Switching from Spotify to Tidal & Plex

ehgillett
4 min readMar 22, 2022

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I posted this thread on Twitter the other day about my experience of ditching Spotify, and replacing it with a combination of Tidal (for streaming) and Plex (for more easily listening to my own mp3 collection / Bandcamp downloads). People seemed interested in the idea, and a few of them asked for a more detailed explainer of the process.

As luck would have it, I’m currently in bed with Covid, which means I’ve got a minute to do a very quick walkthrough. All the disclaimers from my Twitter thread still apply: this isn’t some magical hack or a fix for everything wrong with the music industry, just something that I’ve enjoyed and which has improved my listening experience; please support projects like Bandcamp and Resonate, buy stuff from the artists you love, and welcome the eventual replacement of streaming as a model with something better.

Also, I don’t hold any liability if you mess any of the following steps up and delete all your treasured old 128kbps blog house rips by mistake.

Step 1: Using Songshift to transfer your Spotify library to Tidal

The first and easiest step (after setting up a Tidal account if you don’t already have one) is using an app called SongShift to transfer your existing playlists, albums and songs from Spotify over to Tidal (there are loads of other apps which do much the same thing, SongShift’s just the one I ended up using).

The explainers on SongShift’s website are extensive, but the core process is simple: you open SongShift, log into your Spotify and Tidal accounts, select the playlists / albums / library items you want to transfer, and then let it do its thing. It will try to auto-match everything from Spotify and automatically create a replica for it in Tidal. There will be tracks it can’t identify, which you’ll need to manually specify, but in my experience it finds 90% of stuff by itself.

Once you’ve transferred everything, cancel your Spotify subscription: congratulations, you’re no longer putting money in Joe Rogan’s pocket.

Step 2: Get your head around Plex

Tidal’s the least-worst streaming option in lots of ways, but its one major weak point is its smaller music library compared to Spotify or Apple Music.

To get around this, I use Tidal’s close integration with Plex to combine the music on there with my own collection. If an album’s not on Tidal, or it’s by an artist I want to support more directly, I can buy it, download it, add it to my Plex library and then listen to it alongside everything else on Tidal.

Plex works on a server / client model: you need to run one piece of software called Plex Media Server, which manages your library and makes your digital media available to clients, and then another piece of software called Plex, which retrieves that media and plays it.

Plex has a very active community of users and extremely detailed documentation, so rather than having me repeat everything from their website you should just read their excellent quick start guide in detail and familiarise yourself with how it all works.

Step 3: Sort out your music library

I’m assuming that if you have a collection of digital music that it’ll be in some kind of folder structure: if you’ve previously used iTunes then you should already have all your music sorted into different folders according to artist and album names. If you do, then great! Skip to step 4.

If not, then you’ll need to do that organising now: Plex can get a bit twitchy if your music isn’t sorted by folder. To do this, you can use a free piece of cross-platform software called MusicBrainz Picard. Load your music into it, and it will correct the metadata and artwork for all your albums, then save it into a new folder structure which plays nicely with Plex.

Even if you already have a folder structure, if your files are old, inconsistently-organised or lacking metadata then using Picard can sometimes be useful.

Step 4: Set up Plex Media Server

Once all your music is properly organised, follow this section of the Plex setup guide to install Plex Media Server, then follow the walkthrough within Plex Media Server itself to add your music library.

You’ll need to decide what device you want to use for your server: this might be a laptop or desktop PC or Mac, or if you’re more tech-savvy a Raspberry Pi or NAS drive. The key thing here is that it needs to be switched on and running Plex Media Server for you to access your music.

Once you’ve installed Plex Media Server and pointed it at your music library, open the Plex web app (you can access this through Plex Media Server) and you should start seeing your albums appearing.

Step 5: Connect your Tidal and Plex accounts

In order to get all your music in one place, you need to link your Plex account to your Tidal account. Log into the Plex website and access the “Other Services” page here, then follow the steps to add your Tidal account.

Step 6: Install a Plex client and start listening

Download the free Plex client for whatever device you’ll be listening on here, install it, log into your Plex account and… hopefully, you should see all your own music appearing, as well as page for Tidal.

And that’s it: once you’ve got Plex and Tidal working together you can explore other stuff, like the premium Plex Pass tier which lets you download music to Plex client devices and gives you access to Plexamp, a dedicated music client app for Plex.

Happy listening! If you get stuck anywhere, then feel free to give me a shout at @ehgillett on Twitter.

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