On the 1st of April Spotify launched their ‘new Desktop Experience’ and I really wish it was an April Fools joke, but unfortunately it looks like it’s here to stay.
To understand why it’s such a bad experience for me you need to first understand how I listen to music.
I like to listen to an artist’s albums and EPs back to back (ideally from first release to last, although Spotify never supported this) and the artist that I choose to listen to during a session will usually be determined by the type of activity I’m doing while listening.
An example of this would be how I get into a ‘flow state’ when programming. I’d generally play through whatever band I’ve got on heavy rotation at the time (usually something Death Metal-ly) and I would lose myself in blast-beats and buzzsaw riffs until the early hours.
With Spotify’s ‘new Desktop Experience’ I can no longer easily do this and as a happily paying customer for many years I think I’m entitled to throw my toys out of the pram about this.
Spotify have made it harder to access the artist list
In the old experience you used to have an option on the side menu that would take you to the artist list, for someone like me who likes to listen to artists it meant there’s three clicks between opening Spotify and starting my ascension into that uber-productive ‘flow state’.
In the new experience they’ve folded the artists, albums, playlists and podcasts into a single ‘Your library’ item in the side menu.
This doesn’t mean there’s just one extra click though as they’ve also made it so ‘Your Library’ defaults to showing playlists first, so to get to the Artists list you need to then click the ‘Artists’ tab at the top.
So in the new experience it takes five steps to go from opening Spotify to playing an album (note I say album here — more on that later) from an artist I want to listen to.
Spotify have removed the discography listing
In the old experience the artist page had a number of tabs, the first one containing the top tracks and the discography which was divided into albums, EPs and singles and sorted by release date descending.
Pressing play on an track on that discography would start a play through of that discography from that track until the end of the listing — ideal for someone like me who wants to listen to one artist’s output back to back.
This layout wasn’t perfect as I’d have really liked the ability to ‘hide’ certain albums (such as when an artist like Death has loads of re-releases) and I’d have liked it if you could inverse the discography listing so you can listen from first release to latest, in order to see how the artist’s sound evolved over time.
In the new experience though they’ve removed the tabs and put all that content on one page and in doing so they’ve had to condense that discography section into a list of releases instead of tracks.
This would seem like a fair enough compromise if they’d at least kept the division of release type and the release date ordering but instead they’ve put the albums, EPs and singles together in an order I’ve yet to figure out.
To get divided release listing you have to click the ‘See All’ button which shows the albums, EPs and singles in separate sections, sorted in release order descending.
These sections are still showing the albums, not the track listings and if the artist has less than seven releases you don’t get to see this view, you’re stuck with the random sorting.
This layout means that there’s no longer a means to just press play and get on with things.
In order to work around this new impairment I’ve started to queue up albums in a bid to replicate the way that I used to use Spotify, but this means if an artist has a particularly large discography I’m now spending a lot of effort to reproduce something I used to get for free.
Another thing I’ve noticed when pressing the play button on an album and then adding other albums to the queue is that it’ll only play one track from the currently playing album before jumping to the next song in the queue.
A similar thing happens if there existing tracks in the queue and you press play on an album, it’ll play the first track and then jump back into the queued up songs.
How Spotify can solve this issue
Firstly, don’t bluntly force change on people — Give them the option to opt-in first so you can test the idea and so someone like me who hates the new experience can hold onto the old experience until the last minute.
Secondly, as the way people enjoy music is a subjective thing, make the UI configurable so those who enjoy a more varied selection of music and those who favour a more predictable selection can decide on the experience that works best for them.
Simple things like being able to configure shortcuts to things like the artists page (or individual artist pages) and the display used for listing an artist’s discography wouldn’t be particularly taxing changes to make configurable.
This would allow someone who’s ideal experience is a random playlist of their favourite songs to have a menu item that drops them straight into that so someone like me can get immediately into a screen full of the albums from the artist I’m heavily rotating at the moment.