Spotify Wrapped and its impact on music consumption — for better or worse

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Logan Hayes

A student listens to a playlist on Spotify.

Audrey Choate, Copy Editor

The release of popular streaming platform Spotify’s annual ‘Wrapped’ service is arguably one of the most exciting times of year for music fans. While Apple Music and ‘scrobble’ tracker Last.fm offer similar reports year-round, the way that Wrapped is presented is truly where the appeal of it lies. The social aspect of it is ever-present — Instagram stories, Twitter posts, and TikTok videos gleam with excitement (or disappointment) over one’s annual listening habits. Indeed, Wrapped and similar reports have greatly changed how people view their own music consumption; finding out what genres one favors or how much they listen to their favorite artists puts the year into perspective for many. However, there is an element of self-consciousness that is seen in discussions about these reports, which is worsened by the fact that music is a deeply personal interest for most. 

The idea of individuality in regards to music is something that many view as being quite important. This is not necessarily a negative aspect of music listening; having something that is special to oneself can be a source of happiness. However, there is often a sort of ‘obscurity-competition’ that can become a cause of friction. This can manifest in, for instance, a person playing certain songs for days on end to achieve certain results on their Wrapped, or only listening to certain kinds of music on the app. Such a superficial culture surrounding music defeats the ethos behind Spotify’s Wrapped and services like it. This can stem from baseless, pretentious stigma around labels such as ‘pop-music,’ or a desire for one’s report to be seen as more refined or interesting. Unfortunately, such a pretentiousness can corrupt the intention behind fun and interesting services such as Spotify Wrapped.

Ultimately, however, it is clear that Wrapped provides a significant source of community. It can stimulate conversation around different types of music and allow people to discover new artists that they otherwise may not have heard of. Spotify Wrapped and similar services allow music fans of all kinds to discuss their favorite (and least favorite) artists and songs, as well as what sort of music they hope to discover.

The fun and colorful way that Wrapped is presented provides an accessible way of communicating for dialogue about music, and, more fundamentally, forms of artistic expression. Thus, it can be an invaluable way of connecting with one’s community. Indeed, this connection is not specific to Spotify Wrapped in particular; it is found in any medium that fosters this sharing of interests with one’s community and the world.