On the morning of Wednesday Nov. 30, 2022, I woke up to a text: “ALRIGHT LET’S SEE THAT SPOTIFY WRAPPED.” Of course. How could I forget the day to end all days? The Christmas of every music lover’s year? It was here: Spotify Wrapped 2022 had been released. My results soundly mimicked the last seven years of Wrappeds — Florence + The Machine was my number one artist, four of their songs were in my top five and the 2016 “Suicide Squad” soundtrack still managed to worm its way into my top 100. All in a day’s work on Maddie’s Spotify.
For those of you who don’t stream music very often (or for Apple Music users…), there’s a question that needs clearing up: What is Spotify Wrapped? First launched in December 2016, Spotify Wrapped is an annual marketing campaign published every year by Spotify, one of the largest music streaming platforms in the world. Wrapped gives users the chance to “view a compilation of data about their activity on the platform over the past year” which historically includes the five musicians they listened to the most, the songs they’ve streamed the most and their most popular listening genres. Wrapped includes a bevy of other information year by year — musical horoscopes, personality tests or in-app quizzes — that build on the basics of your Spotify Wrapped. This year new features included users’ “Listening Personality,” a riff on the Myers-Briggs personality test, that assigned listeners to one of 16 personality types based on their listening habits, and the “Audio Day” which described users’ “listening trends from morning through evening” with terms like “cottagecore” or “yearning” — not that either of those appeared in my Wrapped.
The artists and songs in my top five or top 100 weren’t the only things that remained unchanged this year — the social media presence of Spotify Wrapped also failed to waver. For almost every year that I can remember participating in the marketing campaign, I have also been able to share my Wrapped results to my Instagram story in a cute little graphic made for me by Spotify (thanks, Spotify!). And for almost every year that any other Spotify user can remember participating in the marketing campaign, everyone else has been able to share their Wrapped results on social media. So, I took the data from my Wrapped that I was comfortable sharing — not my top five artists because Bo Burnham has been up there for two years now, and it’s starting to get embarrassing — and threw it up on my Instagram Story. As I tapped through my Stories that morning, I saw that everyone I followed had the same idea. For about ten minutes I was bombarded with Harry Styles and Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers and Alex G and the occasional K-pop group, but it was good — everyone connecting over a shared love of music was nice.
But there was something about this year that felt different. Maybe it was the slightly unhinged “music moods” we all felt so liberated in sharing. One of mine was Enthusiastic Victorian Royalcore — that isn’t the kind of thing you share with just anyone. Or maybe my journalistic senses were tingling because, while I objectively know that Spotify is a streaming behemoth, I suddenly wanted to understand how it became a veritable social media behemoth as well.
Let’s start at the beginning. Founded in Stockholm, Sweden in 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, Spotify first launched in the U.K. in 2010 and the U.S. in 2011. At the end of 2014, the app recorded a total of 60 million users, 15 million of which were paying Premium members. By April 2020, this jumped to 133 million paid users, and in early 2022, Spotify reported 422 million total users, with 182 million paying for subscriptions. And, with Spotify linked to both Facebook and Google, it’s easy to understand how the streaming service could come to dominate the music streaming industry. It’s even easier, then, to understand how a service that millions of people use could begin leaking over to social media, another service that the masses use day in and day out.
Spotify at its beginning was not innately shareable — sure, you could screenshot albums or lyrics and send them off into the social media ether, but beyond that, the streaming service was not engineered to create shareable content. In more recent years, Spotify has added tools to share albums, songs, artists and lyrics directly to social media, but nothing beats the gravitas of Spotify Wrapped on an Instagram Story.
We love Stories for a handful of reasons: They allow us to “build suspense,” engage in a healthy amount of voyeurism, create shared live experiences and, most importantly, talk about ourselves. According to a Harvard Psychology study, we “devote 30-40% of speech output” in conversation to talking about ourselves, so it’s little wonder that we feel liberated to do the same on our personal, unable-to-talk-back Instagram Stories. Combine this with a modern love of being told what we like and who we are, and Spotify Wrapped is the perfect storm of a bite-sized, made-to-share personality test that you already did all the work for.
But our love of bearing it all raises another question: Do people want to share their music tastes, or just their quirky listening habits from the last year? And for what? To prove that they’re Daði Freyr’s biggest fan or an avid ska listener? That their listening was more “goblincore” or “pumpkin spice”? To prove that they’re comfortable sharing potentially awkward data for the sake of music — or for the sake of sharing? Because, let’s be honest, all of my friends and family knew my top artist would be Florence + The Machine. I could pinpoint which of my friends would have Harry Styles or Taylor Swift or Lizzo in their top five. They weren’t hard predictions, but I know I still posted my results to, in some ways, poke fun at my own predictability. When I was told that Enthusiastic Victorian Royalcore suited me — and it was affirmed several times — it made me laugh and wonder about myself more than whatever music might be behind the title.
In an interview with CBC, Jem Aswad, Senior Music Editor at Variety, referred to Spotify Wrapped as “a reflection,” calling it both about the listener and the music, and a strong social media campaign to “enable people to say something about themselves.” Spotify Wrapped is ultimately a social media tool that gives millions of people a chance to carve out their not-so-niche in both the music and social media industries. Wrapped combines two of the things every Gen Z or millennial love most: Personality quizzes and oversharing, with a pretty little graphic that implores us to do their marketing and share our results with the world the way we share everything else. And y’know what? I will continue to engage with this marketing tactic because I, just like the masses, love knowing that I listened to “The Ketchup Song” a lot this year. Like, a lot.
Daily Arts Writer Maddie Agne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.