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Spotify isn’t perfect but Wrapped is an incredible Christmas campaign

04 December 2020

For Spotify’s 320million monthly active users, it’s that time of the year again. The app has blessed us with its annual highly-anticipated music roundup, Wrapped. And for those unfamiliar with the concept, the popular digital feature gives users personal insights into their listening history from the past 365 days, highlighting our most-streamed songs, artists, genres and podcasts based on the apps highly-advanced algorithm.

The end of year review started collectively in 2016 as Spotify’s Year in Music feature, which curated a playlist of your top 100 most-listened-to songs of that year. In 2017, it was renamed to Wrapped and Spotify has been making a conscious effort to make the format more interactive and social ever since. This year, adopting Snapchat’s highly-replicated Story feature, Spotify Wrapped revealed its new in-app quizzes that tests listeners knowledge on predicting things like their top artist or podcast. The “Story of Your 2020” shares the journey of your top song and deep insights such as its first stream and its 100th. And for Premium Users, Spotify introduced its badge feature which crowns listeners with various titles based on how early they’ve listened to a song or the number of songs added to playlists. All of these innovations of course can be shared by individuals on apps like Instagram – through Stories – Twitter and Snapchat, turning the personal experience into a wider collective event that facilitates discussions, commentary and humoured shame. On the day of its release – December 2 – it was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter.

And it doesn’t stop there, driving even more digital chatter, Spotify Wrapped has gained music award status with its annual list of the most-streamed artists and songs both globally and locally. This year the most-streamed artist across the world was Puerto Rican musician Bad Bunny, followed by Drake of course. And despite being snubbed by The Grammys, The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights was the most streamed song of the year – both globally and in the UK. As part of its additional renowned marketing campaign, which often features a number of billboards dotted around cities showcasing these music trends, Spotify teamed up with the National Independent Venue Association to raise $500k to support independent music venues in the US.

Like with most apps, Spotify Wrapped’s global digital presence has prompted other music streaming services like Apple Music attempt to recreate their own versions. Last year, the tech company introduced its own watered down version called Apple Music Replay. Similar to Spotify in the sense that it does provide the basis of insights to songs and artists users have listened to the most, it is way more less advanced in the sense that aside from a simple web page that lists these categories there’s no interaction, striking visuals or effort to generate stories. And its lack of promotion saw many not even realise the feature even existed, which in yearly fashion, led to a whirlwind of memes, images and tweets mocking the format. Other platforms like Tidal and YouTube Music have also tried to do the same with their “Year in Review” and “Rewind” but again, their plain attempts have stunted the apps’ potential to even be compared to Spotify’s Wrapped.

All of this is not to say that Spotify is perfect, it’s not – on Wednesday, former intern Jewel Ham alleged the company’s Wrapped Story and interactive feature was an idea she pitched and was never credited for. However, when looking at the platform as a streaming service and its continued efforts to merge the world of music with data insights, a clever algorithm and the ability to maintain both cultural relevance and engagement, Spotify will always reign supreme.

Three artists who’ve thrived on Spotify in 2020:

  • Tiana Major9: following the release of her single Collide with American rap duo Earth Gang, the singer-songwriter received nominations for the song from both The Grammys and MOBO Awards in the same week.
  • Tom Rosenthal: the musician’s video featuring his four-year-old daughter Fenn’s first song Dinosaurs In Love went viral on Twitter and was released through Spotify. Through his stage alias, Edith Whiskers, his song Home also reached over 8 million streams on Spotify and has so far soundtracked hundreds of thousands of TikTok videos.
  • Big Zuu: this year the rapper has released a string of singles and worked on a number of influential campaigns and music projects including his popular Premier League freestyle for BBC Sport to celebrate Liverpool winning its first title.

By Jennifer Adetoro, culture reporter for CORQ.