Privacy advocates are calling out Spotify for intrusive data practices, but users get real value in music personalization and social sharing.
As each year comes to a close, Spotify users anticipate the arrival of their personalized listening summary, Spotify Wrapped. And just like clockwork, privacy advocates come out swinging, calling Spotify evil, arguing that Wrapped is a data privacy problem. Yet, if we users are getting actual benefits from sharing Wrapped with our friends, how is this so evil?
In a world where consumer data is constantly shared, leaked, and abused, I can certainly understand the reaction to Wrapped. However, the pendulum has swung way too far into the realm of trying to protect every aspect of our data. Instead, it’s time to go back to weighing the value of our data as a currency and the return on that value we get when our data is used.
In the case of Spotify, they have never been shy about how they use your data. And we, as Spotify users, haven’t likely complained when we get a really dope Discover Weekly playlist that surfaces new music we love. Guess what? Without capturing and analyzing all of our listening habits, Discover Weekly would be nothing more than a high-level curated playlist that isn’t likely to meet our needs. Before digital music, our primary method of discovery was radio play, and that was fraught with payola. Sure, Spotify plays in the payola game, too, but with so much more granular data about new music and our habits, real connections are still made.
And then there’s all the residual content created by those that roast the Wrapped summaries of others; entertaining for sure!
When new music discovery works, it really works!
Through Discover Weekly, I was introduced to both Taylor Torrence and Oliver Wickham. After being introduced to their music, I began to listen to more of their music, and now they are both regulars in my music library. I went on to interview Oliver Wickham, and I recruited both to play on my NY Anjunafamily livestream program during the pandemic. Would I have discovered them without Spotify? Perhaps. But in this case, they each came to me at the perfect time to earn my respect and fandom.
So what about all the Spotify Wrapped shares on social media? Unlike the Lensa AI “art portraits,” both the one sharing and those of us seeing it on socials get value from these shares. The person sharing can brag about their listening habits or just as often make self-deprecating jokes about how Taylor Swift snuck into their top five despite not being a Swiftie. And friends may actually discover new artists, too! I’ve certainly seen a friend’s Wrapped and then searched an artist in their list to check them out.
We should be careful with our user data but also recognize the value exchange that can happen when that data is used well.
To be sure, I’m not arguing that everything Spotify does is fine and dandy. But when we consider the way our listening habits are used to grow our playlists and grow artist following, that’s not a bad trade. Compare that to Google, which can use data from every personal email you ever send or receive, and I think you’ll agree that Wrapped isn’t so evil. And for that matter, good luck finding a modicum of value in the way Facebook uses our data!
The bottom line is that our data is a currency, and as long as there is a notable value exchange, it isn’t so evil when companies use our data. Like it or not, we give them permission to do this every day!