Thanks to Spotify’s year-end “Top Songs of XXXX” playlists, and Paul Lamere’s Smarter Playlists tool, it’s possible to automatically generate a playlist of songs you listened to a couple of years ago but (probably) haven’t listened to recently. This can be a fun way to hear songs you like but may not have heard in a while.

Here’s an overview of the process I use to generate a playlist called “My Old Favorites”. Note: All screenshots are from the Spotify desktop app for MacOS. Windows users, or users of the web app, may see a slightly different Spotify interface, but the basic process should still work on those platforms.

Log in to Smarter Playlists and Create a New Program

Go to http://smarterplaylists.playlistmachinery.com/index.html. This is the Smarter Playlists tool created by Paul Lamere[1] that allows you to create programs that generate playlists, using a slick graphical drag-and-drop interface.

When you get to the Smarter Playlists website, click the big green LOGIN TO GET STARTED button. Log in with your Spotify credentials (which are not shared with Smarter Playlists,) and authorize the Smarter Playlists tool to read your playlists and create playlists on your behalf. Afterward, you should see the Programs page.

Click the big green + NEW PROGRAM button to create a new program. You should then see the program builder, which looks like this:

The Smarter Playlists Program Editor Window

You are now in the Builder part of Smarter Playlists. At the top of your program is a place to give it a title and a description. Below that are some buttons to run, save, and delete your program. Below that are a list, on the left, of the types of components or functions you can add to your program. The darker grey area to the right of the component types is the canvas on which you will build your program.

I highly recommend that you click the ABOUT link in the black navigation area at the top of the page and read the text therein. It will help you kickstart your use of this tool and answer a bunch of common questions that beginners have.

Let’s Look At What You’ll Be Building, And How It Works

Before you get started building, it might be helpful to see the end result you’ll be shooting for. (You can always modify this later to suit your individual taste.) The finished program that I use to generate the My Old Favorites playlist looks like this:

Here’s an overview of how this program works:

  1. SOURCES: Each of the six components in the upper left pulls in all the tracks from Spotify-generated playlists like Repeat Rewind and Your Top Songs of (Year).
  2. UNWANTED TRACKS: The concatenate component in the center of the image combines all the tracks gathered by the four components at the bottom. These are the tracks we will filter out or omit from the finished playlist.
  3. MIXER: The mixer component performs three actions all on its own. The end result (the track list coming out of the right side of the box) is a set of unique tracks that do not appear in the four playlists at the bottom. Here’s what the mixer component does:
    1. It combines all the tracks retrieved by the six components on the left side.
    2. It de-dups (removes duplicates from) the combined set of tracks.
    3. It deletes any tracks provided on the red arrow from the Concatenate component.
  4. The sort component takes the tracks from the mixer component and sequences them however you want. This component is completely optional, and it provides over 25 different attributes by which you can sort your music, including things like release date, tempo, energy, etc. I’ve chosen to sort by album date (release date,) so I can hear songs from the same era together. You can also use the Shuffle component (found under “Orderers”) to randomize the playlist.

When we run this program, it will do the following:

  1. Pull all the tracks from the playlists on the left.
  2. Remove duplicate tracks (the mixer component does this.)
  3. Filter out recently-played tracks (also the mixer component,) based on the track list produced by the Concatenate component.
  4. Sort the tracks by release date descending (most recently-released tracks first.)
  5. Create a new playlist in Spotify named My Old Favorites (the playlist name is the same as the Title you give your program at Smarter Playlists.)

Give Your Program (and Playlist) a Title

Click the word untitled at the top of the program and enter My Old Favorites (or whatever name you want) into the pop-up window that appears. This will also be the playlist name in Spotify.

Add The Source Playlist Components

First, you need to find your Repeat Rewind playlist in Spotify. To do this, search for Repeat Rewind in Spotify and open the playlist.

Next, you need to copy the Spotify URI (not the URL) for the playlist. To do this:

  1. Click the three dots to reveal a drop-down menu.
  2. IMPORTANT! Hold down the option key (Mac) or the Alt key (Windows).
  3. Choose Copy Spotify URI from the Share menu, as shown below. (This is important because the Smarter Playlists tool only uses playlist URI’s, not playlist URL’s.)

Now add the playlist to your Smarter Playlists program:

  1. Flip over to the Smarter Playlists Builder tool in your web browser.
  2. Under Sources on the left side of the interface, click playlist. This will add a component to the canvas labeled “Your favorite coffeehouse”.
  3. Double-click the new playlist component you just added to the canvas. This will open up a window in which to specify the parameters for the playlist component, as shown below.
  4. Fill in any name you want for the playlist, and paste in the URI as shown below, then click the SAVE button, as shown below.

The playlist details pop-up window from Smarter Playlists

Add Some “Your Top Songs” Playlists

The number of playlists you add here will depend somewhat on how long you’ve been a user of Spotify. First, you need to find the Your Top Songs of XXXX playlists generated by Spotify. To do this, enter Your Top Songs into the search box, then click Playlists under the search box:

Spotify screen shot - searching for the Your Top Songs playlists generated by Spotify.

For each of the Your Top Songs playlists you want to choose, do the following:

  1. Copy the playlist URI (not the URL). Right-click on the playlist, then hover over Share in the drop-down menu. Remember to hold down the option key (Mac) or Alt key (Windows), and click Copy Spotify URI (see screenshot below.)
  2. In the Smarter Playlists program editor, click once on the word playlist under Sources. A new component should appear on the canvas labeled “Your favorite coffeehouse”.
  3. Double-click the new playlist component you just added to the canvas. This will open up a window in which to specify the parameters for the playlist component.
  4. Fill in the name of the Your Top Songs playlist, and paste in the playlist URI into the uri box.
  5. Click the SAVE button.

Repeat this process for each of the Your Top Songs playlists you want to use as sources in your program. You can drag and drop the playlist components to arrange them in a column on the left side of the canvas.

Add and Configure the Mixer Component

In the Smarter Playlists Builder, do the following:

  1. Look for Combiners in the left-hand column. You may need to click the word Combiners to see the tools listed under it.
  2. Under Combiners, single-click on the mixer tool. You should see a new box (component) labeled “mixer” appear on the Builder canvas.
  3. Drag and drop the mixer component somewhere near the top-center of the canvas.
  4. Double-click on the mixer component. A pop-up window will appear in which you can configure the behavior of the mixer. Set the mixer parameters in the pop-up window as follows:
    1. de-dup: checked
    2. fail fast: unchecked (off)
    3. maximum tracks: 900
    4. minimum artist separation: 0 (zero)
  5. Click the green Save button on the pop-up window to save the mixer configuration.

Connect the Source Playlists to the Mixer

Repeat these steps for each source playlist you want to connect to the mixer component:

  1. One the Builder canvas, single-click on a source playlist. You should see its border highlighted in solid green.
  2. Next, single-click on the mixer component. You should see its border highlighted in solid green. The playlist component you clicked in Step 1 should now have a dotted-line border.
  3. Press the space bar (or alternately, the letter G.) You should see a green arrow joining the playlist to the mixer.

Repeat steps 1-3 above for each source playlist you want to connect to the mixer.

CONNECTION TIPS
To connect any two components of a Smarter Playlists program, first single-click on the source component, then single-click on the target component, then press the space bar. To delete a connection between two connected components, first single-click on the source component, then single-click on the target component, then press the D key.

Add the Concatenate Component

  1. Look for Combiners in the left-hand column. You may need to click the word Combiners to see the tools listed under it.
  2. Under Combiners, single-click on the concatenate tool. You should see a new box (component) labeled “concatenate” appear on the Builder canvas.
  3. Drag and drop the concatenate component somewhere near the middle of the canvas, below the mixer component.

Add the “Omit These Songs” Playlists and Connect Them to the Concatenate Component

  1. Under Sources in the left-hand column, look for my top tracks. Click on my top tracks. You should see a new component labeled “My medium term Top tracks” appear on the canvas. Drag this component below the concatenate component. This component produces a list of 50 tracks you’ve listened to frequently in the past six months or so.
  2. Add another my top tracks component, and drag it below the concatenate component. Double-click this component to configure it for short-term tracks. In the pop-up window that appears, select “short term” from the drop-down list, then click Save to close the window. The description on the box should change to say “My short term Top tracks”. This component will produce a list 50 tracks you’ve listened to frequently during the past month or so.
  3. Find your “On Repeat” playlist in Spotify. In Spotify, enter On Repeat into the search bar. Right-click on the playlist, hold down the option key (Mac) or Alt key (Windows), and copy the playlist URI to your clipboard.
  4. Under Sources, click playlist. A new component should appear on the canvas labeled “Your favorite coffeehouse”. Drag this component beneath the concatenate component.
  5. Double-click the new playlist component you just added to the canvas. This will open up a window in which to specify the parameters for the playlist component. Enter On Repeat as the description, and paste the Spotify playlist URI into the uri box. Click Save to close the pop-up window.
  6. Follow steps 3-5 above for the My Top Songs of 2021 playlist (or whatever the most recent year is.)

At this point, you should have a concatenate component and four playlist-generating components below it (My medium term Top tracks, My short term Top tracks, On Repeat, and My Top Songs of 2021.) Connect each playlist-generating component to the concatenate component.

Repeat these steps for each source you want to connect to the concatenate component:

  1. One the Builder canvas, single-click on a source playlist. You should see its border highlighted in solid green.
  2. Next, single-click on the concatenate component. You should see its border highlighted in solid green. The source component you clicked in Step 1 should now have a dotted-line border.
  3. Press the space bar (or alternately, the letter G.) You should see a green arrow joining the playlist to the concatenate box.

Repeat steps 1-3 above for each source you want to connect to the concatenate component. When you’ve finished, you should have constructed this part of the program:

Attach the Concatenate Component to the Mixer Component

  1. One the Builder canvas, single-click on the concatenate component. You should see its border highlighted in solid green.
  2. Next, single-click on the mixer component. You should see its border highlighted in solid green. The source component you clicked in Step 1 should now have a dotted-line border.
  3. Press the letter R. You should see a red arrow joining the concatenate component to the mixer. The red line tells the mixer component which tracks we want it to omit from its output.

Sort the Output of the Mixer Component

This step is optional, and you can either skip it or change it to suit your taste.

  1. Look for Orderers in the left-hand column. You may need to click the word Orderers to see the tools listed under it.
  2. Under Orderers, single-click on the sort tool. You should see a new box (component) labeled “sort by title” appear on the Builder canvas.
  3. Drag and drop the sort component to the right of the mixer component.
  4. Double-click the sort component. A pop-up window appears in which you can configure the behavior of the sort component.
  5. In the pop-up window, click album date in the drop-down list. Make sure the reverse check box is selected. Click Save to close the window.
  6. The sort component’s description should now say “sort by reverse album date.”

Connect the mixer component to the sort component:

  1. One the Builder canvas, single-click on the mixer component. You should see its border highlighted in solid green.
  2. Next, single-click on the sort component. You should see its border highlighted in solid green. The mixer component you clicked in Step 1 should now have a dotted-line border.
  3. Press the space bar (or alternately, the letter G.) You should see a green arrow joining the mixer to the sort box.

Congratulations! You’ve Built the Program

If you’ve followed these steps correctly (assuming I’ve written them correctly,) you should now have a program that looks like the image above under “Let’s Look At What You’ll Be Building, And How It Works”. Now it’s time to…

Run (and test) The Program

TIPS FOR RUNNING THE PROGRAM
When you run a Smarter Playlists program from the Builder screen, the Builder always SAVES THE PROGRAM and STOPS RUNNING AT THE CURRENTLY HIGHLIGHTED COMPONENT. To ensure that you run the ENTIRE program, click on the last component in the program, giving it a solid green outline, BEFORE you click the Run button.

Note these controls at the top of the Builder canvas:

Here’s what these four controls do:

  • Green triangle (arrow): Run the program
  • Down arrow: Save the program
  • Red trashcan: Clear the canvas (try to avoid clicking this.)
  • Red X: Remove the currently highlighted component.

To run your program, do the following:

  1. Click on the last component in your program’s flow (the sort box you added above.)
  2. Click the save button, which looks like a green downward-pointing arrow.
  3. Click the check box next to Save playlist to Spotify. If you skip this check, the program will run, and you can examine its output, but it will not generate a playlist in Spotify.
  4. Click the Run button (green triangle.)
  5. WAIT. While the program is running, the Run button will turn red, and the word “running” will appear in blue near the top of the window, just below the TRACKS heading. It looks like this:

When the program completes, the Run button will turn from red to green, the word “running” will disappear, and – if all goes well – a number will appear in green next to the word TRACKS at the top of the window.

To see which tracks your program generated, and where they came from, you can click the word TRACKS at the top of the window. You will see a page that looks something like this:

Assuming you clicked the Save playlist to Spotify checkbox before running the program, you should now see a playlist in Spotify named My Old Favorites (or whatever you named the Smarter Playlists program.)

Here are a couple of other tips:

  • You can run the program from the Programs list, without opening up the program in the Builder. Just click PROGRAMS at the upper-left part of the page, then click the green run button (a triangle within a circle). The run button will turn red. Wait for it to turn green and for a number to appear next to TRACKS at the top of the window.
  • Click the program name in the Programs list to open the Spotify playlist. Just click PROGRAMS at the upper-left part of the page, then click the program name in the TITLE column.

 

References

References
1 Paul Lamere is the Director of Developer Platform for The Echo Nest, a music intelligence company. He also creates numerous music tools for Spotify that can be found at his Playlist Machinery site. You can find him on Twitter as @plamere.
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