Final solution I built in Coda.
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I create Spotify playlists to set music to nearly every phase of my life and to assign songs to a specific moment in time. Over the past few years, I have slowly built a library of playlists that capture my every moodーa playlist for when I need to work, a playlist to celebrate the weekend with friends, and even a playlist to lull my niece to sleep. The playlists have been piling up in that small Spotify sidebar, nested in easily overlooked folders, and over time, I’ve found myself forgetting older playlists and struggling to find playlists with a funky title that doesn’t match the content.
While there’s no shortage of theories on the best way to organize your music, I couldn’t find a way to organize and sort through my music in a way that works for me.
Fortunately, that changed this summer. When I first started designing the recently launched
, I saw a chance to combine Spotify and Coda for the solution I had been looking for.
Here’s my problem: I have over 100 playlists on Spotify, dating back five or more years.
And the way I build playlists is also a little over the top: I create playlists for every season in every year: Fall 2019, Summer 2019, Spring 2019 and so on. The playlists are both timely, in that they have new music, but also feature older songs. I create them at the beginning of the season and then add on as the season goes by. They are meant to be aspirational to how that time in my life should play out — with the end goal feeling like I am in my own mundane movie powered by a great playlist.
So many Spotify playlists!
Getting lost in many moods.
A playlist for every mood sounds like a good idea in theory, and may have worked better in a world where we kept our music as CDs or MP3s in folders — when it was ours to group and organize. However, when we have to work with a service meant for the many, it can get complicated to organize our music to our own needs.
There are a few reasons why it’s challenging to keep these types of playlists in Spotify:
1. Playlists belong to multiple categories.
The only way to find a playlist is searching by a designated title, or by navigating a themed folder where the playlist lives. However, this single-name or single-folder system doesn’t capture important aspects of search, like time, place or mood. A playlist called “Soothing coffee shop vibes” can live under a “Mellow hits” folder or a “Fall 2018” folderーnot both, even if I’d like to search by multiple parameters.
2. Older playlists don’t get re-surfaced.
Spotify sorts playlists in chronological order, from newest to oldest. While this generally makes sense, it doesn’t account for playlists I made years ago that are just as relevant today. It’s hard to re-surface older playlists without a lot of scrolling through time and memories.
3. Challenging for my friends to view my music collection.
Yes, I can share an individual playlist with a friend, but what if I want to share my entire library and give them the ability to sift through my music for something that suits them? Unless they know exactly what I was into during the summer of 2016, there aren’t helpful clues beyond a title for them to discover. While I may have a general sense of the content in my playlists, a friend will not know where to begin.
Tagging is Greater Than Time
Tags that I chose to use for my playlist organizer. Sourced from Spotify Moods and some of my own.
With the goal of easily browsingーand using!ーmy newer and older playlists, I set out to solve the problem with a simple tagging system. Whether they’re visible to the end user or not, tags show up in just about every search we conduct: when searching for a notebook on Etsy, you’ll see that the results are a combination of tags like “color” “size” or “price”. Or you can search on Pinterest, and a tagging system will help you out in a similar way. So I wanted to apply a tagging system to my own playlists. Here’s why it worked:
Tagging lets you search across dimensions.
You can assign multiple tags and endless qualities to a single playlist. Just like giving a single name to a playlist hasn’t helped me find it on Spotify, a single tag doesn’t capture the dynamics of any given playlist. Instead of just calling a playlist “Quiet,” I can call it whatever I like and tag it with “moody” and “summer”. When I search for any of those tags, I’ll get multiple relevant results.
Tagging lets you re-surface older playlists.
Now that my older playlists are tagged, they will resurface with a relevant search and no longer be relegated to the very bottom of a sidebar. It has been fun to rediscover some playlists that got lost over time, such as
, a Halloween playlist I made for my office a while ago.
Friends can now find my music without having to read my mind.
I made a mood picker so that all anyone needs to do is pick a mood and they will see all the relevant playlists and some reviews too. While I copied some tags from Spotify’s “genres and moods,” I also created some unique tags for myself like “feminist” and “young”.
While Spotify’s current search and display options make sense for many, I was excited to create my own new way of listening to music and I’m even more excited to see how this system can evolve over time. Perhaps I’ll introduce new tags, like Holiday or San Francisco.
Everyone organizes their music and playlists in a unique way, and I found a way that works well for me — I hope you find yours.
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