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Spotify Wrapped: marketing campaign turns into cultural moment

Why Spotify’s end-of-year recap is a brilliant marketing campaign
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Olivia Rollison

For music lovers around the globe, the end of the year brings one of the largest music events of the year. More universal than Eurovision and more accessible than Coachella, the music streaming service Spotify releases its highly anticipated Spotify Wrapped. It gives users a peak into their listening habits and yearly favorites, and connects artists to their biggest fans. Following the week after its yearly release, Spotify’s 574 million users often flood social media, sharing their top songs, artists and genres from their year using the Wrapped’s highly Instagrammable format. As of 2021, 60 million users  shared their Spotify Wrapped across social media platforms with 120 million interactions. That number only grew in 2022, with users generating 150 million interactions with their Wrapped. 

Spotify Wrapped began with its predecessor, Spotify Year-in-Music, which debuted in 2015 and was then discarded for Spotify Wrapped, which started in 2016. Since then, end-of-year reviews have exploded in popularity amongst rival streaming services, like Apple Music’s Replay, Pandora’s Playback and YouTube Music’s Recap, and it is easy to see why. Spotify Wrapped, more than just a fun experience for listeners, is a brilliant and effective marketing tool, which leverages human psychology and social media to give their streaming service a competitive edge going into the new year. 

Why the new year? As a culture, people are looking for ways to improve their lives and are setting goal improvements, like sticking to tighter budgets or spending less time on screens. Because of this, the new year can put many services on the chopping block. That’s why Spotify, which has its premium subscription service set for a year’s pay schedule, releases its biggest marketing campaign towards the end of the year, which ensures that their services are in the good graces of their users and that the new year’s cable-cutting is avoided.

One way Spotify does this is by using the power of nostalgia in their campaign. In Wrapped, users are shown statistics about how and what they listened to throughout the year, which has just about the same nostalgic power as scrolling through your old photo memories. Oftentimes, songs can be connected to certain events, vacations and loved ones, allowing users to immerse themselves in the music that plays in the background of their lives.

 On top of that, Spotify Wrapped utilizes user data to the fullest to make Wrapped the most individualized it can be. It is not this year’s top songs in review, it is users’ top songs in review, making it more meaningful to users’ lives. This personalization has the same addictive qualities as personality types, where users can quickly identify what community they and others are in, but also what makes them unique. 

Another big factor in the appeal of Spotify Wrapped is being a tool to connect with others. Wrapped results act as an amazing conversation starter and a way for people to share little bits about themselves in a simple, easy-to-digest infographic. Human nature loves to compare, with some studies stating that an estimated 10% of all human thought is comparison based, and with Spotify Wrapped, no matter what the comparison is, it is a good thing. Users can either find a bunch of people who listen to the same music as they do and feel like they are a part of a larger group (ie. Swifties of Taylor Swift and the Beatlemaniacs of the Beatles), or if a user likes a lot of music that is not popular, users can take pride in your unique, niche music taste that differs from the mainstream pop culture of the time. No matter what a person’s Wrapped looks like, Spotify listeners can either feel included or special, which is a win for the platform either way. 

But potentially, the most potent weapon for Spotify during Wrapped season is that all of this community discussion happens in the view of the public on social media. As mentioned previously, 60 million users posted their Wrapped results in 2021, creating a massive community for Spotify users both online, but also in real life. And since Spotify is the largest music streaming platform with 30.5% of the market share, this population of people is quite large. With that large of a market share, Wrapped becomes more than an end-of-year event, but a cultural movement that only Spotify users can partake in.

With that large of a market share, Wrapped becomes more than an end-of-year event, but a cultural movement that only Spotify users can partake in.

The next largest platform, Apple Music, only has 13.7% of the market share, which cannot compete with the level of traction that Wrapped has with its Apple Music end-of-year recap, Replay. 

That’s the brilliance of the campaign for Spotify, which not only gets 60 million free promotions from its users, but also leverages the feeling of being left out (or FOMO) that it creates. Anyone who is not using Spotify is left out of the cultural moment Wrapped creates, which is a big incentive for Apple or Amazon users to switch to Spotify in order to  participate in the next year’s Wrapped with everyone else. Spotify is more than aware of this, as seen by how Wrapped is formatted like an Instagram story, with a share button in the top corner, practically begging to be used to give Spotify more publicity. 

This strategy works well for Spotify. Early December (about when the Wrapped comes out) marks a 21% increase in app downloads for Spotify, according to Moengage, marking its peak performance for the whole year. Through personalization and community-building techniques, Spotify has managed to create an advertisement that users not only enjoy, but mark their calendars for each and every year. Someone in the marketing department deserves a raise.

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About the Contributors
Ella Wampler, Staff Writer
Senior Ella Wampler is a staff writer for Southpaw and Bearing news. She adores the 2017 remake of Murder on the Orient Express, ongoing inside jokes and consuming unreasonable amounts of caffeine.
Olivia Rollison, Art Editor
Senior Olivia Rollison is the art editor of Southpaw and Bearing News. She is also president of RBHS Art Club and loves to draw, paint, read, listen to music and play with her dogs in her free time.

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    Jenna KrieteJan 17, 2024 at 8:55 pm

    Wonderful Job Ella!!! I loved the article as a Spotify user it was very informative!

    Reply