Over recent years, Spotify has worked hard to make its annual Wrapped promotion a bona-fide Big Social Media Event, fuelled by the ‘cards’ that listeners and artists alike can share to socials with their stats.
Based on the blizzard of ‘when is Spotify Wrapped 2021?’ news stories we’ve seen in recent weeks, this year is no different. But we can answer that question today: the promotion is now live.
Spotify users will be able to see their top artists, genres, tracks and podcasts in the Wrapped section of Spotify’s app, along with how many minutes they’ve listened to in 2021.
(Well, most of 2021. The Wrapped data is based on listening from 1 January to 27 November. Mariah Carey must be furious! Although her December royalties will probably soften the blow…)
Spotify has added some more personalised features to its Wrapped hub: 2021: The Movie, Your Audio Aura, Playing Cards and 2021 Wrapped: Blend – the latter based on its personalised playlists for two listeners, which launched this year.
The social cards for all this will be shareable on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and – for the first time – on TikTok.
More than 170 artists and podcasters have also filmed videos for Spotify to thank fans whose top lists they’ve appeared in, with those clips also appearing in the Wrapped hub.
As for artists, they’ll get their own Wrapped microsite within the Spotify for Artists portal, which shows their key metrics from 2021, and encourages them to trumpet them on social media via the artist cards.
The stats include total hours streamed; increases in followers, total listeners, streams and playlist adds; total number of ‘top listeners’ (i.e. those who play the artist regularly); total number of fans sharing the artist’s profile, albums and tracks; and more granular data on their most popular track’s performance.
Artists will be able to translate their Wrapped cards into 31 languages – the idea being they can thank fans in different parts of the world – while as previously announced, artists using Spotify’s merch integration with Shopify will see their top fans emailed a link to one of their products “over the next few weeks”.
Wrapped also sees the publication of Spotify’s annual rankings of artists, tracks, albums and podcasts. Latin star Bad Bunny is the service’s most popular artist of 2021 with more than 9.1bn streams in the period covered by the data. Behind him were (in order) Taylor Swift, BTS, Drake and Justin Bieber.
Olivia Rodrigo, fresh from winning several of Apple Music’s annual awards, had the most streamed track and album of 2021 on Spotify. ‘drivers license’ was streamed more than 1.1bn times in the Wrapped period, ahead of Lil Nas X’s ‘Montero’; The Kid Laroi with Justin Bieber’s ‘Stay’; her own ‘good 4 u’, and Dua Lipa’s ‘Levitating’.
Rodrigo’s ‘Sour’ took the top album spot ahead of Dua Lipa’s ‘Future Nostalgia’, Justin Bieber’s ‘Justice’, Ed Sheeran’s ‘=’ and Doja Cat’s ‘Planet Her’.
As for podcasts, there are no surprises when it comes to Spotify’s top show globally in 2021: it’s ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’.
This may actually generate some backlash for Spotify, given Rogan’s recent comments within the podcast about whether children need Covid-19 vaccines, and the likelihood of the Democratic Party establishment deciding to “kill people on purpose that are causing problems“.
Spotify is not just providing a neutral platform for Rogan to express his views: it is both funding his content and promoting it (via human curation and algorithmic recommendations) to a large audience. The company should brace itself for another round of questions about these decisions.
That’s the thing about Wrapped: it’s not just a Big Marketing Moment for the streaming service. It’s so big, and indeed Spotify is so big, that it’s also now an annual opportunity for the company’s critics to restate their cases.
Spotify, unsurprisingly, sees itself as a positive actor in the music ecosystem: a platform that helps artists to reach new listeners and build careers including (the Wrapped merch emails tie into this) income streams outside, well, streams.
It is true that the large number of artists sharing their Wrapped cards today in delight at their audience growth will support Spotify’s view of the world in that sense. A social media splurge reflecting its impact on artists of all stripes.
Celebrating your listener totals and wanting to be paid more from streaming are not mutually exclusive, though. Spotify has always been a lightning rod for the wider debate about how much streaming pays out and how those royalties make their way through the industry system to artists and songwriters.
Spotify Wrapped 2021 will reignite that debate too, and that’s a healthy thing. 2021 has been a great year for Bad Bunny, Olivia Rodrigo, for Spotify’s listener growth, and for That Guy whose podcast pales next to its exquisitely-crafted 12-hour-long parody.
But as listeners and artists alike look back on their Spotify stats from the year, the conversations sparked by Wrapped will remind us to look back warmly on 2021 as the year the music industry grappled with some important questions about how the streaming economy could and should evolve in the coming years.
When the socials dust settles from today, Spotify will continue to play a vital role in that process, as will its streaming rivals, music companies of all sizes, musicians, and campaigns like Broken Record and Justice at Spotify.
Wrapped is thus both a snapshot of Spotify and music streaming’s scale at the end of 2021, and encouragement to continue those conversations about the economics of that scale in 2022.