Tips on Using Spotify's Advanced Music Search Options

Find exactly the music you want with these time-saving tips

Spotify Advanced Music Search
Using search commands in the Spotify desktop app. Image © Mark Harris - Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Spotify's Hidden Search Facilities

Hidden behind Spotify's user-friendly desktop client lurks a handy set of search options that you might not be aware of. These advanced (but user-friendly) set of commands are typed in the search box and are great for distilling the exact music you are looking for.

But, what kind of searches can you perform?

For example, you might want to see all the music Spotify has in its library that was released in a particular year.

Similarly, you can filter out only the songs that an artist released in a given year or even decade. Having this extra ability to optimize your searches helps to get the exact results you need while efficiently using the Spotify music service.

Rather than having to look through an enormous list of results (often with irrelevant entries), look down the list of tips in this article to see what you can do with Spotify's advanced search features. Using this tutorial will also save you a heap of time too so you can get on with building up your Spotify music library.

Using Spotify's Advanced Search Commands

Before you start typing in command lines in Spotify's search box, it is useful to know these syntax rules:

  • In the following tutorial squared brackets [] are used but don't type these. They are just used to highlight what you need to enter in the Spotify search box.
  • If a search term consists of spaces, then this has to be in quotes. For example, the command to search for the Ambient Pop genre would be [genre:"ambient pop"].
  • When using Boolean logic operators (AND OR, NOT), make sure these are typed in uppercase.

Filtering by Year to Compile Retro Playlists

This is a useful command if you want to search all the music in Spotify's music library for a particular year, or even a range of years (like a whole decade). This is also a great retro search tool for compiling music playlists for the 50s, 60s, 70s, etc.

Examples of what you can type in are:

[year:1985]

This searches Spotify's database for music that was released in 1985.

[year:1980-1989]

Useful for seeing music covering a range of years (i.e. 1980s in the example above).

[year:1980-1989 NOT year:1988]

You can use the Boolean logic NOT operator to exclude a year.

Commands When Searching for an Artist

A more useful way to search for artists is to use this command. This is because you can use extra Boolean logic for instance to filter out unwanted results like collaborations with other artists -- or even look for specific collaborations only!

[artist:"michael jackson"]

To search for all songs that an artist was involved in (regardless of collaboration).

[artist:"michael jackson" NOT artist:akon]

This excludes an artist that collaborated with the main artist.

[artist:"michael jackson" AND artist:akon] to only look for a specific collaboration between certain artists.

Searching by Track or Album

To filter out unnecessary results when finding music, you can specify a track or album name to search for.

[track:"invaders must die"]

To search for all songs with a particular title.

[album:"invaders must die"]

Searches for all albums with a certain name.

Better Music Discovery Using the Genre Filter

One of the ways you can use the advanced search commands in Spotify is to use the Genre command to search for artists and bands that fit into this musical type.

To see a full list of genres that you can search for, check out this Spotify genre list.

[genre:electronica]

This command searches for one particular genre type.

[genre:electronica OR genre:trance]

Use Boolean logic to get results from a mix of genres.

Combine Commands for Better Search Results

To really increase the effectiveness of the above commands you can combine them to make your searches even more powerful. For instance, you may want to find all the songs that an artist released in a particular year. Or maybe a series of albums by several artists covering a certain period of time!

[artist:"michael jackson" year:1982]

Finds all the songs that an artist released in a particular year.

[genre:rock OR genre:pop OR genre:"experimental rock" year:1990-1995]

You can use a combination of commands (including a Boolean expression) to broaden your genre searches while covering a specific number of years.

There's so many different ways -- the possibilities are almost endless. Have fun experimenting!