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Why Can’t I Play Songs on Spotify Without Shuffle?

Spotify is one of the most popular music streaming services, with over 422 million monthly active users as of 2022. One of the signature features of Spotify is the ability to create playlists – customized lists of songs that you can listen to in any order. However, many Spotify users have noticed that they cannot play songs in their playlists without having shuffle mode enabled.

This can be frustrating if you want to listen to an album or playlist in its intended track order.

Here are some reasons by spotifyerrors.com why Spotify restricts non-shuffled playback:

Licensing Restrictions

One of the main reasons Spotify limits non-shuffled listening is due to licensing agreements with record labels and publishers. Spotify does not own the music on its platform – it licenses the rights to stream songs from rights holders. 

Many of these licensing deals require songs to be shuffled when played as a way to prevent Spotify from acting too much like an on-demand music service.

The music industry still views services like Spotify as a radio-like broadcast, where songs get played randomly instead of users picking exact tracks. So shuffling is one way Spotify abides by the terms of its content licenses.

Technical Limitations

Some technical limitations make it challenging for Spotify to allow full playback without shuffling. When songs get played from a playlist, Spotify’s servers have to retrieve the audio file for each track from its cache and deliver it to the user. This works smoothly when songs are played sequentially.

But if someone selects a random song in the middle of a 500+ song playlist, it creates a technical hurdle for Spotify’s caching servers if they haven’t prepared the audio file ahead of time. Shuffling helps circumvent this issue by queueing up songs in a random order.

Encouraging Music Discovery

In addition to licensing and technical restrictions, shuffling also helps fulfill Spotify’s mission of music discovery. Spotify wants its users to find new artists and songs through its service. By playing tracks randomly, users get exposed to more variety and are more likely to listen to something they haven’t heard before.

Allowing people to only play albums or playlists sequentially works against this discovery goal. So mandatory shuffling helps keep the element of surprise and discovery in Spotify’s playlists.

Mobile Data Usage Concerns

With a large percentage of Spotify’s listeners on mobile devices, data usage is a concern. Streaming audio uses up significant mobile data, especially for long playlists.

By shuffled playback, Spotify can help reduce the amount of unwanted data usage since people are less likely to stream an entire album or playlist from start to finish. The company enacted mandatory Spotify Smart Shuffle partly to account for this listener need and cut down on excess streaming that eats up mobile data allowances.

Paywalls for Sequential Listening

In recent years, Spotify has begun moving towards making non-shuffled listening a paid feature for premium subscribers only. On its mobile apps, only Spotify Premium users can play albums or playlists in exact order. For free users, shuffle mode is mandatory.

This paywall incentivizes more users to upgrade from the ad-supported free tier to the paid premium tier for more control over their listening experience. It’s another perk Spotify can promote to grow its base of paid subscribers.

What Can Users Do?

Mandatory shuffles can be annoying if you want more control over your music. Here are some tips for getting around Spotify’s shuffle-only restrictions:

  • Upgrade to a Spotify Premium subscription, which unlocks the ability to play music sequentially on mobile and desktop.
  • On the desktop, you can manually select and play tracks in precise order even in free accounts. So use Spotify’s desktop app instead of mobile if sequential listening is a must.
  • Listen to Spotify on other devices like Google Home or Amazon Echo speakers, which give Premium subscribers non-shuffled playback options. Link your Spotify account to take advantage.
  • Use the “Play Next” feature to manually line up each upcoming track, essentially creating your custom queue.
  • Follow albums and playlists to download music for offline playback. Downloads can be played back sequentially even without Premium.

While shuffle mode does have some benefits, Spotify restricting music playback for free users and on mobile can be limiting. But with the workarounds above, you can still enjoy your favorite albums and playlists in order even with Spotify’s shuffle-focused approach. And the company may open up more on-demand listening options in the future to satisfy user demand.


In conclusion, Spotify restricts non-shuffled music playback due to a combination of licensing requirements, technical limitations, music discovery goals, mobile data concerns, and premium subscription incentives. However, users still have some options to play songs in precise order, such as upgrading to Premium, using Spotify on the desktop, or linking to other devices. 

While shuffle mode has its benefits, Spotify may face pressure from users to relax restrictions on sequential playback in the future to provide more listening freedom across its platform. But for now, shuffle remains the default to satisfy music industry partners, reduce data usage, and drive upgrades to paid subscriptions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why does Spotify make me shuffle play albums?

Spotify requires shuffle mode for album playback due to licensing restrictions. Record labels require this to prevent Spotify from replicating an on-demand listening experience.

Can I play songs in order on mobile?

Free Spotify users cannot play tracks in order on mobile and are limited to shuffle mode only. Premium subscribers can play albums and playlists sequentially on mobile.

What happens if I try to play an album without shuffling?

On mobile and with a free account, Spotify will automatically turn on shuffle mode even if you have it turned off. There is no way to override this unless you upgrade to Premium.

Can I listen to albums in order on desktop?

Yes, Spotify’s desktop app allows you to play albums and playlists in precise order without shuffle, even with a free account. So use desktop if sequential listening is important.

Why does Spotify allow ordering songs on desktop but not mobile?

Desktop allows Spotify to comply with licensing terms while still offering some on-demand functionality. But for mobile it enforces shuffle to minimize data usage and encourage premium subscriptions.

Will Spotify ever remove the mandatory shuffle for free users?

Possibly, if user complaints are loud enough. But Spotify also benefits from having the shuffle restriction drive more paid subscriptions, so major changes are unlikely soon.

What is the best way to listen to albums sequentially?

The best options are to upgrade to Premium, use Spotify’s desktop app, or link Spotify to external devices. Downloading albums for offline playback also guarantees the ability to listen in order.