I’m very excited for next week.

Not because it’s the first week of December and Christmas is almost upon us. No, a much more important annual event awaits me on the 6th December: Spotify Wrapped.

If you haven’t heard of it, Spotify Wrapped is an end-of-year event in which the company unveils listening data from throughout the year as it’s coming to a close.

There are two parts to it: a marketing campaign, which involves a number of humorous billboards looking back on yearly music trends and lampooning funny user playlists; and an individual event, in which Spotify subscribers receive their personalised listening data from the past eleven months.

The marketing campaign has already graced billboards across the world, and it’s predictably hilarious – but it’s the second of these two events that I’m so excited for. And judging by comments on Twitter, I’m not the only one.

So, what is Spotify doing with Wrapped that makes it so special?

A year in music

I’ve had a Spotify account for about five years now, but I only started using it regularly and discovering songs in late 2015 and early 2016.

2016 was the first year that I qualified for Spotify’s Year in Music feature, the predecessor to Wrapped, which curated a playlist of your top 100 most-listened-to songs of that year (though for some reason my 2016 playlist has 101, presumably because I had two songs at the bottom of the list that tied for number of listens).

As someone who loves data on my musical habits (I’ve missed Play Counts and Top 25 Most Played lists since I graduated away from iTunes), I was excited to get the playlist and see my favourite musical discoveries for the year laid out in a single list. It also made coming back to them and re-playing them another 500 times a piece of cake.

My Top Songs playlist for 2016, courtesy of Spotify. My love for Dreaming by Smallpools will never, ever die.

Fast forward to the end of 2017, and Spotify decided to transform Year in Music into something more fun and social. Year in Music was reborn as Spotify Wrapped (or “Your 2017 Wrapped”), and visitors to the 2017 Wrapped microsite were greeted with a colourful personalised quiz which walked them through their listening habits from the past year.

Among the data presented by Spotify was the total time you’d spent listening to songs (I spent 50,256 minutes streaming music on Spotify. I like music) the number of different songs you’d listened to, your most-listened-to artists, and your top genres.

Spotify presented these figures as “2018 goals” – “Keep discovering”, “Be self-aware” – with the titles themed around the type of data revealed in each section. Like the rest of Spotify’s marketing campaigns, the tone walks the line between fun and cringeworthy (erring more towards the cringeworthy side), but it’s nothing if not distinctive.

There was also the traditional “Top Songs 2017” personalised playlist, along with a new addition: “The Ones That Got Away”, which seems to be a list of 30 music recommendations based on your listening habits.

The final “2018 goal” presented to listeners was to “Be brave enough to share your listening history”, accompanied by a shareable social graphic summing up the highlights of their year in music.

It was a fairly sure bet that most regular Spotify listeners would share it: people love to share things that sum up who they are (hence the popularity of personality quizzes), and they like to get competitive over big numbers. I saw several friends on my Facebook feed sharing their 2017 Wrapped, and I was pleased to note that none of them had listened to quite as much music as I had.

The list of Top Artists on my 2017 Wrapped also sparked more than one conversation with friends about song recommendations. Music is a pretty universal human interest, so it’s very easy to connect with people over it.

Though it was a little bit kitschy, with 2017 Wrapped, Spotify managed to engage people with their personal listening data, encourage them to share their habits (thus bringing more listeners to the app), and facilitate the discovery of even more songs on its platform.

Spotify also created Wrapped graphics for the musicians on its platform to share with their fans, revealing just how many listeners they had across how many different countries, and how many total hours those fans had spent streaming their music – along with some fun facts.

This encouraged musicians to celebrate their fans (and, implicitly, the Spotify brand for bringing them together) and start a conversation on social media, all under the #2017Wrapped hashtag.

With a successful 2017 event behind them, what is Spotify doing to up the ante for 2018?

2018 Wrapped

How time gets away from you. I’d been low-key looking forward to unwrapping my Spotify Wrapped playlist all year, but I didn’t realise that time of year was already upon me until I saw this tweet:

Of course, I Liked it (if you haven’t yet worked out how much of a sucker I am for music data, you haven’t been paying attention), and promptly received this tweet in my notifications:

As an aside, I think these tweets must be some kind of Twitter witchcraft, as they clearly exist and can be embedded and shared, yet I can’t see a single one appearing in Spotify’s Tweets & Replies feed. Mystery.

Anyway, however it works, the notifications “system” is an inspired addition that has successfully built a buzz around Spotify’s 2018 Wrapped (I was pleased to see in the replies to Spotify’s initial tweet that I’m not the only nerd who’s excited to get my data) before it’s even live.

Combined with the Wrapped marketing campaign, which is also live at the moment, no-one is in danger of forgetting about Spotify in the run-up to Christmas.

“With more listeners and better data, we were able to give fans a tailored experience, showing that Spotify really gets them,” Spotify wrote in a post last year, published to the Spotify for Brands website, which looked back on the history of its Year in Music and Wrapped features.

“And we keep building on it — taking data storytelling to new heights to make each year’s recap more special than the last.”

While I still wish I had access to my data year-round (though I’ve recently discovered scrobbling with Last.fm, which has gone some way towards filling that hole), I have to admire Spotify’s ingenuity in turning the yearly data reveal into a hotly-anticipated annual event, which for music lovers is like Christmas come early.

Roll on 6th December.

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