Spotify Wrapped and the Need for Introspection
Written by Millie Cairns Edited by Eve Moat
The most highly anticipated time of year for music lovers and Spotify users alike has arrived. Spotify Wrapped has taken social media by storm this year, it seems as though you can’t escape its quippy graphics on and off the app. But why is it that we all want to share our Wrapped every year and why does Wrapped and our personhood feel so tied? Wrapped not only reflects musical preferences but intertwines with our identity, emotions and communal ties.
What is Spotify wrapped?
Created in 2016 by the Swedish music streaming powerhouse Spotify, each user gets an insight of their listening patterns from the past year. Spanning streamed content from January to an unspecified date “a few weeks prior to launch”, Spotify Wrapped has become a music listener’s most anticipated annual event in streaming. Displaying your most listened-to albums, artists and songs, this year the streaming app also plugged in new features into this year’s wrapped like Spotify AI DJ and Spotify Blend to make it even more irresistibly shareable. In 2022, over 156 million listeners engaged with Wrapped, a spokesperson for Spotify told TIME, with this year expected to have an even heftier impact.
How does Spotify Wrapped tie in with our sense of self?
It is due to the shareability of Wrapped in which you couldn’t seem to escape it on the 29th November this year across Instagram stories and TikTok explanations. With features like when your day of most minutes listening was, Spotify Wrapped now has the power to visually represent a timeline of one’s life and the year’s events. The day you listened to the most minutes may have been on a train ride home from university or even take you back to a particularly brutal breakup, having the ability to map out not only our listening habits but our emotional catalogue of the past year. Perhaps this is why our identity feels so tied to Spotify Wrapped, as it is not only confirmation of our favourite summer tune or album of the year, it is a showcase of our ever-changing personalities and habits tied with our personhood.
2023’s Wrapped has not only perfected its tried and tested annual features but has implemented new content and marketing ploys to further embed into our personality. With the new feature ‘Me in 2023’ a listener is split into 12 archetypes based on your listening habits of the past year. For example, if you frequently explore various artists, you might embody the Shapeshifter archetype; if your musical preference leans towards more energetic tunes, you could be considered a Luminary. Alternatively, if you’ve built a collection of personal playlists, you may be described as an Alchemist. With this archetypal listening experience, has Spotify Wrapped become the horoscopes of listening for people to claim and identify with that was most likely chosen by artificial intelligence?
The new ‘Sound Town’ feature also matches the user with a geographical location that they share “objective listening habits” with. Across the Atlantic, US College towns like Berkley, Burlington and Cambridge proved popular among listeners of folk music whereas closer to home in York users mostly listened to Harry Styles, Taylor Swift and Lana Del Ray. Some communities, like LGBTQ+ members, have embraced the feature, playfully suggesting on social media that individuals, identified by self-assigned stereotypes, fit better in specific Sound Towns. Wrapped has become a reflection of not only our listening habits but reflects of the communities in which we share.
This sense of community that is tied so strongly to our identity and personhood was further enforced by features of videos of thanks from a top listened to artist. With this a genuine call of intimacy between artists and listeners is created through the streaming app. To the artists sending these messages it probably does stem from genuine thanks as a Business Insider Report found that artists can make as little as $0.0033 per stream. On top of this, exclusive deals between top listeners and the artists have proven to have been incredibly popular on the app as a source of income for both the artist and Spotify.
At its core, Spotify Wrapped can be boiled down to genius marketing and an end goal of ultimate shareability on social media platforms, yet it is undeniably tied to the perception of ourselves we choose to share with others. The concept of our controlled public perception can be directly tied to the aspects of Wrapped we wish to share. Even those with a “controversial” artist in their top 5 may not share it publicly to preserve a public image of being “unproblematic” and such the artists that you listen to threatens to be perceived as not just a reflection of your musical pallet but you as a person.
Spotify Wrapped has become a communal reflection: its undeniable tie to our self-perception and carefully curated public image. Wrapped is the convergence of music, identity, and community tied into a neat package of irresistible shareability. Beyond showcasing musical favourites, Wrapped intertwines with our very essence – mapping not just our music tastes but our personhood.