As we get closer to the end of the year, our inboxes are overrun with the year-end recaps and predictions for the future. Spotify joined the chorus by releasing its Your Decade Wrapped project, which provided the streaming service's premium users with a recap of their music activity for 2019 and the past decade.
The market leader in music streaming, Spotify has amassed tremendous amounts of data regarding global listening habits — including the fact that many of us are "genre-fluid." The data reveals what we are listening to (apparently a lot of Post Malone and Billie Eilish) and how much we are looking to music generally (a ton). Certainly, it's engaging to have our individual and highly shareable listening choices reflected to us via a fun and informative graphics video.
So engaging, in fact, that Spotify's Your Decade Wrapped is the ultimate shareable piece of content. It quickly became a trending topic across social as people shared their year in music. (What the hell is "pop-rap?") Spotify was able to leverage its reams of data and reflect that back to us and, in turn, we promoted Spotify by sharing the findings. Spotify created a virtual loop of data as a marketing product.
But is there something more profound to be gleaned from Spotify's Wrapped list?
Viewing Your Decade Wrapped on a What/Why axis, it clearly over indexes on the "What" portion of the axis. It tells us what musical choices we indulged in and to what extent we listened to music as a whole. Spotify is much less effective on the other side of that axis — the all-elusive "Why."
My essay on singular experiences versus shareable experiences pins down the Spotify dilemma. Our music choices are not just the culmination of a click or a download. They are the result of potentially limitless inputs before the moment the track is played. The data approximates the decisions, emotions, and feelings we have when we engage with music, but it can't duplicate them.
Music has an emotional resonance that few art forms can replicate. A Psychology Today article cites numerous factors that explain why the musical connection is so deep; among the standouts are 1) reminiscing, 2) music as a language of emotion, and 3) the emotion of awe. Reminiscing is just another term for nostalgia — one of the most potent factors in brand recognition and reinforcement. The significance of emotion to the human experience is evident. Music links all of that together, making it a singular experience without parallel. Putting music in this context begins to get us closer to the "why" it matters so much.
Wrestling with that reality and coming to a better understanding can unlock a powerful asset for any marketer. Marketers can activate our longing for nostalgia and for experiences that move us through the power of music. As click-and-mortar retail increases in popularity, the integration of music has become an essential part of the experience.
Our affinity for music can't be distilled to mere favorites or "most listened" list. Unlocking "why" requires us to get in touch with ourselves and dig deep into our motivations, our passions, and our desires. Music is seemingly embedded in the singular moments of our lives in such a way as to make it almost invisible. That apparent invisibility is no less potent because we act on the desire for music on an almost subconscious level. The reason we stream a song can be as varied as a well-targeted media placement, a moment with a loved one, or a fleeting memory. The decisions we make vis a vis the music in our lives are a combination of all of these singular "why's."
Spotify Wrapped is a fun, shareable year-end set of data, but there is potential to deliver so much more. Brands that connect me to meaningful moments, powered by the music I love, can bring the whole relationship to another level. Data will tell you I listened to Incubus's "Mexico" while in Mexico, but the emotion at that moment transcends a track play. In 2020, brands can harness those emotions and moments and uncover compelling stories — all we have to do is ask.
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