Streaming Music Basics for Professors

The Power of Streaming Music in Teaching and Learning

the basics for professors and instructors

For many music fans, 2015 ended on a high note. On Christmas Eve, the music of The Beatles became available in a streaming format for the first time. At C4E, we scrambled to integrate streaming Beatles into our History of Rock and History of Popular Music titles so they would be ready for professors who adopted those for courses starting in January.  With that update complete, we are happy to report that ours are the first and the only titles to feature the music of The Beatles streaming from links right on the page.

With this news, now is a great time to explore some of the practical uses of streaming music in a college music survey course (music appreciation, world music, history of Rock, Jazz or Pop, etc.). Below, we’ll cover the basics of streaming music, as well as some associated tools and features, and finally, some of the more advanced ways you can use a streaming service in a music teaching and learning environment. Everything is super easy, and with a little imagination, you can enhance your college music courses in creative and meaningful ways that students will respond to.

stream·ing ˈstrēmiNG/ noun a method of transmitting or receiving data (especially video and audio material) over a computer network as a steady, continuous flow, allowing playback to proceed while subsequent data is being received.

(Note: this article will not explore the complex ramifications of streaming music on issues such as music consumption, listening habits, performer and writer royalties, the recording industry, etc. These are critical issues and important to examine, but this piece is about practical uses of streaming music in a teaching and learning environment.)

shutterstock_174024590 copy “Why should I care? Because this is how your students listen to, discover and share music.”

There are some real benefits to streaming as opposed to using compact discs or digital downloads – especially in a college music course environment. Top benefits include lower cost, more music, using devices students already have and rely on (smart phones, tablets, laptops), and tapping into existing listening behaviors of millennials and younger generations.

But how can streaming music be integrated into a music survey course? Using Spotify as an example, let’s look at some common and some not so common tactics for enhancing your teaching with streaming music. If you need a quick-start guide to signing up for and using Spotify, see the bottom of this article.

streaming the beatles

In Spotify, every track, playlist, user, album, etc. has a link. You can even link to a search. For example, here is Spotify. It’s playing Please Please MeIf I right-click on the track title (or CTRL-click, or command-click, or click on the horizontal three-dot menu on mobile) a menu will open. At the bottom are the options for sharing and linking (linking is really just one way to share). 
streaming the beatles

    1. Share: click this to share with your social networks. Or to email or text the song to a friend (or group of friends or students).
    2. Copy Track Link: click this to copy a link for this track (or an album, playlist, user, etc. if you are on the drop down menu for those items). Once the link is copied – you can paste that into an email, a text message, or a web page (like a Blackboard, Canvas or Moodle course page). Here is a track link that I copied and pasted from Spotify using this option. Please Please Me
    3. Copy track URI: ignore this one – it’s more for developers. It would be used to open the Spotify application. 
    4. Copy Embed Code: this is great and allows you to embed a playlist or track right onto a web page (your site or blog, your LMS course page, etc.). Requires only a tiny little bit of html skill – but it’s totally worth it. Looks like this for a single track:

With this kind of implementation, the viewer can play/pause the music without leaving the page. Powerful – and convenient. You can share a playlist, user or album the same way. You just right-click (or comparable) on the appropriate item and choose one of the options from the drop down menu (discussed above). As an example. Below is a playlist I created for one of the chapters from our our OnMusic Appreciation web textbook. I used the Copy Embed code to place it right on this page:



Since we are on the topic of playlists, let’s consider a few things you can do with these – especially in a teaching and learning setting. There are the obvious things you can do such as

  1. Create a playlist. This is a great way to keep yourself organized, and a must do if you want to share collections of music with students or colleagues (not just single tracks). Creating a playlist is easy – just click the big plus sign in the playlist area. 
  2. Share a playlist. You can share a playlist that you or somebody else has created using any of the sharing/linking/embedding methods mentioned above. 
  3. Follow a playlist. If somebody else has created a playlist that you would like to refer to, or keep up with, you can Follow it. If you do, it will show up in your playlist list, but it will have the creator’s name next to it. The creator might be a good friend of yours, a publisher of a textbook you are using, or maybe Spotify created it. They create some very good playlists with convenient segmentation by genre and sub-genre. Warning – some playlists get updated often, especially the ones that deal with very current music – which is the whole point in that case.
  4. Make a collaborative playlist. If your playlist is collaborative, then others can add to it. Imagine a scenario where you have asked students to add a piece of music to a collaborative playlist that the whole class is following. They could add the piece and tell you in a written or presentation based assignment why. A very simple way to make music listening and music selection a part of any course.

Assignment Ideas Using Spotify

  1. As mentioned just above, use a collaborative playlist for projects and assignments that require students to locate and share music based your parameters.
  2. Similar to above, put students in groups or pairs, and have them collaborate on creating a playlist per your parameters, and then present their results.
  3. As a technology competency, ask students to create a blog or web page with an embedded playlist on it. To simplify slightly, they could also embed a playlist or track into a written assignment through the LMS (Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, D2L)
  4. Have students use social media to share playlists they create. Have a competition to see whose playlist can get the most followers.
  5. Data competency – have students use play counts (over time, against genres, or find other parameters) to create as assignment that uses data to make an argument. Must include a chart or graph of some kind. See here for a masterful example of this: The Most Timeless Songs of All Time. Really, please look at that as it is truly fascinating.
  6. History assignment – have students research the history of music distribution, consumption and commerce. Adjust this to be an assignment more about technology (or creation, or dissemination or music discovery etc.)
  7. Research current arguments for or against streaming music (fairness to artists? Who holds rights to songs? Powerful major artists vs smaller ones? Record sales (streaming) no longer a real money maker for performers? But does Spotify help artists get discovered? (democratization, DIY promotion, etc.). Lots to explore and debate here.

Well – I was aiming at a post of 1000 words total. But I have gone over. Look for a follow up post that highlights some lesser known, but powerful Spotify features. I hope you will explore and share and have your students do the same. As always – we welcome your comments and feedback. And please click below to check the playlists that go with our music titles:

CfE spotify playlist

Spotify Basics:

To get started,

1. Go to

2. Choose either ‘Get Spotify Free’ or ‘Get Spotify Premium.’ Free is ad supported and has limited functionality on mobile. Premium is $10 a month, no ads and has full functionality on mobile devices. In my personal opinion, the premium is worth every penny. I listen to music more often now than I have in years. And I discover great music that is ‘new for me’ more than ever. Or at least since I was a full-time music student. I would gladly pay more that $10 per month.

3. You will be taken to a page from you cam ‘Download and install Spotify’

4. Open the application to set up your account

5. Log in

6. ‘Search’ for music using the search field at the top. The resulting page will show you ‘Artists,’ ‘Albums,’ ‘Playlists,’ and ‘Songs’ that match your criteria.  I will typically select the artist I am looking for. Then I will scroll down through their albums – listed below in reverse chronological order – and start listening from there. 

TIP: The Playlist section of the search results is a gold mine! Click the word ‘Playlist’ to show all public playlists created by Spotify users. These are great resources – especially if you are searching for genres. If you create a public playlist – other listeners can find it here.

7. Or ‘Browse.’ This is actually an amazing way to discover great stuff. Don’t forget to scroll down into the genres to access excellent curated playlists.

That is pretty much it. You’ll want to create your own playlists so you can quickly find your favorite music. Basics of that are below:

1. Playlists are on the left in the desktop app. Or under ‘Your Music’ then ‘Playlists’ on the mobile app.

2. To create a playlist out of an existing album. Right click the album (cover art or title) and choose ‘And to Playlist’ then ‘New Playlist.’ You kind of just added that album to your collection.    

3. To create a playlist ‘from scratch’ (that you might add songs to), click the ‘New Playlist’ button which has a big plus sign next to it. Name your playlist.

4. To add tracks to a playlist. Drag and drop them (desktop). Or, right click and choose the ‘Add to Playlist’ option

5. You can also create a folder. Very handy. To do this, right-click the mouse over an existing playlist and choose the ‘Create Folder’ option. Name your folder. Move playlists into into it (same method as number 4 above).

 A good article that covers the basics in a little more depth: And of course there is the Spotify Help – If you want to learn some more advanced tricks and tips: – or here: –

John Kline
Vice President, Sales and Marketing at Connect For Education
John Kline is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Connect For Education. He attended the Yale School of Music and spent a few years teaching at a university Way Out West. After teaching, John began working in education technology, helping teachers and professors use technology in the classroom and lecture hall. He eventually transitioned to working in marketing for a couple of wonderful companies that made Really Nice Things for audio, music, video and media arts.

In 2010, he landed at the best company in the world, Connect for Education. C4E is a leading developer/publisher of interactive webtexts for college general education courses. C4E also partners with universities and other publishers to bring content, courses and programs online. What makes John the proudest: over 95% of C4E students and instructors rate our content and service as "exceptional."


  1. Carla March 1, 2016 Reply
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