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It’s time for Spotify to stop capping how much music you can save

It’s time for Spotify to stop capping how much music you can save


Despite years of user complaints, song libraries remain limited to 10,000 songs

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Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

It’s a pretty good New Music Friday, everybody. But today, while adding some new releases to my Spotify library, I ran into one of the app’s most aggravating restrictions: I crossed the 10,000-song limit. The “Your Music” section of Spotify is where all of your saved artists, albums, and songs go. It’s what makes Spotify feel like your Spotify — especially if you spent years using iTunes before music entered the streaming era. Your Music is everything you’ve plucked from the service’s vault of over 30 million tracks to encompass your personal collection. But that collection has a hard ceiling of 10,000 songs. Why is there such an arbitrary cap?

Playlists don’t work this way. Spotify treats playlists differently from your library. They’re technically part of it, but they existed before Your Music was introduced and don’t count toward any singular library limit; each of your Spotify playlists can have up to 10,000 songs. I love Discover Weekly and Release Radar, and I build out plenty of my own playlists with the best songs from a given month or year. But I can’t get by on playlists alone. Something about it feels barbarous. Maybe I’m just old.

Either way, Spotify has never offered up a great explanation for why the limit on Your Music is there to begin with. In response to thousands of votes from users asking for a higher limit, the company responded with this:

At the moment we don’t have plans to extend the Your Music limit. The reason is because less than 1% of users reach it. The current limit ensures a great experience for 99% of users instead of an "OK" experience for 100%.

It’s been using that same excuse for a few years, actually. And the last line is some classic PR nonsense. It basically reads as “Sorry, but bowing to these music nerds would mess things up for everybody else.” Apple Music’s library limit is 100,000 songs — and I must be missing the complaints about all the problems that’s caused for the service and its user experience. What’s the big hurdle? Where’s the burden?

Everyone’s pulling from the same giant catalog of songs, here. We’re just setting aside the stuff we like to make it easier to find and listen to later on. It’s just bookmarking. But inexplicably, Spotify only wants you to bookmark so many things. I get the sense that this isn’t so much a technical issue as it is an unfortunate restriction that stems from Spotify’s deals with record labels. Spotify’s customer service Twitter account has frequently acknowledged a larger library as a “popular request.” Yet... nothing. Spotify grows and grows, and the cap remains unchanged. Bookmarks can’t be that hard.

Bizarrely, for every album you add to your library, an extra track gets counted toward your total song limit.
Bizarrely, for every album you add to your library, an extra track gets counted toward your total song limit.

When it comes time to inform you that your library has grown too large, Spotify tries to lessen the pain by complimenting it. “Epic collection, friend. There’s no more room in Your Library. To save more, you’ll need to remove some songs or albums.” But that message essentially translates to “You’re using our product too hard,” which is bad and untenable for a company aiming to create the one true music service. No collection should be too epic, and a 10,000-song library isn’t too epic for any of Spotify’s major rivals.

Spotify lets you download up to 3,333 songs per device on up to three devices

I should note that adding music to your library isn’t the same as downloading it offline; there’s a separate cap for how many songs you can store on your phone or PC. But I find the library structure critical to taking music with me on the go. It makes things easy. Scroll through your list of saved albums, tap on one, toggle the download button, and you’re done. When you’re offline, Spotify lets you filter what music is shown to only include downloaded content. You can do the same thing with playlists, but again, that feels unruly to me. And the worst part is, assuming an album isn’t in some playlist, you must save it to your library in order to download it for offline listening.

Plus, it would seem to me that the people who do hit the 10,000-track library ceiling are customers that Spotify should really care about. They’re fervent, insatiable music lovers who have trusted the service to be the foundation of their listening. They’re probably worth a little extra engineering work. And if Spotify wants people to use its app for years and decades to come, is 10,000 songs enough to contain a lifetime of music? Yes for some. Definitely not for others. There’s no good reason for this stumbling block to be there.

A good point was made by Derek Mead at Motherboard last year on why upping the limit would benefit Spotify’s business is lock-in factor. Think about how inconvenient it is to switch between these music services. Sure, there are online tools that will transfer your playlists from one to another, but they rarely work perfectly — and that’s just with a few hundred or a couple thousand songs. If your Spotify library was 20,000 or 50,000 songs deep, it would take an outrageously compelling reason to even consider an export to Apple, Google Play Music, or Amazon Music Unlimited.

Spotify’s enforcement of this asinine limit is likely pushing some of those customers toward the competition. If it’s still less than 1 percent of users hitting the wall, the company probably just doesn’t care. That active subscriber count keeps going up and up, after all. All your friends are on Spotify. Can you really afford to leave?

But once you do hit the limit, it becomes a major nuisance — unless you’re willing to rework the way you use Spotify. No one wants to have to trim their music library every week or two. There are ways to adapt once you get the dreaded “epic collection” notification. Instead of saving album upon album, you can just follow an artist without adding any songs directly to your library. That still keeps your favorite musicians a few taps away, and you’d never need to worry about the limit. Ask Spotify for advice and they’d probably just point you back to playlists as the answer once your library fills up. Just make more and more playlists. Playlists are great and all, but they also require work on the user’s part.

You know what the worst thing about iTunes is? Using it can often feel like work. Until I saw that message pop up today, Spotify never really did. I guess it will from now on — or until I switch to something else. I’ve already got plenty of music uploaded to Google, anyway.