How to find the best Spotify playlists when you don't want to make your own

Stop worrying about picking songs and learn to love the algorithms.

a phone with music playing on it
If you're stuck for inspiration, Spotify can help.Mildly Useful via Unsplash

With more than 50 million tracks available at the push of a button, Spotify gives you access to more music than you could possibly listen to in a lifetime—a rather daunting catalog when all you want to do is pick out a playlist for a summer drive or evening chill out.

But if you don't want to build your own playlists manually, you don't have to. Whether you’re a free or premium user, Spotify offers a wide choice of playlists auto-generated from what you’ve listened to in the past and who your favorite artists are.

Discover Weekly

Discover Weekly is a collection of tunes you’ve likely never heard before, but that Spotify thinks you'll like, based on what you've listened to previously and what people with your listening habits also enjoy.

The playlist "gets even better the more you use Spotify," according to the official blurb, and it refreshes every Monday. If you want to save tracks, make sure you move them to a different playlist or add them to your library before that happens—click or press the three dots beside any song to do so.

Spotify says that liking songs, adding them to your personal playlists, and following specific artists are good ways to influence what pops up in Discover Weekly. You can also click Like (the heart icon) or Don't like (the no entry icon) as songs play, further refining the algorithm.

Daily Mixes

Spotify provides up to six Daily Mixes for you each day. While Discover Weekly is designed to introduce you to new artists, the mixes mostly recap the music you've listened to most in the past—like greatest hits collections. New songs may occasionally appear, but they'll be few and far between.

You get a choice of Daily Mixes because similar artists get grouped together. If you listen to a lot of heavy rock, as well as a lot of rap music, those genres will appear as separate mixes. Look at the musicians listed in each mix to decide which one you want to listen to.

The number of Daily Mixes you see will depend on how diverse your music tastes are. As with Discover Weekly, they should become better aligned to your tastes over time, as Spotify comes to recognize the songs, albums, and artists you're really into.

Release Radar

What's brand new in the world of music? And which new cuts are you going to be most interested in? The Release Radar playlist can tell you. Yes, it's similar to Discover Weekly, but it's only newly released stuff.

Release Radar refreshes every Friday. As with Discover Weekly, you'll need to save tracks to your library or another playlist to keep them from disappearing into the sea of Spotify tracks.

As with the other playlists here, the more you use Spotify, the better the recommendations should be. Again, use the Like (heart icon) and Don't like (no entry icon) buttons to tell the music streaming service about the tracks you do and don't approve of.

Time Capsule

Spotify's Time Capsule
Take a trip down memory lane with the Time Capsule.David Nield

Spotify doesn't provide much information about Time Capsule, except to say that it's a personalized nostalgia trip—a look back at music you were into several years ago. The service describes it as tunes from "your teenage years", so it's presumably available for older teens and adults.

This playlist is a mix of tracks you've had on heavy rotation in years past, plus similar tunes from the same sort of artists and released around the same time ("iconic throwback tracks," in Spotify's words). The playlist tops out at two hours.

This appears to be a one-time deal, however. Unlike the playlists we've described above, the Time Capsule doesn't refresh with more songs you heard while you were in high school, though Spotify may choose to revisit this in the future.

Searching for playlists

Spotify features a huge number of playlists for you to tap into, curated both by Spotify itself and Spotify users. Type what you're looking for into the search box, then look under the Playlists heading to see what you can find.

Your search can be based around a genre, an artist, or just the way you're feeling (try "morning motivation," for example). With so much music and so many Spotify users, all but the most specific searches will turn up decent results.

From "icelandic chill" to "revision music," your options are wide open. You can look for hits from movies, underrated gems, music from a particular year or decade, tunes that originated from a certain place, and much more.

Launching your own mixes

If you come across an artist, album, song, or playlist you really like, you can generate an endless radio station from it. To start with, you get the song you picked to launch the station—or something from the album, artist, or playlist you selected—plus a whole lot of recommended music picked by Spotify's algorithms.

Look for the three dots next to any artist, album, song, or playlist—if you click or press them, then choose the radio option, your endless mix starts. As always, you can help Spotify understand your tastes by selecting Like (the heart icon) or Don't like (the no entry icon) as songs are playing.

The radio feature will surface some songs you've heard before, as well as ones you haven't, and it updates periodically to stay fresh—so you won't always get the same radio picks by starting your station with The Strokes or The Cure, for example.