It's that time of the year again when Spotify users gather beneath their favorite green app and unwrap data-based gifts, courtesy of its year-end Spotify Wrapped review. Having been a Spotify Premium user for several years, I've just done the same, forcing a smile when its 'musical personality' feature branded me a 'Replayer'.
But this year I've looked over at Apple Music users with slightly more envy than usual. Not because its equivalent feature, Apple Music Replay, is a massive improvement on Wrapped – in fact, it seems something of a shameless rip-off when you compare the animations it uses in summarizing its users' listening habits over the past year.
Apple Music Replay does, though, offer something that I'd like to see in Spotify Wrapped – it actually lets you access your listening data (if not the animations) all-year round, rather than just in late November.
And those are the kinds of insights I'd love to dig into inside the Spotify app outside of Wrapped season, rather than having to use third-party apps.
Not just for Christmas
There's no doubt that Spotify has it, well, wrapped when it comes to a fancy year-end animation of your listening habits.
For a start, the equivalent on Apple Music Replay is strangely only available on the platform's website rather than in-app. In Spotify, it'll just appear in the 'home' section of the app (as long as you've updated to the latest version 8.7.78).
Spotify Wrapped's animated round-up is also more comprehensive than Apple Music Replay. Apple's is shorter and mainly rounds up your top song, artist and album of the year, along with your top five genres.
Spotify, meanwhile, explains how many different genres you've dipped into and what you listen to at certain times of the day (I'm apparently all about 'Warm Good Vibes Angst' in the afternoon, which is probably my Myers Briggs personality type).
But unusually for Apple, its Music Replay is a little less locked down than Spotify. If you go to the web version at any time, you can see some (albeit limited) statistics like play counts and hours listened, alongside your most streamed artists and albums. Your 'Replay' playlist, also available in the app's 'Listen Now' tab, will also update every week with your most listened-to tracks.
Scroll down the page in your year-end Music Replay animation and you'll also see 'top 10' lists for your most-played songs, artists and albums, which gives you a bit more depth than Spotify's top fives. Still, while both Spotify Wrapped and Apple Music Replay have their own strengths, both only really scratch the surface of the kind of music data insights that are possible on other services.
Right now, the only way to get year-round data insights into your Spotify-listening habits is with third-party apps like Stats.fm (iOS, Android), which is currently working on adding Apple Music support.
That app is a pretty handy way to get lists of your top tracks, artists and albums over custom periods, assuming you're happy to hand it some pretty wide-ranging permissions. If you've been on Spotify for a while, you can also get some interesting nuggets by downloading your historical Spotify account data from the site's Privacy section and then uploading it to an app like Stats.fm.
This kind of data opens up the potential for some pretty fascinating insights, like what you were listening to most during a particular year, or how much you actually listen to albums rather than songs. My only real issue is that the kind of music I listen to while working (which Spotify has branded 'eerie psychedelica compassionate') can skew that data towards concentration-aiding music, rather than the kind that genuinely means the most to me.
It was really Last.fm that pioneered the whole musical data insights, way before the Spotify Wrapped concept was apparently sparked by an intern's project in 2019. As one of the early social networks, it took the whole concept to the next level with its 'neighbors' feature, which connected you with your musical soulmates on the service based on your listening habits.
While that's perhaps a step too far for most, it does show the wide-ranging possibilities of our music-listening data. For now, though, I'd be happy to see a Wrapped-style dashboard in Spotify all-year round, even if I suspect that, just like Christmas, its marketing power is all the more potent because of its rarity.
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Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at both TechRadar and Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.