If music truly is the soundtrack to a person’s life, then Spotify Wrapped is where you could find that playlist. 2021 marks the six-year anniversary of Spotify’s end of the year event and it has certainly come a long way from the more simplified “year in music” days of 2015. This year’s rendition provides the same personalized information, but with an obnoxious twist.
Spotify’s use of trendy buzzwords and slang comes across in a similar fashion to a millennial trying to fit in with a younger crowd. One example of this is a slide near the beginning of the feature stating, “While everyone was trying to figure out what NFT’s were, you had one song on repeat." The poorly-executed humor may be distracting, but it undoubtedly has garnered the app more attention than its previous iterations. In a recent article, New York Time’s Gina Cherelus mentions the impact Spotify Wrapped has had on social media.
“Much of the commentary revolved around the campaign’s use of internet slang (“living rent-free in my head,” “vibe check,” “main character”) and its references to popular topics (NFTs, skin care regimens),” Cherelus wrote. In one meme, a Twitter user joked about personal finance using the tone of the Spotify campaign: “Your checking account balance was in the bottom .003%. Weird flex but ok!”
Following its release on Dec. 1, the discussion around Spotify’s choice of phrasing resulted in #SpotifyWrapped to trend on Twitter. On the surface, a playful end of the year list seems harmless. However, a closer look reveals a hidden nature of these marketing tactics. Author Liz Pelly from The Baffler expands on the shadiness of Spotify’s techniques.
“It makes perfect sense that a company whose product is fully built on exploited labor would scheme new ways to squeeze more uncompensated value out of its varied user base,” Pelly writes. “To that end, it is worth remembering what you’re advertising when you are doing advertising for Spotify. And that is: a publicly traded corporation with a fifty-three billion dollar valuation that’s only responsibility is to its stakeholders.”
Outside groups have already taken action against Spotify’s questionable practices. Website spotifyunwrapped.com directs to a page that reads “This site used to be a parody of Spotify Wrapped that called the company out for its predatory treatment of artists. It has been removed at the request of Spotify’s legal team.” A “Take Action” button in the middle of the screen redirects to unionofmusicians.org where you can join in on the plea for spotify to increase royalty payouts for their artists.
Other platforms are taking note of Spotify’s success and attempting to implement their own version of Wrapped. On Dec. 6, Youtube music released a brand new feature called “2021 Recap” which provides users with personalized statistics and a rundown of their top music from the year.
One of the main draws of Spotify is its social aspect compared to other competitors. The ability to receive customized statistics and share them seamlessly to social media provides a major advantage when it comes to marketing. Only time will tell if Apple decides to join in on the end of the year fun. For now, Spotify will continue to cash in on the free advertising.