Throughout the day, I listen to a lot of music. Whilst I’m getting ready in the morning, walking to and from work and whilst I’m at my desk. I even find it difficult to get to sleep without my carefully curated playlist. I’m also a big fan of pointless statistics. It’s one of the things I like about cricket, the more contrived the better. For some reason I’m interested in the fact that the oldest person to score a test match century was 46 at the time (Jack Hobbs in 1929). It’s no surprise then that I’m an avid user of Last.fm, a service that logs every song you listen to (they call it “scrobbling”) and aggregates the data providing you with listening stats and infographics detailing your listening history.
I started using Last.fm in 2009 and it’s logged every song I’ve listened to on iTunes or Spotify ever since. This means that it holds an incredible amount of data on my listening habits. For example, I know that on 15th November 2011 at 18:01 PM I was playing ‘Fire’ by Kasabian. Utterly useless information, but I love it. Similarly, they’ve rolled out a reporting section which provides infographics of your data neatly presented and easily shareable. Other people must love this stuff too. Last.fm keep historical versions of these infographics behind a paywall. You can access your last week and the summary of your year for free, but if you want to compare weeks and years you’ll need to stump up £3 a month.
This sort of thing is so popular that since 2016, Spotify have started providing ‘Wrapped’ – an end of year retrospective of your Spotify usage. In December each year, they provide users with a selection of infographics and statistics, along with a personalised playlist of their most listened to music. Not only that, but like Last.fm, ‘Wrapped’ uses your data to provide a selection of artists they think you might like. Where Spotify have the upper hand though is that users don’t have to do anything other than have an account and listen to music to get ‘Wrapped’.
Providing ‘Wrapped’ for millions of Spotify users is a really interesting business move. They’ve managed to turn this data processing into an awesome marketing tool. Basically creating content that countless people discuss and share on social media, generating a buzz about the brand. You couldn’t hope to produce anything near the same results with more traditional marketing techniques alone. Of course, money would have been invested in developing the tools to make ‘Wrapped’ a reality and Spotify rolled out a marketing campaign to go with it. But the amount of publicity generated by it was big enough to justify any outlays.
As someone who works in both data and marketing, I really admire the combination of the two to develop such a strong end product. The way Spotify have developed ‘Wrapped’ since it began in 2016 is commendable. Infographics in general are very popular at the moment, especially on social media. Tapping into this by creating personalised data relating to music taste was a great move. The share-ability potential for this content is huge with people wanting to show off, laugh at themselves or just inform others of what they’ve been listening to throughout the year.
In summary, I think what I like about this use of data is how pointless it is to the consumer on the surface. The charts, graphs and infographics have almost no practical use other than to facilitate nostalgia and share with friends. Meanwhile, for the business, the main purpose of these tools is to utilise listening data as a way of generating income. From a professional point of view, I’m really impressed with the latter. However, as a consumer of the products, I prefer to ignore the business motives and see it as a way to find out who my most played artist was in August 2016 (it was Editors).