With over 380 million users and 172 million subscribers, Spotify continues to dominate the streaming music market. While there are plenty of features to love about the service (curated playlists and podcast integration, to list two personal favorites), its Friend Activity leaves a lot to be desired.

Spotify is the soundtrack of my life

I’m the type of Spotify user who has the app on and open, all of the time, basically 24/7 – it doesn’t matter what I’m doing. Whether I am cleaning my house, walking my dog, having company over for drinks, driving somewhere, trying to fall asleep or traveling, Spotify is never not on. I love it in a way that makes me realize just how much my technology owns me rather than me owning my technology, and that might make me uncomfortable if I was the type of person who tried to “unplug”  – I am not that type of person, though. At least not with music.

As far as streaming music platforms go, there is plenty that Spotify gets right (and at least one major flaw that it gets wrong). Spotify does a beautiful job of allowing me to create playlists while suggesting music to add that I maybe hadn’t thought of or considered, and I have a playlist for every moment, every person, and every event in my life (i.e. songs that remind me of my brothers, an “Out West” playlist, “QuaranTunes”, “Breidi’s Bach”, a playlist dedicated to my favorite Rihanna songs, etc etc etc.). I love that I can collaborate on playlists if a situation calls for it. I love that the podcasts I consume are integrated within Spotify itself, whereas Apple Music does not give its users the same pleasure.

I love the “Discover Weekly” playlist that greets my homepage on Monday mornings, welcoming me into the hustle and bustle of my week. On Fridays, I look forward to opening Spotify and seeing a playlist curated for me – “Release Radar” – that includes just-released songs from artists Spotify knows I listen to, in addition to “new singles picked for you”. How else would I hear J Balvin’s newest song, “Ego”? With the sheer volume of songs released on Spotify on a daily basis, would I even know it came out? This is prime listening for me, and thanks to Spotify, I at least feel like I’m not missing new music from favorite artists, even if that isn’t actually the case. Spotify Radio? Love. Top 50 charts divided by country? Love. The ability to save music for offline listening (necessary when traveling)? Love. Sharing songs and playlists to my Instagram stories? Love. You get it.

Spotify’s activity feed is not so friendly to users

However, out of the aforementioned perks of my Spotify Premium membership, the one feature I cannot wrap my head around is its Friend Activity.

Many Spotify subscribers love the social aspects of the platform – something that other music streaming platforms don’t have in the same abundance – and Friend Activity is meant to show you what song your friends (re: followers) are listening to at the moment they are listening to it. For many, this is a unique way to discover new music, or, if you’re one of my friends, to send me a text teasing me (aggressively!) for listening to Disney songs at 8:00 in the morning. It’s a cute perk that would be cuter if it wasn’t dysfunctional, and/or if it showed you the podcasts people listened to rather than just the songs.

Friend Activity listed on the right

Spotify’s own community webpage is rife with confusion regarding subscriber’s friend feeds, namely that it simply doesn’t work. As one person describes:

Many users are experiencing an issue with the way their friends activity is being displayed. Even after turning on my own sharing activity, opting in to display my friends activity, and after contacting friends to do the same, the following issues are occurring:

— Friend activity display is not displaying all friends that are being followed
— Friend activity is not updating live (friend icons no longer swap to top when a friend starts a new song for example. Songs they are listening to are also not changing.)
— Blue dot is showing next to the active users, but the “music bars” to the right are not animating.

There are six pages of comments on Spotify Community about the Friend Activity Feed, and Spotify’s response to these problems includes making sure you have the feature enabled (obviously?), logging out and logging back in “two times in a row”, and doing a “clean reinstall”. Even then, though, the feed falters. As one user said,

I’m so glad I’m not alone! I’ve been googling this and installing and uninstalling and logging out and logging back in and re-following people and nothing has changed, but I know that some of my friends that I asked also have theirs set to public and I’m still not seeing it!

The irony of the Friend Activity feed, for me at least, is that I don’t even care what my friends are listening to. Like I love you and I respect you, but I am extremely picky when it comes to new music (a song I haven’t heard before has about 20-30 seconds to reel me in). How-the-hell-ever, if Spotify is going to have a friend feature at all, it should work.

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