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The Anatomy of a Spotify Playlist

Playlists you create are all stored in the fluffy Internet cloud, on Spotify’s servers — the large, always-connected computers that host content. So, if you log into a friend’s computer that’s running Spotify, you can access your playlists at any time (as long as your friend is in one of Spotify’s launch countries, or you’re a Spotify Premium customer and allowed to log in from anywhere in the world).

Despite playlists being stored centrally in the cloud, your experience with them may differ slightly, depending on whether you’re online or offline, the country you’re in, or the computer or device you’re using. Here are the different playlist features and situations you may encounter:

  • Synced playlists: Playlists you’ve already synced to your computer for offline listening (a Spotify Premium feature) have a symbol next to them shaped like a green circle with a white down arrow inside it. When you don’t have an Internet connection, you’ll still be able to play tracks from these playlists from within Spotify.

  • Viewing playlists when offline: Playlists you haven’t previously synced for offline listening may have some tracks displayed in gray and others in white. The white tracks have a file symbol next to them, which means they’re local files stored on your computer, and you can still play them, even when you're not online.

    The gray tracks are unplayable at the moment because you're not connected to the Internet and can’t stream them from Spotify’s servers. If a playlist doesn’t contain any local files, then none of the tracks are playable.

  • Regional differences: You may also see a gray track in a playlist when you’re online — it means the song isn’t in Spotify’s database or isn’t available to play in your region. But it’s still playable if the file is locally stored on your computer; you can tell whether you have a local copy of the track by seeing whether the file symbol is displayed next to the track listing.

  • Reaching your limit: Those of you on a free, ad-supported Spotify Open plan can stream a track only five times before you have to buy it or upgrade your account to Unlimited or Premium.

    After you hit the five-play limit, an alert bar appears at the top of your Spotify window, informing you that you’ve reached the play limit. A pop-up window that includes links to either upgrade or buy the track also appears.

  • Playlist authors: You can subscribe to other playlists created by other Spotify users. After you do, their usernames appear in gray next to the playlist names in the left sidebar. To access more playlists by a user, select his playlists and click his username, which appears at the top of the playlist. If he chose to enable Spotify’s social networking features, you see any other playlists he’s made public.

    By the way, playlists you’ve created yourself don’t have your name next to them, so that’s how you can tell they’re yours. (Other people who’ve subscribed to your playlist — if you’ve made it public — see your username in their Spotify windows).

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