Illustration of Spotify Wrapped logo.
Since Instagram Stories are a relatively new concept, it may not be surprising to realize that the Spotify Wrapped format we all know and love is relatively new as well. (Illustration by Mack Niemietz, Southern New Hampshire University)
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Illustration of Spotify Wrapped logo.

Get ready for the annual super-specific listening statistics wrap-up by learning about its inception and what makes it so special.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — Spotify Wrapped season is here! The annual roundup of listening statistics seems just as revealing (if not more so) than a 23andMe test, detailing just how many times you replayed that signature guilty pleasure song or exposing that the “Glee” cast is one of your top artists.

This year, Spotify Wrapped is expected to reach your screen in early December, having launched the first week of the month for the past two years. The data collection period spans from January 1 to October 31, so while newer releases such as “Red (Taylor’s Version)” or “An Evening With Silk Sonic” will not appear until 2022, Spotify Wrapped is still guaranteed to encapsulate your personal 2021 soundtrack.  However, before you dive into your own Wrapped recap, here’s a little background on how it all began.

Spotify’s yearly wrap-ups began in 2015 and was originally called Year in Music. At the time, users only received a link that took them to the most played songs on the app that year as well as a playlist featuring their top 100 tracks. While the name was officially changed to Wrapped in 2016, its format remained the same.

Wrapped began resembling the format we all know and love in 2017 when Spotify began adding more personalized statistics related to users’ listening habits such as their top genres or their most played artists. This has been further developed in recent years to include many more uber-specific stats such as how many minutes you spent listening to Spotify, how many hours you streamed your favorite podcast and how many new artists you listened to that year.

In 2019, the most notable change to Spotify Wrapped was made. Instead of being sent to listeners via email, it was made available within the app in an Instagram Story video format, found under both the “Made For You” tab as well as a special Spotify Wrapped section. It’s important to note that a Spotify design intern named Jewel Ham invented the concept as part of a final project, and received no credit from the company for her idea despite its massive success.

“I was a person that had Spotify and loved Wrapped, but it was just a link they would send at the end of the year,” she told Refinery 29. “It was just something that you personally knew about … When I gave the presentation at the end of my intern project, it was received really well. They liked the idea. That was my last day.”

Spotify Wrapped’s story-inspired layout made it incredibly easy for users to post any stat directly onto their feed. This created an instant viral marketing campaign for Spotify, with the company having to do next to nothing as millions advertised their application and services for free all over social media. Each December, it’s rare to scroll down your social media feed and not encounter some kind of post related to Wrapped. Because of this, many are annually inspired to download the app, not wanting to be left out of the excitement.

“This also creates this FOMO [fear of missing out] effect that happens and that inherently entices new users to consider Spotify, so it’s a flywheel effect,” said June Sauvaget, Spotify’s former global head of consumer and product marketing, to Forbes in 2019. And the FOMO is absolutely real — just ask any Apple Music subscriber.

Most recently, Spotify Wrapped 2020 let users know whether or not they fell into the top 1% (or sometimes even the top 0.5%) of an artist’s listeners. Wrapped 2020 also lets people know just how many times they played their No. 1 most streamed track. (Reader, I listened to “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion 53 times, with the Beyoncé remix following it shortly after in my 2020 Wrapped playlist.)

It also featured interactive elements such as a quiz where you were able to guess who your top artists were. And for all my gatekeepers out there, the “Tastemaker” badge was awarded to anyone who listened to a song before it reached 50,000 streams — a true “I’ve been there since the beginning” medal of honor. While it’s currently unknown which new categories of statistics will be introduced for Wrapped 2021, they’ll surely be just as wonderfully wacky as those that came before.

These stats are Spotify Wrapped’s biggest draw: a deeper look into all the moments of one’s year, the music fulfilling all their needs to know. Spotify Wrapped is a proper time capsule of the past; after all, what better takes you back to a certain time in your life than the music you were listening to? (Re: Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage”: a welcome distraction in the form of a TikTok dance during the early weeks of quarantine back at my parents’ house.) If you’ve been actively using Spotify for years, you should have access to your old Wrapped playlists, granting you the opportunity to walk down memory lane to see how your music tastes have evolved and changed over the years. Whether your top tracks were trendy or cringeworthy, they are representative of who you were and indicative of how you would grow as a person.

Additionally, there’s nothing more fun than comparing your stats with friends or followers online, as everyone takes joy in reacting to the good, the bad and the ugly of our collective year. Sure, some people don’t like seeing Spotify Wrapped related stories flood social media each winter, but you have to admit that it’s interesting to take a look into the listening habits of the people you follow. Who knows, it might even lead to you discovering a new artist that will show up toward the top of your Spotify Wrapped 2022. Or it will just be the “Glee” cast again — only time will tell!

Writer Profile

Mai Senser

Virginia Commonwealth University
English major, Media Studies minor

Mai Senser is a film student turned English major based in Richmond, Virginia. A lover of pop culture, both past and present, she’s always ready to join the conversation.

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