Wrapping up your listening habits: the appeal of Spotify Wrapped

The logo of Spotify, a popular music streaming service.

The end of the year has finally arrived, and while some may be counting down the days until the end of the semester, Christmas or the New Year, one highly anticipated event for many has finally arrived. Spotify Wrapped released on Dec. 1 to much fanfare, but what exactly is the appeal in the yearly—well, almostwrap up on the music streaming service? 

Whether you’re a cynical opposer of Spotify Wrapped, or anxiously count down the days until its release and attempt to perfectly tailor your listening history in order to have the least embarrassing wrap-up amongst your friend group, there is a bit of a thrill to seeing the messages stating "Spotify Wrapped is coming" and "Your 2021 Wrapped is here." Spotify themselves said it best: this year has been far from normal, and it can be fun to see how this year was reflected in our listening habits. 

For example, this yearat least what Spotify counts, which is Jan. 1 to Oct. 31—I spent a bulk of the year balancing my academics, work and my personal life, and I often used music as many doa way to unwind. My top artists reflect this, with Taylor Swift, Hozier, Olivia Rodrigo and Dodie all breaking into the top five. 

Much of the appeal of Spotify Wrapped, and its social media marketability, comes from a sense of individuality. I was in the top one percent of Taylor Swift listeners, while my friend was in the top 0.1 percent of listeners for Billie Eilish. While this is still a large portion of listeners—around 6 million and 500,000 monthly listeners respectivelybeing able to show off such a small number on social media can create a sense of superiority. As Anastasia Kārkliņa Gabriel writes for Medium: 

“Our cultural obsession with personality is undeniable, and the psycho-social messaging we receive about individualism as a measure of personal worth is so pervasive and engulfing that the line between our consumption and self-conception becomes decidedly blurred.” (1)

Individualism aside, most people are aware that apps are constantly logging personal data. Between specialized advertisements on Facebook and Instagram, or Netflix and Youtube recommended feeds tailored to keep the common viewer entertained for hours, companies have been logging data from their users since their creation. The reason Spotify Wrapped is so appealing to a casual user is its ability to showcase the users’ daily lives. As Rachel Metz for CNN Business said:

“But the data Spotify is compiling about your music-listening habits is quite personal, because what we listen to says a lot about our lives and our moods, or at least the moods of our music. (Spotify cheekily categorizes this kind of thing as an ‘audio aura.’)” (2).

With the new Spotify Blend update that followed shortly after Spotify Wrapped, this personalness extends to friendships. Featuring another story-style wrap-up much like Spotify Wrapped, Spotify Blend showcases the similarity between two users’ listening habits and makes a custom playlist for the two users. In an age where making carefully crafted playlists is a sign of love and connection for many of the younger generations, much like a CD or mixtape of our parents or grandparents, it’s no doubt personalized playlists based on listening habits would be successful. 

However, Spotify listening data is available all year around. Spotify offers a miniature version of Wrapped that tells users their top songs and artists for the month on the desktop version of Spotify, and third-party websites can tell users long term stats. What’s keeping people from posting their stats all year around? 

There is definitely some magic around waiting until the end of the year to see the listening history in a convenient format. As tacky and strange as some of the slides of Spotify Wrappedsuch as the out of touch Gen Z slang, poorly used language, and games such as "Two Truths and a Lie" instead of getting right into the datathe slides do add a bit of fun in comparison to simply reading the data as is. 

Whether you get your music from Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Prime or some other method of listening, everyone’s taste is unique and specialized. If we need wrap-ups at the end of the year like Spotify Wrapped to tell us this, then I’m sure Spotify Wrapped will continue for years to come. For now, let the mystery and individuality continue on.

(1) https://anastasiaxgabriel.medium.com/more-than-music-taste-spotifywrapped-appeals-to-our-obsession-with-individualism-46616f170594

(2) https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/02/tech/spotify-wrapped-data/index.html

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