Spotify has, by and large, been a great invention. It’s not always popular with musicians because it doesn’t pay them as much per stream as they’d ideally like to receive, but for music lovers, it means almost every song ever written is just one click of a button away, and can be played at any time. It’s almost like we no longer need our old record collections – everything has been digitized, and it’s all there waiting for us any time we want to listen to it.
As great as it might be, though, there’s one feature that users have been asking for in their millions for a long time without ever seeing any sign of Spotify granting their wish. That’s the ability to ‘hide,’ or automatically skip, a specific song either on a playlist created by you, or a playlist created by someone else. All of us have at least one song that we hate despite everybody else seeming to love it. If the song is popular enough, it always ends up being included in playlists, and we have to manually skip past it every time. It’s an irritation that we could do without – and in some cases, it might even be an embarrassing track in our own playlist that we wouldn’t want anybody else to know that we listen to! Fortunately, the ability to hide and auto-skip songs has finally been included as of this week.
Avoiding a song is easy enough when you’re working your way through a linear playlist or selecting songs one at a time. Achieving the same result when your playlist is on shuffle is another matter entirely. That turns your whole playlist into the musical equivalent of an online slots casino. You don’t know what’s coming next until it happens when you’re playing online slots, and the same is true with a shuffled playlist full of unknown tracks. The key difference is that you’re generally quite happy when a casino slots takes you by surprise. When an awful or embarrassing song turns up without warning, it can spoil your mood easily! With this new feature, you can take songs out of the equation permanently. Not only are they hidden from any playlist you’ve made or shared, but they’re also automatically skipped on any playlist anyone else has created too. To put it another way, you’ll never have to hear the song again on Spotify if you don’t want to.
This new freedom does, unfortunately, come with a catch. It’s only available to people who have a Spotify Premium account. If you don’t have a subscription, you’ll still have to suffer through the song or manually skip it in the same way you always have done. If you’re one of the paying public, though, you’ll find the new option under the menu button next to every track on the platform. Should you have a change of heart about your decision at a later date, you can manually unhide the song and welcome it back onto your playlists. Perhaps absence will make the heart grow fonder – or perhaps you’ll just be reminded of all the reasons that you wanted to hide the song in the first place. It’s common for Spotify to employ a ‘paying customers first’ strategy with any new innovations to their service. It’s a means of drawing people into springing for a paid account, and it might prove to be an effective one.
There are reasons why people might want songs hidden other than the fact that they just don’t like them, or that they’re embarrassed by their own listening preferences. Sometimes a song can remind someone of a sad or difficult time in their lives, and hearing it can bring back unwanted memories. Being caught by a song like that on a random playlist would always be an unwelcome surprise, and so it’s good to see that Spotify has made sure that people can now avoid this experience if they wish – although it does beg the question of why the change hasn’t been implemented sooner. This is presumably quite a basic programming tweak, and could have been added at any point during the past few years.
Toward the end of 2019, the company reported that they’d moved past the milestone of having 113 million subscribers. Their ongoing success is proving to be catastrophic to their rivals. Tidal, the rival streaming company owned and operated by rapper Jay-Z, is rumored in some quarters to be within six months of shutting down because of a lack of revenue. The last time the company reported subscriber numbers was 2016 when they had three million paying customers. It’s thought that numbers have declined sharply since then, and the clearest sign of their impending doom came at the start of the year when Jay-Z himself made his entire back catalog available on Spotify after removing it several years ago. If Jay-Z has no confidence in the product anymore, there’s no reason why any other artists should either.
Spotify will never be universally popular. Streaming services have taken a huge bite out of revenues in the music industry, and having a song streamed one million times on Spotify will make a musician far less money than having that song bought one million times in a physical format. These are the times we’re living in, though, and it seems that selling music is no longer a viable career choice for the vast majority of people. Music has become a disposable commodity, and so long as people continue to digest it cheaply on Spotify and streaming services like it, that will remain the case. That isn’t a problem for Spotify subscribers, though. They’re entitled to pay for and use the service so long as it remains available, and this minor change will hopefully make for a better experience for all of them.