Reworded: The Spotify Wrapped feature is unsettling and lacks significance – revealing the extent of personal data held by big tech companies.


As a marketing campaign, it is difficult not to be impressed by Spotify Wrapped. In just a few years, the streaming service has successfully transformed automated data collection into a global event. This highlights the platform’s dominance in the industry, as seen by this year’s slogan “Wrapped Or It Didn’t Happen,” implying that music consumed through Spotify is the only music that matters. By encouraging users to share their personalized and heavily branded lists of top artists and listening habits on social media, Spotify gains free advertising. This year, the release of Spotify Wrapped was accompanied by a large billboard campaign and brand partnerships with companies like Amazon and FC Barcelona. The launch event in London featured popular artists like Sam Smith, Charli XCX, and Chase and Status, and the “Spotify Island experience” was introduced on the popular online game platform Roblox. The success of Spotify Wrapped has been covered in various publications, from Teen Vogue to the New York Times and Variety. One Spotify employee even compared it to “election night” and the arrival of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

An employee, presumably at Spotify’s Department of Laying It on a Bit Thick, mentioned that Wrapped has become quite significant. My teenage daughters were excited to compare their results with their friends’ this week. The results now include a “character archetype” based on your streaming habits, such as being a “Luminary” for fans of upbeat music or a “Roboticist” for those who rely on algorithms to choose songs. There is also a feature that shows where in the world you are likely to find people with similar music tastes. However, my children seemed more interested in the amount of time they spent listening and the number of songs they had listened to, rather than their top artists. In today’s world, where streaming is the primary way to consume music, these figures seem to act as a status symbol, proving one’s dedication to music. It is like carrying around an album under your arm in school to show your commitment to a particular genre.

There’s something faintly creepy lurking behind Spotify Wrapped’s rainbow-hued graphics. At heart, its message is that something, somewhere is effectively spying on you, carefully taking note of everything you listen to and when – and it’s also a reminder of how many other companies are doing the same without actually presenting their findings back to you.

An advert announcing that Taylor Swift is Spotify’s most-streamed artist in 2023.

The reliability of the data used to determine your favorite music is questionable. It tends to favor music released earlier in the year simply because there is more time to listen to it. Additionally, I have personal experience with the fact that the numbers can be unintentionally manipulated. The artist listed as my top listened-to on Spotify Wrapped for 2023 is someone I have hardly thought about this year (and I will therefore respectfully refrain from mentioning their name). This ranking says nothing about my usual listening habits, but rather reflects a night when I returned home after a social evening at the pub and, fueled by beer, had a sudden urge to listen to a song I hadn’t heard in years. I then fell asleep with my headphones on, unknowingly “listening” to it repeatedly for eight hours.

Ignoring any mistakes, one might question the purpose of this activity in light of potential mishaps. After all, why would you need to be informed about your top artists of the year when you likely already know due to your frequent listening? In fact, the fact that the results can sometimes seem erroneous reflects the detached relationship with music that is fostered by Spotify’s unlimited selection approach. With a vast array of options at your disposal, you may only sample bits and pieces here and there rather than fully immersing yourself in albums or even individual tracks. Overwhelmed by the abundance of choices, you may resort to familiar music or rely on curated playlists that are tailored to specific genres and designed to play in the background without drawing attention. These playlists are often created by algorithms that suggest music similar to what you have already heard, but they may not accurately reflect your true musical preferences. It is hardly surprising that Taylor Swift was named the most-streamed artist of 2023 – she has been ubiquitous all year – but perhaps the mere existence of Spotify Wrapped reveals more about the impact of streaming on music rather than music itself.