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Spotify launches group listening function for your lockdown disco

By | Published on Tuesday 12 May 2020


So, think back now to your first pretend-night-in-the-pub video chat with friends or family, way back whoevenknowshowlongagoitwasnow. Remember when you said to everyone, “Hey, we should all listen to the same music together, I’m sure you can do that in Spotify”? Then you discovered that you could not.

Remember how you spent hours leading up to your fake-party-on-Zoom researching other options for concurrent playlist sharing, only to discover that there was nothing really satisfactory and easy to set up? So then, in the end, two of you ended up listening to a livestreamed UK garage classics DJ set on YouTube while everyone else just sat in silence? Remember that? It can’t just be me who had that exact experience.

Anyway, Spotify has fixed it now. It’s launched a new thing called Group Sessions. It basically does the same thing as the old Spotify-integrated Soundrop app that the streaming service forced to close down six years ago and has only now thought to replace. Despite the old Soundrop app being the peak of streaming music history.

Group Sessions basically allows people with premium Spotify accounts to synchronise their listening. Everyone can either enjoy one person’s playlist, or they can all select tunes using the play queue or a collaborative playlist.

The connecting is done via Spotify’s barcode system – which it is currently promoting in the US via bananas – making it unnecessarily clunky and annoying from the off.

Users can either scan the phone of a person nearby or (more likely in this, or any other, but particularly this situation) one person can take a screengrab of their barcode, send it to another, who can then save the image to their camera roll on their phone and then open it when they’ve finally worked out where the scan function in the Spotify app is. Yes, that sentence should have been shorter, but you should really blame Spotify, not me, for that. Whatever happened to links, eh? Remember links? Kids today, they don’t believe links ever even existed.

Anyway, under rigorous testing, we played around with this new feature this morning. We discovered that we could indeed remotely connect to each other’s Spotify accounts and jointly control what was being played on both phones. The only downside – and this happened in two separate tests with different people – was that only the person who originally shared their barcode got any sound. The other just had to just imagine how much fun it was to listen to all this great music. But so long as one person gets to have actual fun, that’s probably enough.

Of course, the other big issue here is that it is available only to premium Spotify subscribers. Partly, presumably, because the aim is to make premium accounts more attractive. Adverts would probably mess up all the syncing too, I guess. But it does somewhat limit your Zoom dance parties to people who are paying for a Spotify account.

Freeloaders can’t join in. People paying for accounts on other services can’t join in. So, you’re probably back to the initial problem of wanting to play music in a way that everyone in the Zoom call can listen to and that not being possible. Even if the only-one-person-can-actually-hear-the-music bug gets fixed.

In short, Spotify launched a thing that may or not be fun and useful.