Why Steam Music Won’t Replace My Music Player

Joel Lee 22-10-2014

It’s been almost a month since the launch of Steam Music and my verdict only swings one way: there’s no good reason for it to exist. Despite being a big fan of Steam, I can’t help but think that the music player falls flat and ends up being a big misstep for Valve.


I don’t listen to much else besides Internet radio What Is The Best Free Internet Radio App For Android? Looking to stream music on your Android device? These Internet radio apps are a great way to do it! Read More and streamed music Which Is The Best Mobile Music Streaming Service? Online radio is picking up steam now that there’s a good bit of competition driving the technology. You might be familiar with services like Pandora and Spotify, but now that you can stream music on-the-go... Read More these days, but when I want to listen to my MP3 library, I always fall back on the tried-and-true Foobar2000 Play Music Like An Audiophile With Foobar2000 [Windows] Foobar2000 is the desktop music player of choice for audiophiles, tinkerers and anyone looking for a lightweight, efficient program. We have it listed on our page of the best Windows software for a reason, although... Read More . Steam Music Player just doesn’t compare and here’s why.

Setting Up Music Libraries


Before you can start listening to music through Steam, you’ll need to set up your library sources. Not much to complain about here since this is pretty much standard procedure, though it does exclude the possibility of listening to stray music files that reside outside of your library directories.

Once you add the proper directories and click Start Scanning, Steam will search through it for all possible music tracks. As of now, Steam Music only supports MP3 files, though Valve does plan on adding support for other formats in the future.

That’s it for setup. If you ever want to start over or stop using Steam Music altogether, you can click Reset Database and Steam will forget all of the music that it scanned.


Library Management


Unsurprisingly, Steam’s music management looks a lot like its game library management 5 Secrets Of The Steam Client That You Should Be Using Are you sure that you're getting the most out of your Steam client? If you aren't careful, there are some really useful features and tools that you could be looking over. Read More . You have a list of categories on the left which you can click on to bring up specific information on the right. Sounds pretty straightforward, right?

The downside is that it doesn’t offer much flexibility. You can categorize your tracks by Album, Artist or Playlist and that’s it. No advanced categorizations, such as by Genre, nor are there any sorting options. It’s all alphabetical.

All of this is reasonable since Steam Music isn’t trying to be a full-blown media player, but nonetheless it does leave you wanting a little more out of it.


Audio Playback


As far as actually playing music, Steam Music makes it easy. Once you have an album or artist selected, you can choose to play individual songs and entire albums (which clears out the currently playing queue) or you can insert them into the queue at the end.

If you’re wondering if Steam Music supports media buttons on keyboards and mice, there’s good news and bad news: yes they’re supported but not fully. When the music player window is in focus, the media buttons work; when focused on another window, they don’t. Perhaps Valve will fix that in the future.

The ability to auto-pause music while voice chatting is a nice touch, which can be toggled in the settings. It’s also good that Shuffle and Repeat modes are supported.


One huge drawback is the lack of a seek bar. It’s important to be able to jump between points of a song but Steam Music doesn’t allow it. You can skip to the next track or return to a previous track, but that’s it.

Music From In-Game


A lot of the control issues can be mitigated by the fact that Steam Music appears whenever you bring up the Steam Overlay. This is how Valve intended it to be used. While you’re in a game, you can quickly bring up the Overlay, pick another track, and keep playing.

Then again, I can do this using a handful of other music players 5 Lightweight Music Players That Don’t Sacrifice Features For some time, I have been searching for the best free music players out there. Time and time again, I find myself coming back to my tried and trusty Foobar2000, but every once in a... Read More as well. Foobar2000, for example, supports global hotkeys that can be assigned to various actions like Play/Pause, Next Track, and Next Playlist. And at the end of the day, global hotkeys are arguably easier to use than toggling the Steam Overlay.


Steam Music Is Too Basic

And that’s about it. I wouldn’t blame you if this overview feels rushed or too short, but there really isn’t anything else to say. Steam Music is just that basic and using it feels just as empty.

Why did Valve create Steam Music?

For years, customers have been asking us to provide a basic way for them to access and play music while in-game. Task-switching between resource-intensive 3D games and other desktop apps has never been a graceful experience for gamers, so an in-game player can help by eliminating that pain point.

Steam Music FAQ

A lot of what it aims to achieve can be accomplished by using a feature-complete third-party music player and you’ll probably be happier for it. There’s just no good reason to use Steam Music at this time, but there’s always hope that Valve will improve it in the months to come.

What do you think? Do you like it? Hate it? Tell us what you think about Steam Music in the comments below!

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  1. Anonymous
    July 25, 2015 at 4:57 am

    i think Steam should make an interface within itself to control something else like foobar2000 or maybe VLC, winamp or maybe even MPC-HC(formerly Media Player Classic) anything but a lousy MP3 player that treats the music like games

  2. MayJessie
    November 27, 2014 at 2:24 am

    Steam Music is good enough for a basic music player, I think. But I like to use a media player as a music player more. As we all know, almost all media player can work as a music player. I am using a Free Macgo Mac Media Player, which is a kind of all-in-one Mac media player software can support all the popular audio (*.aac, *.ac3, *.aif, *.aiff, *.amr, *.ape, *.cda, *.dts, *.flac, *.m4a, *.mka, *.m4p, *.mp3, *.oga, *.ogg, *.wav, *.wma, etc.) and video formats (*.3gp, *.amv, *.asf, *.avi, *.divx, *.dv, *.f4v, *.flv, *.iso, *.m2t, *.m2ts, *.m4v, *.mkv, *.mov, *.mp2, *.mp4, *.mpg, *.mts, *.mtv, *.mxf, *.rm, *.rmvb, *.tod, *.ts, *.vob, *.vro, *.webm, *.wmv, etc.). What's more, the built-in DTS5.1 technology will provide you fantastic stereo outputs.

  3. PlaGeRaN
    October 23, 2014 at 5:52 am

    sticking to winamp, works like a charm!

    • Joel Lee
      October 23, 2014 at 7:50 pm

      Ah, Winamp. An oldie but a goodie. :)

  4. Nameless980
    October 22, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    as Horace said, it's far from perfect as an over-al music player. but just to listen while playing your games, it's more or less perfect.

    • Snoww
      October 26, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      Haha. Agreed!

  5. Horace Chung
    October 22, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    I think that Steam Music is good enough for a basic music player to be used while playing games, but it is too basic in terms of a full-blown media player. Heck, it doesn't even have a seeking feature, which is a standard in any media player.

    If Steam Music did implement some additional features, I would be using it more often, but for now, it would only be used in-game for me.

    • Joel Lee
      October 23, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      It's good enough as an in-game player, yes, but my "complaint" is that other music players are just as good for in-game purposes (due to global hotkeys and overlay options) so, ultimately, I think Steam Music is unnecessary.

      I might think better of it if it offered a unique feature that improves the Steam experience.