It’s that time of the year again. December 1st. You open Instagram, as you probably do every morning, just to browse around. See what your friends have been up to, or maybe celebrities you admire, or brands you like to keep up with. However, today is not a normal day in the wonderful universe that is Instagram. No, today is the day the absolute grip Spotify Wrapped collectively has on us, is being broadcasted into the world.
For those unaware, Spotify Wrapped is a personalized playlist of 100 songs, that everyone with a Spotify account can access on December 1st. It also allows users to view a compilation of data about their activity on the platform; most notably the five musicians, songs and genres the user listened to most frequently. Ever since its first release in 2016, Spotify Wrapped has been a hit on social media, with most people posting screenshots of theirs to Instagram and other platforms. Because it invites its users to share this data on social media, and people seem to very much enjoy doing so, Spotify Wrapped acts as a free viral marketing campaign every year, with Spotify seeing a boost in the app store ranking every early December.
Just like any successful marketing campaign, Spotify Wrapped tends to get on peoples nerves, since we are so excessively exposed to it in a short amount of time. However, Tweets and posts proclaiming to ‘not care about your Spotify Wrapped’ are almost as abundant as the posts they are criticizing. On some level it is understandable that people would feel this way, weeding through the Spotify Wrapped content flooding their timelines. Maybe you don’t care that some guy you went to primary school with is boasting that his number one artist is Radiohead for the third year in a row, which he undoubtedly thinks is something that makes him very edgy and cool. At face value, it does seem to be useless info that is being thrown at you every December. You might enjoy looking at your own Spotify Wrapped, but why would you be interested in that of others?
Why you should care
Well, isn’t that ultimately what social media is about? Why would you be so bothered by the people you choose to engage with on social media posting about aspects of their life? While it might be annoying that every other Instagram story is a screenshot of a list of musical artists that might or might not mean something to you, the practice of posting these things does touch on one of the cornerstones of social media: sharing parts of your life and personality with the people who choose to follow you. Is it much different than other types of posts we see so often on social media, aside from the seasonal influx? We scroll past thousands of beautifully laid out lunches and carefully curated outfits, but don’t seem so bothered by their repetitiveness.
Spotify Wrapped posts seem to have an even more positive social impact than other posts that are common on social media, since somebody’s music taste is a very personal thing, and can tell you a lot about one’s character. Seeing somebody abundantly listened to the music from Bo Burnham’s special ‘Inside’ this year, might provoke a deeper connection and understanding of who they are as a person, much more than, for example, seeing a picture of their dog for the umpteenth time.
What you should also definitely care about
However, there are some things you might want to consider before sharing your Spotify Wrapped. Spotify is a dominant force in the music streaming space, which has found out a clever way to garner a lot of free advertising during the December month. In 2021 several articles came out, outlining Spotify’s questionable impact on not only the music industry, but also the influence it has on the way we consume music. Spotify profits massively of off this free advertising campaign every year, but pays musicians that use the platform about $0.0003 to $0.0084 per stream. This means that in order for an artist to make one dollar, a song needs to be streamed 229 times. If a song is streamed one million times, the artist would only receive $4,366. This makes Spotify the second lowest paying streaming service (just after Amazon music), which we all collectively give free advertising every December.
The abundant sharing of our Spotify Wrapped on social media also demonstrates our desensitisation to the collection and storage of data. In a 2019 article in The Guardian, it is stated that the popularity of the Spotify Wrapped campaign “shows that some people not only accept their data being used and stored but embrace their intimate listening habits being put on public display”. The ease with which we accept and share this carefully mined and preserved data, definitely puts our attitude towards the collection of data in the name of convenience into perspective.