Spotify Wrapped: Data-sharing feels so right

back of a student wearing yellow shirt and headphones
Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Oh, Spotify Wrapped.

If we didn’t love you so much, we might be sorta creeped out.

The popular music streaming platform digs around in our playlists, exposing the long hours we spent listening to true crime podcasts while unearthing sappy pop tunes played on repeat during a tough breakup.

While Congress and private users continue to rail against the deep data mining practices of tech companies such as Facebook and Google, Spotify hasn’t faced the same scrutiny.

woman with dark hair and man with glasses pose for portraits

Joanna Weaver, assistant teaching professor. Photo by Adam Glanzman. Yakov Bart associate professor, D’Amore-McKim School of Business. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

“For any customer that cares about data privacy, Spotify Wrapped serves as an unfortunate reminder that anytime you interact with an app like Spotify, you’re sharing data about your preferences that can be used to send you ads or for other purposes,” says Yakov Bart, who teaches marketing and business administration at Northeastern.

Privacy concerns don’t appear to have deterred many Spotify users, gauging by its growing base of 172 million paid subscribers. A loyal Wrapped fan base has been known to count down the days until the popular year-in-review is released. Spotify Wrapped rolled out users’ annual personalized data reports on Dec. 1, and immediately subscribers flooded Instagram and TikTok with updates that included their top-played songs, artists, genres, and personal “Audio Auras.”

“Students in my psychology class are very smart, scientific-minded students, but they still want to believe in their zodiac sign. I don’t think they really believe, but it’s something they adopt because it says something unique about them,” says Joanna Weaver, a psychology professor at Northeastern who focuses on cognitive development.

“It’s another way of expressing yourself, like a language. It’s a language using popular culture, and it’s all their own. And that’s what teens and young adults are always striving to do, they’re always striving to come up with their own language and identity,” she said.

Spotify’s successful Wrapped marketing campaign, which started in 2017, thrives on engagement, says Bart. This year the company included a famous TikTok influencer, Noodle. A 13-year-old rescue pug, Noodle decides whether it’s a “bones or no bones” day based on whether he’s able to stand on his own. That’d be a bone day, and Spotify has your playlist covered for bone and no bone days.

The music streaming service saw a 21% increase in app downloads in the first week of December 2020, when Wrapped is usually released. More than 90 million people engaged with Wrapped that year, according to marketing analytics firm MoEngage.

Weaver sees Wrapped as a way to express identity, as well as find connection.

“Teens used to go into their bedrooms, shut the door and listen to their music real loud. They do the same thing now, they just don’t have to do it alone,” says Weaver.

For media inquiries, please contact