based on the playlist title (thus all the songs referencing "police" in my example). And by default, your creation will be publicly available, but you can set it to private if you want to keep it to yourself.

4. Special and seasonal playlists

Beyond Discover Weekly and Release Radar, Spotify also offers you the Daily Mix and various playlists to match the time of day and/or year. The Daily Mix is typically split up in generally similar items, e.g. I don't have melodic metal mixed in with my synthwave, and they're separated into their own mixes. What other playlists appear depends on when you check them out.

Sometimes, you'll get the day's top 40, music to listen to while eating supper, and relaxing for the evening with a book. Certain times of year will also bring out some other options, like the end-of-year lookback on what was most popular for you. It's just another unique way to find new content.

5. Share with friends

Spotify has a strong focus on community and sharing; while I am typically wary of such things, I have found it to be quite enjoyable. You can follow your (Facebook) friends and I suggest embracing this community aspect, or you can just communicate with others outside of Spotify to share things. In my case, Ryne, who is not a Facebook/Spotify friend, has shared several fantastic playlists with me with just the links, not least of which being the /r/outrun Official one.

Following your friends gives you a glimpse into what they're listening to and can be a great way to pick up some new stuff — I got someone hooked on Delain, for example. So even if you and your friend have different tastes in music, it's still fun to see what each other is up to.

6. Collaboration

Besides just following and sharing with your friends, Spotify lets you collaborate with a group of people to create spectacular playlists. One great way to use this is to start a party tracklist, but you're able to gather input from as many people as you want. Or, you can work together with a couple to make sure the music at their wedding is exactly what they want.

Collaborators get to add, delete, and reorder tracks. Just select the "Collaborative Playlist" when creating something new and share it with whomever you want.

7. Follow artists

In addition to following playlists, Spotify also allows you to follow your favorite artists. Not only does this give you a convenient way to check out that person's or band's library, but it also gives you the opportunity to get alerts when they upload new songs or announce a concert near you. When searching, Spotify also suggests related artists, which is another great way to find more music. It will also tell you about some playlists that feature that artist.

In case Release Radar isn't enough for you to make sure you catch everything new, be sure to follow your favorite artists to get the most out of the New Releases for You section.

8. Powerful search

Searching on Spotify is how you find things to listen to, other than what is offered in Discover Weekly, Release Radar, Daily Mix, and the contextual playlists. Sure, you can type in an artist, an album, or a playlist curator – PlayStation Music has an excellent Tron RUN/r track list, which I found by searching "tron" – but Spotify takes things a bit further.

  

For example, I typed "songs that sound like the" and Spotify brought up this gem, "Songs that sound like they're from the 80's, but they ain't." Intrigued, I started listening and found that I liked the playlist. Honestly, I have no idea what I was hoping to find with my initial query, but lo and behold, I ended up discovering something new. Spotify's search is powerful; just input your keywords and odds are, someone somewhere has made a playlist to suit your wishes.

9. Create radio

Much like its competitors, Spotify lets you create radio stations based on an artist, song, playlist, or album. It does all the work for you, allowing you to get back to whatever you're doing — that's what I like about other streaming services like Google Play Music.

To get started, you can either create a station from the main menu or from the overflow menu next to any song, artist, and so on. From there, it utilizes the thumbs up/down system like all the others. It's simple, but I have found that Spotify has improved its radio curation algorithm significantly in the last year or two.

10. Add local songs

If you're like me, you have a huge music library, most of which pre-dates streaming services. And while I really like both foobar2000 (Windows) and Clementine (Linux), I also like having as few programs open as possible. Sometimes, I like to switch between a playlist and my local music, which would normally require switching programs, but Spotify allows you to add your owned library to the app.

Simply head over to your profile settings (on desktop) and scroll down to Local Files -> Show Songs from - Add a Source. Point Spotify to your music directory and enjoy. You can only add folders, not individual files, and the songs are only available on the device you added them to, so keep all that in mind.

11. Podcasts

Other than finding music to listen to, Spotify also has support for podcasts. While I still prefer Pocket Casts while I'm on the go or at the gym, Spotify is now my preferred way to catch up on Total Party Kill or the latest Lore episode.

Simply go search for what you're looking for. Want to listen to a podcast where a group of friends play D&D? Type in "D&D" and see what comes up. Or you can just type in the name of the podcast you want and see if it's available on Spotify (not all are, so fair warning).

12. Recover playlists and access history

In the event that you delete a playlist that you've created, Spotify has the option to restore it if you so choose. It automatically backs up anything that you create, and it's all available in the "Recover playlists" in the main menu.

Another nifty feature is that Spotify lets you go back through your history in case you forgot what that one song was before you had a chance to look it up. Just hit the play queue button down near the playback controls, and select the History tab. It shows the last 50 songs you listened to. Oh, and Spotify also shows you the songs that you've liked (thumbs up) from radio.

13. Control stream from other devices (Premium)

One of the Premium-only features, Spotify lets you control the stream from your other devices. That means you can use your phone to pause what's playing on your computer, or vice versa, and switch between any number of compatible devices. If you have a Premium subscription and a Gear S3, then your smartwatch can even be a remote.

While Assistant-enabled speakers are usually available to stream to with a free subscription, certain other ones (like Sonos or those with Alexa) require Premium. But the stream controls are also interesting because say you start a playlist on your computer, but you need to head out. Just pick up your phone, connect your headphones, and continue where you left off.

14. Save library space by creating playlists

You can save songs you like to your personal library by hitting the '+' icon next to the track title above the playback controls. But Spotify has a finite amount that you can save to your library, so I suggest that you create playlists with those songs you really like so you can clear out your library.

This way, you can continue to use your library to remember great songs as you're listening. The limit is quite high, but after you've been using Spotify a while, that will begin to fill up quickly.

15. Save for offline listening (Premium)

Premium subscribers can save music for offline listening, which is great for road trips, going to the gym, or leaving the safety of Wi-Fi if you have limited mobile data. This is one of the more useful Premium features, since you can just save your favorite albums/playlists right to your device.

To access your downloaded music, head over to your library and look for the green download icon.

16. Private listening sessions

In case you don't want your listening session to be broadcasted to your friends, Spotify lets you go incognito with Private Sessions. This locks down your public activity and it also prevents your recommendations from getting messed up. It lasts until you either turn it off or go inactive for six hours.

On desktop, it's pretty easy to find: just click the down arrow next to your name and select Private Session. On mobile, however, you need to head over to the Your Library tab, tap the Settings icon in the top right corner, then scroll down about halfway to the Social section. Just toggle Private Session.

17. Behind the Lyrics

Spotify teamed up with Genius to offer lyrics support for some songs. While that's neat, the partnership goes one step further by offering users a glimpse into the meaning of the tracks with Behind the Lyrics. On mobile, it's a card that is easily swappable with the album art, so you can switch back and forth at will.

Behind the Lyrics is a way that artists can connect with their listeners, but I had trouble finding songs that supported it (at least in the genres I listen to). Luckily, there's a nifty playlist called Behind the Lyrics: HITS by spotify — which is how I ended up listening to Camila Cabello (shhhh).

These should be good to get you started on your Spotify journey. Go have fun, find some playlists or make ones, follow your favorite artists, and enjoy your Discover Weekly and Release Radar. Considering how unhappy I was with Google Play Music and Pandora, I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised that I almost exclusively listen to Spotify nowadays.

Out of all the music streaming services, I think that it has the most to offer, even in the free tier. Bump up to Premium and you not only get rid of the ads, but you get some additional options, too.