Spotify Wrapped 2023: team behind much-anticipated music moment share their story
The annual music event is back on the streaming platform for its ninth year. Here, we find out about what went into its making, plus which artist broke all their own records this year.
Ice Spice / Spotify
Each year, the team at Spotify sits down and asks themselves what the year felt and looked like and how they intend to bring that to life through its ‘Wrapped’ campaign, an annual event that has captivated music lovers curious about their listening habits and statistics. And this year, it’s all about reality.
“In a world when it’s sometimes hard to know what content is generated and what is not, we decided that we were going to celebrate all their real stuff this year,” explains Marie Ronn, global group creative director at Spotify.
To do so, the team focused on a few insights, the most important being that Spotify wanted to highlight that you can’t fake a feeling; it’s the real deal. As Ronn puts it, the platform wants to “invite the world to learn more about themselves” through Wrapped. This led to this year’s campaign tagline, ‘Wrapped or It Didn’t Happen,’ a fun take on the popular ‘pics or it didn’t happen’ quip.
When designing the overall look of the campaign, Ronn says they looked at real-world organic shapes and gradients but added a playful and expressive Spotify touch. Motion was a key element to the graphics, which users can see in both the campaign work and the listening experience.
Huge billboards featuring the likes of American singer-songwriter Kali Uchis and German artist Ayliva tower over crowds with fun, unexpected, animated elements. Static executions portray both real and fun statistics. For example, Jennette McCurdy’s poster reads: “I’m Glad My Mom Died was the top audiobook of the year” alongside “13,000 people created playlists that mention therapist in the title.”
“We’re taking bold images, freefrom line work, digital sketches and combining it all and spitting out a dynamic interplay between the real world and the digital world,” continues Ronn. “Combined, they provide us with this visual language and a vehicle for us to make sure we reflect and express the feelings that we all had in 2023.” One of which is very clear through the stat that shows 200+ people made a playlist titled ‘Dump Him.’
Humor always plays a role in the annual Wrapped event. This year, the team decided to put rapper Lil Yachty on top of a real little yacht to celebrate his album release.
To the dismay of boyfriends everywhere, Spotify has also decided to turn its outdoor ads into real-life lie detector tests. A play on the hit song Boys a Liar by Ice Spice and PinkPantheress, people will be able to find out if their partner is up to no good. “Good luck to them,” jokes Ronn.
Of course, there are also brand partnerships with the likes of FC Barcelona, Amazon and Roblox. As part of the football link-up, listeners will have the chance to find out what music their favorite players are feeling.
On Thursday, the Spotify Island Roblox experience will go live, and from today users can ask their smart assistants to play their Spotify Wrapped playlist. Gifs and stickers on WhatsApp will also be released, ensuring the brand is ”touching everywhere” that it can. That includes being available on desktop for the first time in many years.
One new feature that the Spotify team is excited about is the ‘Me in 2023’ aspect. This gives participants 12 listening characters that best describe the way they listened. These include the ‘shapeshifter,’ ‘alchemist’ and the ‘luminary’ descriptions and factors in if you listen to songs over and over, for example, or if you play light, upbeat music more often.
Another first for this year is the ‘Sound Town’ feature. “We know that listening habits are shared in really surprising ways across communities around the world,” explains Emily Galloway, head of personalization design at the streaming platform. “To celebrate that, we are bringing you Sound Town, which matches you to a city and is based on your listening and shared artists affinity.” This means that users can go check out a new place that they might not have considered visiting before and meet like-minded people.
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In the UK, there will also be a unique live show in London on Thursday, which is a first for the brand. Wrapped Live in London will feature performances from some of today’s most popular artists, such as Sam Smith, Chase & Status and Charli XCX. A huge chunk of Spotify’s marketing investment goes into Wrapped, but even more so this year with the London event.
“It’s a moment that our users look forward to,” notes Leroy Harris, head of marketing UK+IE at Spotify. “It ignites conversations, celebrates our love for music and podcasts, and reflects how we all feel at the end of each year.
Cultural moments are always at the heart of Spotify Wrapped and this year is no different. From Rihanna performing while pregnant at the Super Bowl to the Barbenheimmer marketing phenomenon and even the TV series Succession ending (the Spotify Wrapped conference actually took place in the same location where they filmed the office scenes), each of these events plays a part in people’s listening habits.
Messages from artists like Bad Bunny and Dolly Parton give thanks to all the fans and, cheekily, some are also filled with Easter eggs in regard to new releases and tours.
“It was a monumental year for the expansion of global sounds, diversity among the charts and also massive returns from global superstars,” says Sulinna Ong, global head of editorial at Spotify. “We’ve seen niche genres break out of their markets and really make an impact internationally.”
She cites Musica Mexicana as the one that has really led and been introduced to the mainstream, as well as Afro beats and K-pop, which just continue to dominate.
But, of course, there’s one pop star who broke countless records this year. “It’s Taylor’s world and we live in it,” laughs Ong. “So with more than 26bn streams this year, Taylor Swift saw a record-breaking year on Spotify. I think my favorite stat is she became the most streamed artist in a single day following the release of 1989 Taylor’s Version, and she replaced herself, so she broke her own records.”
Beginning today, when users play one of Swift’s songs, they will be met with a progress bar that changes color and adopts sparkles. Swifties will also receive a special share card and a thank you message from the musician.
As you can see, there are so many elements that go into this annual marketing push. It’s all done in-house by Spotify’s internal ad agency. “But then when we take it globally, obviously, we want to make sure that it resonates in a local market,” adds Ronn. “So, then we get some extra help from our friends in terms of making sure that we execute in the best way.” This means partnering with various external production companies and agencies.
When Wrapped debuts today, listeners will be guided through it by Spotify’s AI DJ called X. Spotify’s head of cultural partnerships, Xavier ’X’ Jernigan, served as the inspiration for the voice of the AI DJ. He said: “Normally, in a given week, there is Zeitgeist commentary that’s generated with generative AI, but also through our writer’s room, we have a human room of writers that are comprised of me and our UX writers, and we have our music editors, our human curation team, they’re a part of that writers room,”
“We’re going to pause that this week and it’s going to be all Wrapped commentary for each individual person. I think it’s really dope to get those fun facts about how you listen straight from AI X.”
Spotify anticipates that 10 million users in the UK alone will be enjoying their Wrapped experience this year, among the 574 million people using the platform around the world.