Spotify Wrapped: How Does It Work?

As this crazy year comes to a close, there are a lot of things people can look forward to, such as celebrating the holiday season, finishing a semester of online classes and waking an endless amount of Instagram stories depicting each person’s favorite artists on Spotify and how much time they spent using Spotify during the past year.

My Spotify Wrapped for this year. My mom likes to use my Spotify, which is connected to our Google Home device, to listen to instrumental music while working around the house – hence why my “top genre” does not match the rest of my stats.

Ever since I started using Spotify in 2017, one aspect of the site that I always enjoyed and looked forward to was their “Spotify Wrapped” feature. This feature uses data from each individualized user to create an experience where it gives insights on a user’s listening habits, such as their favorite artists, songs and genres. Starting this year, Spotify announced they also added six new features to further personalize the experience, including in-app quizzes that allow users to predict their top artists, a deeper dive into a user’s podcast listening habits, and digital badges for Premium users that crown listeners with various titles based on how they used the site.

Starting in 2019, competing streaming service Apple Music launched their own version of this feature, known as “Apple Music Replay.” Similarly to Spotify Wrapped, Apple Music Replay also gives a yearly summary of a user’s listening habits, down to how many minutes they use the app. However, what makes Apple Music Replay stand out is that it keeps track of a user’s data on a weekly basis; anyone who uses Apple Music can access their Replay information at any time, and will update itself weekly based on the user’s changing listening habits.

Though each music streaming service has their own version of “yearly highlights,” I’m sure that most people (myself included) are all wondering the same thing – how does it work?

How Spotify “Wraps” Your Listening Habits

Like most streaming sites, Spotify is able to curate these personalized highlights by collecting data on its users – more specifically, usage data.

According to Spotify’s privacy policy, there are six of types of personal data that the service can collect from someone when using their service. The primary type used for Spotify Wrapped is known as usage data, which is collected when someone accesses and/or uses Spotify’s services. This includes the following:

  • Information about someone’s type of Spotify Service plan.
  • Information about someone’s interactions with the Spotify Service. This can include someone’s search history on the app, songs played, playlists created, someone’s library, etc.
  • User content someone posts to Spotify, such as photos, playlist titles, and interactions with the Spotify Customer Service team.

In order for a user to receive a Spotify Wrapped at the end of the year, there are certain criteria that must be met for data collection:

  • The user must have created their account before Nov. 15, 2020.
  • The user must have listened to at least five different artists and 30 different tracks
  • Streams are only counted if a user listens to a track for at least 30 seconds.
  • For Premium users listening to downloaded tracks and/or playlists offline, streams for these tracks/playlists will count the next time they go online.
Metalcore band Dance Gavin Dance shares their Spotify statistics for 2020 while also expressing gratitude for their fans in a tweet on Dec. 4. (Dance Gavin Dance/Twitter)

What Does This Mean for Artists?

In addition to Spotify users receiving their yearly highlights, artists also receive statistics about their personal pages, including total hours streamed, total listeners and how many countries their music has been played in. But how do these numbers generated from collected data help artists in the long run?

  1. They can discover who – and where – their biggest fans are.

Some of the data points mentioned in an artist’s Spotify Wrapped included how many users had them listed as their top artist, and top countries where their music was streamed the most. This can be especially helpful for artists because it allows them to gain a deeper understanding of their audience, and even have the opportunities to give their top fans rewards.

2. It can help them understand major trends in the music industry.

This past year has been a time of unprecedented change, especially within the music industry. As COVID-19 continues to have a global impact, many people have turned to streaming services like Spotify as a primary source of music consumption due to a lack of live shows. Not only can artists gain insight about who is listening to their music, they can also understand how – specifically through playlists.

For instance, a summer 2020 report published by Spotify stated that there were more than 127,000 playlists created with the words “bored” and “boredom” in the title, and that top songs within these playlists included those like “I Don’t Care” by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber, “when the party’s over” by Billie Eilish, “High Hopes” by Panic! At The Disco, and “The Less I Know The Better” by Tame Impala. Data like this could potentially be helpful for artists because it allows them to see how their music is being consumed and find ways to cater themselves for these specific audiences.

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