Spotify 2021 Wrapped
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The art and science of Spotify Wrapped

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Good morning! This Thursday, it’s year-in-review time at Spotify, Square is now Block, Meta will let researchers access removed content, and people are accusing Stripe of having a “hire-and-fire mentality.”

Spotify has mastered the year-end look back

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. For Spotify users, that means it’s Spotify Wrapped time.

Spotify Wrapped is a year-in-review playlist and slideshow that serves up various data points from the past year of listening.

  • It includes stats like how many minutes of music people listened to, favorite artists and songs, and how close someone might be to being a superfan. (At least one Protocol reporter is in the top 1% of Taylor Swift’s listeners this year.)
  • Spotify Wrapped also gives artists a glimpse at the number of streams they received, hours people listened, number of listeners and how many countries listeners were located in for the year.

Wrapped has been a hit for the company ever since Spotify launched its year-in-review campaigns over five years ago. According to market analytics firm MoEngage, Wrapped gives Spotify a big boost in new installs: Its mobile app downloads increased by 21% in the first week of December last year. More than 90 million people engaged with Spotify Wrapped in 2020, the company reported.

  • CEO Daniel Ek called the season “historically our biggest quarter of the year” in the company’s October earnings call.
  • “Spotify's offering is much more heavily marketed across various channels — including in-app, social, media placements and more — and simply more shareable in its presentation,” Randy Nelson, head of mobile insights at Sensor Tower, told Protocol in an email. “Wrapped creates a huge opportunity for Spotify to extend its reach through social motivation and, yes, FOMO.”

Why is Spotify the only company that is doing this so well, or at all? Spotify has managed to accomplish the most rare of things: create a genuine cultural moment every year, a day on which everyone on the internet seems to be talking about the same thing. So why doesn't Netflix offer a look back at all the shows you binge-watched this year? Where's YouTube's report on all the rabbit holes you went deepest into? Could Twitter tell you about your favorite accounts, most viral tweets and the person to whom you thirstily reply most often? Which of my Slack messages got the most party parrots? A few users joked about Spotify Wrapped being just "data collection but make it cool," but it's clear that Wrapped is actually the kind of data usage people actually enjoy.

  • There are a few similar things out there, like the unofficial Instagram Top Nine tool or Apple Music's Replay feature (which is, frankly, just a playlist). Not many, though, and none as good or as popular as Wrapped.
  • Part of it is surely just focus. Apple, Amazon and YouTube all have music and audio divisions, but for Spotify, music and audio is its entire business. “Spotify dominates the conversation, not just because it's the largest, but it's also the most adept in this regard,” Nelson said.
  • Wrapped also gets better as Spotify gets smarter. This year's offering includes things like "Audio Aura," which describes the vibes of your music using colors and moods, and an automatic movie soundtrack to your life based on your listening habits. Is it silly? Yep. It's also more evidence of how well Spotify has come to actually understand the audio on its platform, and all the tools that come with it. Spotify has long talked about wanting to understand audio like it does software, and features like Wrapped are what that enables.

This isn't necessarily an easy thing to get right. For example: Remember a few years ago, when Facebook's Year in Review feature showed a lot of people photos and posts they'd rather not have been confronted with again? Doing something like this, where it's not just "your most popular stuff" or something similar but an actual dive into what matters to users, takes real thought and care and a deep understanding of the content itself. In that sense, Spotify might have it easy with audio. But either way, it's much closer than anyone else to getting it right.

Though despite all the hype from its users, Spotify’s stock tanked nearly 6% on Wednesday, closing at around $225 per share after opening at $238. Maybe not everyone’s excited to be a Taylor Swift superfan.

— Nat Rubio-Licht (email | twitter)

On the schedule

Crypto and institutional investors

Venture capital started the move to treat crypto as just another asset class. Which institutional investors are most primed to consider crypto? What infrastructure is required for institutional needs? Join Tomio Geron at 9 a.m. PT on Monday where he, Anchorage's Diogo Mónica and Paxos' Walter Hessert will answer these questions and more.


Comcast’s powerful networkkeeps people connected. Since 2017, Comcast has invested more than $15 billion to continue to grow its smart, reliable network. As the technology advances, this network will become even more resilient, faster and more secure.

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People are talking

Don’t wait to address harm on social media, Frances Haugen told lawmakers:

  • “Time is of the essence. There is a lot at stake here.”

Gigi Sohn pushed for some conservative support during her confirmation hearing:

  • “[I’m] proud that some of the most conservative television networks are supporting my nomination.”

Apple’s trying to stop court-ordered App Store changes again:

  • “[Without a stay,] the App Store will have to be reconfigured — to the detriment of consumers, developers, and Apple itself.”

A Stripe recruiter who was let go after four months said the company’s adopted a “hire-and-fire mentality”:

  • “I know other people felt like they were brought in and then left out as sheep for slaughter.”

Making moves

Square is now called Block. Square Crypto will now be called Spiral.

Julien Codorniou reportedly left Meta. Codorniou led Facebook Workplace and spent about a decade with the company.

Kate Ahlering is Calendly’s new chief revenue officer. Ahlering is taking the role from Patrick Moran, who will be the company’s CMO.

Simon Mutlu joined Lumavate as chief revenue officer. Mutlu has worked with Slack, Liveclicker and others on scaling revenue.

In other news

Could Biden’s vaccine mandate prompt government chaos? Conservatives are supposedly talking about forcing a shutdown unless they can get Democrats to reject money needed to enforce the rule, sources told Playbook.

Meta is cracking down on revenge porn. It's working with a number of other organizations on to build a global system for tracking and stopping nonconsensual intimate images from being shared.

More Tesla merch: The company is now selling a $1,900 ATV called the "Cyberquad for Kids," which looks like a smaller companion to the ATV it showed off during the original Cybertruck launch. Coming to a driveway near you in a few weeks.

Meta and Twitter are both sharing more about removed content. Meta created an archive of posts that have been taken down for breaking its rules on coordinated inauthentic behavior, while Twitter shared more information about 3,465 accounts related to state-linked information operations around the world.

Match Group is settling a lawsuit with Tinder’s co-founders. The company is handing them $441 million to end a years-long suit that alleged Match Group intentionally played down Tinder to avoid paying more money in equity.

TikTok’s trying to hold on to creators. The platform introduced Creator Next, which houses all of the ways creators can make money on the app, along with a few other monetization tools.

You can now get a standalone version of Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams Essentials gives companies longer meeting times and other perks for less money than some of its competitors.

Bret Taylor will report to Marc Benioff, even though they now co-lead Salesforce, according to The Information. Benioff apparently told employees about the arrangement in a Slack message yesterday.

Meta wants to work with AWS on the cloud. The company already has many data centers, but it’s partnering with the cloud provider on machine learning and running future acquisitions on AWS infrastructure.

Learn more about Alan Davidson, Joe Biden’s pick to lead the NTIA. If he’s confirmed, he’d play a very important part in guiding the expansion of internet access in the country.

Know who you’re buying from

The Markup recently reported that Amazon tends to give its own brands the upper hand in search results. And it didn’t stop at the investigation: It created a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that detects which brands actually belong to Amazon and which ones don’t.

Once people visit Amazon’s website, the detector will highlight brands and exclusive products from the company on any search results. It’s not foolproof, but it still gives a lot more insight into whom you’re buying from.


In the last 10 years, Comcast has invested $30 Billion – and $15 billion since 2017 alone – to grow and evolve America’s largest gig-speed broadband network, building more route miles and running fiber deeper to customers’ homes to help millions of people stay connected when they need it most.

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