Steam’s Music Player allows you to add a MP3 file stored on your computer to a local music library and play it back — inside or outside a game, with a controller or keyboard and mouse. This would be particularly useful on a Steam Machine or living-room gaming PC in Big Picture Mode.

This works in Steam on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Steam OS. You can add music and play it back either from the desktop interface, or through Big Picture Mode.

Add Your Music Library From the Desktop

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To get started, click the “Steam” menu in Steam and select “Settings”. Click over to the “Music” tab in the Settings window.

Click the “Add” button and add one or more directories on your PC that contain music files. By default, Steam automatically scans its own directory for soundtracks and your user account’s “Music” directory. Click “Scan Now” to have Steam detect the music when you’re done.

If you regularly add new music files to your library, click the “Scan at Startup” checkbox and Steam will automatically scan your library for new music when you load it. You’ll have to either relaunch Steam with those option enabled or visit this window and click “Scan Now” to find new music.

You can adjust other options from this window, too. For example, you can have Steam automatically pause music when you start an application, and control whether it’s automatically paused while you’re voice chatting within Steam. You can also choose whether you want to see a notification when the track changes.

Play Music From the Desktop

To view your music library, you can visit the “Library” tab in Steam, click the label at the right side of your search box, and select “Music” to view your music library instead of your game library. You can also just click View > Music details to view your music library.

If you have some games that include soundtracks installed, you might see some music here even if you haven’t provided any of your own music yet.

Start playing music back from your library and the music player will appear. You can also select View > Music player to open it.

Of course, this feature is particularly useful because you can control music playback from within games without Alt+Tabbing. After all, Alt+Tab can cause problems with many games.

To do this, open the Steam overlay within a game. The default shortcut for this is Shift+Tab. You can customize the shortcut from within Steam by clicking Steam > Settings, selecting “In-Game” in the Settings window, and providing a new shortcut here.

At the bottom of the screen, you’ll see a “Music” link. This will open the music player in the overlay and allow you to control playback. Just press the overlay shortcut again — Shift+Tab by default — to quickly close the overlay and get back to the game.

Add Your Music Library From Big Picture Mode

You can do this same thing from within Big Picture Mode. These settings are shared, so if you’ve already set this up on the desktop, you won’t have to set it up separately in Big Picture Mode.

However, if you have a Steam Machine or just a living-room PC running Steam, Big Picture Mode will allow you to set this feature up and control playback with just a controller.

In Big Picture Mode — launch it by clicking the controller icon at the top-right corner of the desktop if you’re in desktop mode — use your controller or mouse to select the gear-shaped settings icon at the top-right corner of the screen.

Select “Music” under Audio on the Settings screen.

This screen provides the same options for configuring your music library. To add new folders containing music, select “Setup music library” and add the folders in the dialog that appears.

If you have a Steam Machine and you don’t want to mess with the file system, you should just be able to put some music on a USB flash drive or external hard drive and plug it into your Steam Machine. Then, select the drive from this window. This would work on any computer to enable access to music stored on a removable drive, of course.

Play Music From Big Picture Mode

The Music Player works similarly in Big Picture Mode. To access it, visit the “Library” section and select the “Local Music” category on the left.

You’ll see a thumbnail-style list of all the albums available on your PC. Select an album and you’ll be able to play the entire album or a single song from it.

When you do, the Steam Music Player will appear. While you’re playing music, there will be a music note button at the top-right corner of the main screen that allows you to quickly pull up the music player.

While in a game, you can pull up the Steam Overlay — using the keyboard shortcut, by pressing the Steam button on a Steam Controller, or by pressing the Xbox button in the center of an Xbox Controller. You’ll see a “Now Playing” box with the music that’s currently playing. Select it to open the music player.

This feature is a bit basic, but Valve may improve it in the future. Possibilities include integration with Spotify, Pandora, and other music-streaming services. Valve will hopefully add support for more than just MP3s in the future, too.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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