Inside Wrapped 2019 with Dan Brill
The most wonderful time of the year at Spotify is upon us — Wrapped. While others prep for the year's end by tying ribbons around boxes, our tradition is to unpack instead. Specifically, we dig into our streaming intelligence and share it in two ways. One is delivered directly to each Spotify fan and sums up their own listening habits from the year. The other is public: a series of billboards, films, and real-world experiences that highlight the most compelling moments of the past 12 months, seen through Spotify's unique lens.
But Wrapped 2019 is a little extra wonderful — this campaign looks back at the entire decade. So if you've ever wondered if Rebecca Black's "Friday" was indeed historically streamed more on Fridays, well, a whole team of people came together to crunch those numbers and find the answer. (Spoiler alert: The answer is yes.) To unpack the most ambitious Wrapped ever, we talked to Spotify Group Creative Director Dan Brill, one of the many creative minds who shaped the campaign.
How would you explain what Wrapped is to a friend? Wrapped is our year-end celebration of everything that happens in music and culture. Whether it's trends or memes, good news or difficult news, we see time and again how what's happening in the world is reflected in the way people stream on Spotify. We gather the best stories we find in that mass-scale data and share them in a global, cross-functional, transmedia campaign. Wrapped is also when we turn over the listening data to each of our fans so they can see all the ways they engaged with music and podcasts. So it's both a broad, global celebration — and also an intimate, personal celebration — of the way we've all been listening over the past year.
Except this time, it's the past 10 years. What's special about this decade of streaming? This has obviously been the most significant and comprehensive decade in the history of streaming, where the primary way people consume music is as a part of a globally connected community. In that way, we've been able to collectively watch and participate in the journeys of superstars like Justin Bieber, who released his first album in 2010. Or take Psy's "Gangnam Style," which came out in 2012. That was many listeners’ first exposure to K-pop and now we're in a world where K-pop is a lot of people's top-streamed genre. What's cool about looking at 10 years of data is being able to see these trends begin — from the massive impact of Latinx music, to the way hip-hop and country have collided — build to a tipping point, and then redefine music as we know it. And in the same way we're telling stories about how music was streamed across the decades, we're also telling stories about the ways podcasts were consumed.
How did looking at a whole decade of streaming and culture open things up for you creatively? And was it difficult narrowing down the stories you wanted to tell? It opens up the entire world for us. We have an unprecedented amount of artists participating in our out-of-home campaign, covering music across every year in the decade, from Katy Perry's "California Gurls" to Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road." But most of the decision-making is driven by the fans. Everything we do in Wrapped is based on listening behaviour. So we start with the top streamed songs, artists, and albums from every year, and then we also try to find interesting correlations. We're telling a lot of localised stories in different markets. Like, Boston won a lot of sports championships this decade, so we looked at how many times they streamed DJ Khaled's "All I Do Is Win." Or, the National Zoo in D.C. had this panda, Bei Bei, who was being repatriated back to China, so we looked at how often Post Malone's "Goodbyes" was played around that time.
How else is Spotify telling different Wrapped stories in different markets? Every single market does their own celebration of the year, so this time is no different — except we're wrapping up the entire decade. Because of that, there are some really exciting things happening. For instance, we do a lot of Wrapped subway takeovers in the States, but Brazil is going to take over an entire subway line: 10 stops in a row where each station is a different year in the decade. As a global marketing organisation, we share one common insight of how we're going to approach Wrapped, then each market creates a campaign based on their local artists, streaming data, playlists, and stories. Ultimately, it's dozens of markets and hundreds of people around the world all working together to launch one really beautiful thing.
Fan-made playlists have something to do with it too, right? Yes! We get approval from playlist creators to share their individual playlist names. It's amazing to look back at things beyond music and see that in 2017 people were in fact making playlists about man buns and fidget spinners. Of course we created an out-of-home board honoring that. And around 2015, there were a ton of "dad bod" workout playlists, so we turned that into a piece of communication, too. We love seeing how culture, community, and experience are reflected in these weird and wonderful playlists people create.
Tell us more about that relationship with the fans. Is it a two-way thing? Absolutely. We do everything in the spirit of celebration, and also of admiration — we're inspired to show love to our fans. For that reason, we want to make Wrapped feel fresh and be bigger and more exciting every year. And the great thing about it is that people actually look forward to it. Toward the end of every year, we see all these tweets and messages popping up of people saying, "I can't wait to get my hands on my Wrapped." It's an incredibly special thing we have where people are actually asking for our advertising campaign, because who ever asks for an advertising campaign?
How did nostalgia come to be a driving theme of this year's campaign? Nostalgia is at the core of the Wrapped campaign every year. I think the internet kind of rewired our brains, where things happen so fast now that we're actually capable of feeling nostalgia for something that happened quite recently. Like, "Oh my God, remember this song from April?" In today's world that feels like years ago. But algorithmic nostalgic Spotify playlists like Your Time Capsule and Your Summer Rewind have been really popular with our listeners, and with Wrapped we get to dive in. We're able to serve up nostalgia in an authentic and powerful way because music is so ingrained in our past memories and feelings — it's part of the building blocks of our individual cultural DNA, so for us to be able to highlight those little pieces in your brain and bring you back to those times, whether it's six months or six years ago, it's just a really good feeling.
In the spirit of looking back, what do you think it is about Spotify that's allowed the platform to be such a driver of growth across this decade of streaming? We're not just a bunch of faceless people providing a service. We are such passionate super-fans of everything we celebrate, talk about, and highlight, and I think people can feel that in our marketing. It's about so much more than streaming music. It's about connecting with something now that you'll remember passionately in five years. It's about soundtracking that dinner party, wedding, or moment that means so much. Music is such a truly special part of your life, so we strive to show that we live that way too and are doing everything we can to give our fans as many ways as possible for that connection to happen.