Clouded Music

Using Spotify and Dropbox to fully "Cloud" your music

Spotify is a well established music streaming service that allows you to build up a library which you can play any time on any device (assuming you use a premium account). However, Spotify's music library does not include every music track you could ever want to hear. In such cases, the Spotify Desktop application lets you include local files (which you may have bought elsewhere) into your library. But these will only exist locally.

If you use multiple devices, this is a little bit of an inconvenience. Of course it would be best, if you have your complete music library accessible everywhere. But the good news is: you can keep your music library consistent on multiple devices, if you simply synchronize these additonal files with your desktop devices manually.

Within Spotify's options panel, under Local Files, you can add additional paths (or Libraries) with music which Spotify should play. You can use these music files like any other track on Spotify, you can star them and add them to playlists. Now, the clou here is that Spotify is able to detect if a local file already exists in Spotify's database. Meaning, if you have added a local file to a playlist on PC #1 and you have the same file also present on PC #2, Spotify will recognize that.

So in order to have a consistent library within Spotify, including your "3rd-party" music, it all just becomes a question of somehow synchronizing these files between your desktop machines. Which is easy enough nowadays. You could use services like Dropbox, box.com, ownCloud, Synology Cloud Station, QNAP MyCloudNAS, etc. Or you set up something with rsync, xcopy or similar. Or you simply map a network drive to a server, where all your custom music is.

When using a cloud file synchronization service like Dropbox, you can simply create a dedicated "Music" folder within there and add that path in the local file options of Spotify. The file paths can be different on each computer of course. Only the files themselves matter, not their location on each device.

But what about your Smartphone and Tablet? Spotify's Android or iOS app does not have the ability to add paths for your own music on the device. So even if you are able to sync your music to your mobile device, you wouldn't be able to use that music within Spotify.

Spotify can however synchronize your music to your smartphone and tablet. The interesting part here is, that this does not only entail music available in the Spotify cloud, but also music available locally on your desktop! Synchronizing your music between the desktop and the mobile application is pretty easy. Simply start the Spotify application on both devices and make sure that the mobile device is connected to your local wireless network (so that both devices can see each other over the local network).

The mobile device will then show up in Spotify's main menu under Devices. Select the mobile device and select Local Files to be synced to the device. Of course you can also use the option to sync all the music to the device, or you can only select specific playlists to be synced there. If there are local files in such a playlist, they will be transfered to the device too.

Before Spotify became popular and available here in Austria, I was actively searching for convenient ways of being able to play my complete music library on all devices. Not only that, I wanted to have the actual library available on all devices (meaning ratings and playlists). You could of course just map a network drive to a server and use m3u playlists and ID3 tags otherwise, but that's not really that convenient.

I was using musikCube as a more responsive alternative to certain other popular local music players. The successor of musikCube, musikCube 2, is planned to have a dedicated server application over which you can access your music library (database plus actual files) from anywhere. There even was a simple Android application in development. But development was slow and overall it wasn't very pleasing. I also looked at Synology's Audio Station (after I got a DS212+). At the time I didn't really like the interface and database features.

Spotify opened up the opportunity to discover new music far more easily and as it turned out, it also provided me with a minimum feature set for having all the music I want accessible from any device.

There are a few negative points though:

  1. You need a Spotify Premium Account for € 9.99
  2. You are exposed to Spotify's will, fate and problems
  3. Spotify's mobile Apps are often rather limited in functionality

#1 is not much of a problem for me. The way I see it, I pay a fee for the functionality I describe here and an additional fee to be able to discover and play all of Spotify's music.

#2 is in contrast to using your own, preferably Open Source solutions. You trade features and convenience over control.

#3 is a problem when you want to search for local files, which is not possible right now, as far as I know (at least on the Android App). The Spotify App always only searches the Spotify library. I find it generally annoying, that you cannot search through your library at all.

Last update: 5. Feb 2014

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Comment by Fritz Michael Gschwantner |

Just as a follow up: the newest version of Spotify's Android App finally supports filtering of playlists and tracks. Thus it enables you to more easily search for tracks within your playlists.