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Business News/ Technology / Inside Spotify Wrapped, an Annual Song of Ourselves
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Inside Spotify Wrapped, an Annual Song of Ourselves

wsj

The listening recap, available Wednesday, takes over social media every year

The year-end list also highlights the most popular Spotify artists and songs across all users, and, maybe most important, tells people where they rank among an artist’s listener fan base.Premium
The year-end list also highlights the most popular Spotify artists and songs across all users, and, maybe most important, tells people where they rank among an artist’s listener fan base.

It’s the time of year many people have been anxiously awaiting: Spotify Wrapped season.

For nearly a decade, all Spotify users get a shareable summary of their annual listening habits that reveals who they really are and the year they had—stripping away any pretense of taste. The results often surprise people. People who think they’re Beethoven aficionados may find they’re actually bigger fans of Beyoncé.

Spotify Wrapped includes the top artists, songs and genres for listeners, and, new this year, the ability to see results on a desktop computer, not just a mobile device. The year-end list also highlights the most popular Spotify artists and songs across all users, and, maybe most important, tells people where they rank among an artist’s listener fan base.

Last year, Joshua Chenault felt left out as seemingly all of his friends marked the occasion on social media. This year, the 30-year-old will finally join the party: FOMO made him ditch Apple Music for Spotify.

Chenault, a content creator in Dayton, Ohio, subscribed to Apple Music for seven years. While Apple Music also provides a year-end summary, it doesn’t have the cult following of Spotify Wrapped.

“That’s what made me jealous," Chenault says. Last year during the Wrapped frenzy, he canceled his Apple Music subscription and switched to Spotify.

People obsess over what their results say about them. Many people share their recaps on social media and post Spotify Wrapped memes. Spotify Wrapped had 400 million mentions on X in the first three days of its 2022 release, according to Sprout Social, a social-media software and analytics company.

Some people look at the list with year-in-review nostalgia; others see the results as a psychological evaluation. There are also those who try to cheat: In the weeks leading up to the Wrapped release, some people will stream specific songs over and over or tweak settings to listen to some artists privately to get the Wrapped results they want.

The top beats

On Wednesday, Spotify users will get an in-app notification to check out their Spotify Wrapped. With each statistic, Spotify prompts users to share their lists in images made for social media. Users can listen to their top songs in a special playlist, as well as hear commentary about their favorites with Spotify’s AI DJ feature.

Spotify has more than twice as many U.S. listeners as Apple, Amazon and YouTube’s paid streaming tiers, according to a June survey from investment-banking advisory firm Evercore ISI. In October, the company reported it added six million new paying subscribers in the third quarter, and is projected to end the year with 600 million monthly active users.

Spotify tends to add new tidbits for listeners with each year’s Wrapped. Along with being available on computers, a new “Me in 2023" feature assigns users one of 12 themes that describes their listening habits, such as “Vampire" for someone who likes to listen to “emotional, atmospheric music."

This year, Taylor Swift dethroned Bad Bunny as the No. 1 most-streamed artist in the world. He held the title for the past three years. People streamed Swift’s music 26.1 billion times amid her blockbuster world tour. While Swift was the top artist, the Miley Cyrus song “Flowers" was the most popular song globally, with more than 1.6 billion streams. And in the U.S., “Last Night" by Morgan Wallen was the top song.

A musical connection

Spotify Wrapped is one of the few cases where companies collecting private data is something users don’t complain about.

Stephen Antonini loves sharing his Spotify Wrapped every year and talking with others about their music tastes. The 24-year-old advertising supervisor in Venice, Calif., even posted a TikTok in mid-November about how much he looks forward to seeing everyone else’s recaps.

His video aimed to pre-empt naysayers who tell people to stop posting their Spotify Wrapped. Not everyone likes sharing and seeing the results of others.

“It’s a good way to look back at your year and just see the year you’ve had, whether it be the best year of your life, the worst year of your life or anywhere in between," Antonini says.

Others enjoy how Spotify Wrapped brings people together for a week.

Katrina Ahuja, a 32-year-old fashion designer based in New York, shares her Spotify Wrapped every year, even though her EDM-loving friends have poked fun at her preference for hip-hop.

“I don’t think people need to be teased for it," Ahuja says. “It’s a fun way to get to know people more."

Some songs are not for sharing

Even though users can choose whether or not to share their results, some songs are too personal—or embarrassing—to show up on Wrapped. Most people are fine with the world knowing about their love for Drake, but maybe not their love of the musical “Les Misérables." (Especially not the Russell Crowe-heavy soundtrack.)

It’s easy to turn on a private session to avoid a song counting toward a Spotify Wrapped.

JR Mercado, a 24-year-old bookkeeper at an entertainment business-management firm, has used private listening a few times. But the Westchester, N.Y.-based music lover says she doesn’t take the same drastic steps as some of her friends. She says one has a separate Spotify account—just to listen to music from the early-2000s show “Glee."

Mercado’s Spotify Wrapped ends up a bit skewed toward who she’s seeing live in concert. She usually creates a playlist based on the artist’s set list for a show and will binge it before the concert, she says.

Like Antonini, she enjoys seeing what her friends post, whether it’s discovering they have similar music tastes or finding out about songs and artists she’s never heard them mention.

Mercado and her friends enjoy the additional metrics Spotify includes, such as the time of day users listen to music. After reviewing last year’s list, she laughed with them about a clear trend: “Why is my music at night so sad?"

Write to Ann-Marie Alcántara at ann-marie.alcantara@wsj.com

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