Your first gift of the holiday season has arrived: It’s Spotify Wrapped time.
The annual packaging of people’s most-listened-to tracks and artists begins rolling out this morning. An unofficial start to the gifting season, Wrapped has proved to be a social trend that just won’t die. To some, its dominance is cringe (or a FOMO moment for non-Spotify users). Yet it resurges every year, with reminders of sad songs you streamed during a breakup, your favorite era of your favorite artist, or your secret guilty pleasure songs (for many, Taylor Swift might dominate all of these categories this year).
For the 2023 edition of Wrapped, Spotify is planning 40,000 artist cameo videos, a Roblox integration, and simple ways to share Spotify Wrapped in group chats or on social media. Football players for FC Barcelona have made videos where they guess each others’ most-played music. There will also be a feature called Sound Town, which matches people to cities around the world based on the style of music and artists they like, and AI DJ personalized playlists to take users through their top songs.
This year, Spotify also grouped users into 12 listening habits, including categories like “vampire,” a person who listens to darker music later at night, and “shapeshifter,” a person who jumps from one artist to another quickly.
The music streamer has been offering year-in-review content since 2015, but the feature didn’t take off as a major trend until Spotify began packaging the results in fun and cheeky ways. Now, Wrapped’s growing number of features make it unavoidable. Apple Music’s Replay, a similar year-in-review feature, launched Tuesday, but it lacks the intricate designs and experiential features that come with Wrapped—as well as the notoriety as an annual meme holiday.
Each year, the excitement around the Wrapped release eclipses the fact that it’s only possible because Spotify tracks listener data so closely—the platform’s findings this year show that more than 200 people made playlists titled “Dump Him,” while thousands of others made playlists related to the Roman Empire or girl dinner. Rihanna’s music spiked after her Super Bowl performance, and the Succession theme song had a moment as the fourth season premiered. Instead of scorn and skepticism, the neatly packaged data is often met—and shared—with delight. And in return for charming users with information they probably already knew about their listening habits, the streamer gets to dominate social media for a day.
Listeners’ top choices for the year shouldn’t be too surprising: Taylor Swift was the world’s most popular artist, with 26 billion streams. Spotify teased the top artist by hiding Swift clues in billboards around the globe in the days leading up to the unveiling. Next came Bad Bunny, The Weeknd, Drake, and Peso Pluma. Wrapped is based on streaming data from January to mid-fall of 2023.
Spotify is still the world’s dominant music streaming service, having landed 30 percent of the market by late 2022. The company had a profitable third quarter this year, its first since 2021, as it gained subscribers and monthly active users.
With Wrapped, Spotify is walking the line between social sharing and hyper personalization of its product, says Tatiana Cirisano, a senior music industry analyst and consultant with Midia Research. People expect accurate, personalized playlists and want to see their own data, but Spotify also needs to find ways to push that personalized experience out onto the social platforms it competes with for attention. “They have to play both hands,” Cirisano says.
Each year, Wrapped is also a way for people to express their fandoms. “You’re a fan of an artist because there’s something about their identity that resonates with your own,” Cirisano says. “Wrapped is a really smart way to tap into that.”