Spotify: The Definitive Music Search Engine Guide

Spotify LogoJuly 14 was the official U.S. launch date of the long anticipated streaming music service, Spotify.

Although heavily covered in many online media outlets, mention of this service to the search engine community was little to none. This boggled my mind as what is the first thing you do upon opening the program? That’s right, you search!

Spotify – The Music Search Engine

Just a few moments after launching the program I realized that I wasn’t just dealing with another streaming music service, but that Spotify was in and of itself a very powerful and articulate search engine for music.

Like most people, I started off by typing a word into that little search box that lives up at the top of the screen. I quickly learned that by using some simple qualifiers and conjunctions in your searches, you can do much more to get the most out of your music.

How to Use the Spotify Music Search Engine Like a Pro


Spotify Searches for Artist, Title, Song Titles

Search: paul simon
Results: The words “Paul” and/or “Simon” in track titles, artist names and album titles.

This is the equivalent of a broad search in Google and might give you some unexpected results. Not only will it give you all Paul Simon songs, Simon & Garfunkel songs, and all songs that are about Paul Simon, but also tracks like “Poemes De Paul Verlaine” performed by Gillan Keth and Simon Lepper off an album of Debussy’s early works.

Search: artist:paul simon (no quotes)
Results: All fields in which the artist name contains “Paul” and/or “Simon”

Search: artist:”paul simon” (with quotes)
Results: All fields in which the artist name contains “Paul” and “Simon”

This is the closest thing to phrase matching your artist and finding only songs that your performer is credited to.

Search: title:paul simon (no quotes)
Results: Tracks with the words “Paul” or “Simon” in the track name and “Paul” or “Simon” in the Artist or Album Title

Search: title:”paul simon” (with quotes)
Results: Tracks with the words “Paul” and “Simon” in the track name.

Spotify won’t search artist or album titles unless they are found in the track title.

Search: album:paul simon
Results: Albums with the words “Paul” or “Simon” in the album name and “Paul” or “Simon” in the Artist or Track Title

Search: album:”paul simon”
Results: Albums with the words “Paul” and “Simon” in the album name.

It won’t search artist or track titles unless they are found in the album name.

Searching Spotify by Release Date or Date Range

Search: year:1978
Result: Songs released in a particular year.

Search: year:1980-1985
Result: Songs released within a specified date range.

For the most part Spotify seems to get release dates adequately. However, if you do much searching along these lines or are familiar with a certain artists discography you’ll soon see that many of their dates aren’t the original release date but the date of the re-release for which they have the rights.

Searching Spotify by Genre

Search: genre:punk
Results: All songs that are categorized in a particular genre.

The genre list that Spotify maintains is ever changing and expanding. They have added almost 150 genres since this time last year bringing their current total up to 944 (as of this writing). You can browse the current list at the Spotify Official U.S. Genre List.

Searching Spotify by Record Label

Search: label:EMI
Results: All songs released by the label “EMI”

The releases are identified by the rights that Spotify has to reissues and seem to be even more of a mixed bag than the Genre search (above). For example, a search for Wax Trax (a popular Industrial music label from the 1980-’90s) shows many bands associated with that now defunct label. However, the more popular bands were picked up by another label (Metropolis Records) years later and this is the label that Spotify associates the artist.

For a less obscure example, try to find some Sun Records artists (Johnny Cash, Elvis, etc.) by that famous label.

Refine your Spotify Searches by using AND / OR / NOT (Boolean Operators)

AND – If you use a space in your searches, this is the equivalent of using AND

Search: genre:garage artist:streets year:2000-2004
Results: Albums by The Streets AND falling under the Genre of Garage/House AND released during the requested time range.

OR – If you place the word OR (uppercase) between search terms it will combine the results of two separate searches.

Search: artist:”death cab for cutie” OR artist:”postal service”
Results: All tracks and albums with Death Cab for Cutie as the artist name as well as any results with Postal Service as the artist name.

NOT – If you use a minus sign or dash (-) before a search term it will exclude those results from your Spotify query.

Search: death -artist:cab
Result: You’ll get all tracks/albums which contain the word “death” but NOT those that list the artist as having the word “cab” in the artist name. Basically, show me all the songs mentioning “death” but not anything to do with Death Cab for Cutie.

If you get creative with these Spotify AND / OR / NOT operators, you’ll quickly be able to unlock some powerful searches through this search engine. Want to find a some classical music on Spotify? How about Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana as performed by the London Symphony Orchestra about 6 years ago? Now you can.

Add Friends to Spotify by Username

If you’re familiar with Spotify and have enabled their Facebook sharing you already know that you can easily find your Facebook friends and view their shared playlists. However, what if you have a friend that you’re associated with on Google+, Tumblr, or Twitter and you aren’t Facebook friends. No worries! You can still connect through Spotify by using the following in the search box:

Search: spotify:user:username (username must be lowercase)
Result: You should see the users profile and their shared playlists.

If you don’t know the username for sure or you have a typo, you will see a blank profile with 0 playlists shared. You should ignore this response. If you find the person you were looking for then right-click on their username and click “Add This Person.” Their profile will appear under your Friends Pane on the right of the application.


Search Other Parts of the World through Music

It’s a whole new world! That’s right, while you might be busy looking to see what the new releases are or what’s popular right now with Spotify, you might be missing out on what the rest of the world sees as wonderful music.

If you browse to the What’s New section –> Top Lists you’ll see a very grayed out link near the top-right of your screen that reads “Everywhere.” If you click on that and drill down, you’ll be able to see what’s new and popular across a variety of countries.



My hope is that this guide will help you find either the music you’ve been looking for through Spotify or help you creatively find new music to expand your horizons. Spotify is a very powerful music search engine and one that should not be ignored in your quest to find the tunes that get you through your day.

Add me as a friend through Spotify: “spotify:user:smomashup” and share your Spotify tips and tricks in the comments below!

Related reading

How to lead SEO teams and track its performance effectively: Experts tips
SEO is a team sport: How brands and agencies organize work
How to pitch to top online publishers: 10 exclusive survey insights
search reports for ecommerce to pull now for Q4 plan