The problem with listening to albums on Spotify

Spotify’s playlists are a great if you want to create an eclectic mix of music and the option to collaborate with friends is a great touch. However, they are only one way to consume music, and while they are undoubtedly fun, they fail to cater for the more tried and tested way - albums.

But you can just save an album as a playlist!

True, but if you’ve ever tried to organise playlists by album you’ll have probably ended up with something that looks a little like this.

An example of how albums are stored using Spotify playlists

And even with my commitment to order it quickly becomes impractical to manage.

You can just search for what you want.

This is also true, and well done Spotify for giving us quick access to so much music. However a search bar is not the most effective way to access it. It’s the equivalent of being asked to tell a joke on the spot. There are hundreds up there, but you sure as hell can’t recall one now. Think of it another way. Would you rather have a search bar in front of you, or have all your albums laid out on the floor so you can sift through them?

Clearly Spotify’s catalogue is far to big to create the digital bedroom floor I’ve just described. And what’s more I’d have no interest in most of the music spread across it. The concept of ‘starring’ is the first step towards addressing this problem. A starred song is a favourite I can access quickly. However the starred album is implemented badly, currently just a way to quickly star every track on it. Just because I like an album doesn’t mean I like every track on it. Instead a starred album should operate like a bookmark and provide quick access to that album when I need it.

To complement the starred albums I would add a starred albums folder that includes some standard view options the ability to search and filter within the set. Essentially, I’d borrow from iTunes. Layer on top the ability to add a whole album for offline access and I think you’ve got a strong UI evolution that blends existing browsing models with some Spotify logic.

Here’s a crude sketch:

A concept for displaying albums in the Spotify app

Daniel Bower

Blogging about platform regulation: algorithms, interoperability, kill zones as well as other bits and bobs. Read about my research, or read more about me.