🎁 Spotify Wrapped, explained - The Hustle
The Hustle

🎁 Spotify Wrapped, explained

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Today’s rundown:

  • Spotify Wrapped: Inside the streaming giant’s secret growth hack.
  • Emojis: How 😂 became the most-used emoji.
  • By the numbers: Syrup shortages, day care margins, and dentist debt.
  • Around the web: A map of light pollution, a tool to create living pictures like Harry Potter, and more internet finds.

Let’s do it.

The big idea

Spotify Wrapped is the streaming giant’s secret growth hack

You may look forward to Spotify Wrapped because it’s an annual reminder that you’re in the top 1% of Drake listeners.

It turns out Spotify looks forward to its annual recap for another reason: app downloads.

Per Protocol, the popularity of Spotify Wrapped led to a 21% bump in app downloads in the 1st week of December 2020, and has helped establish Q4 as the company’s biggest quarter, according to CEO Daniel Ek.

What makes it so effective?

For the unfamiliar, Spotify Wrapped is a year-in-review slideshow that shows users their most-streamed songs, artists, and podcasts of the year.

It includes stats like number of listens for top tracks and hours listened for top artists.

The beauty of Spotify Wrapped is its shareability:

  • The slideshow is delivered in a format that looks like an Instagram story with popping visualizations to accompany the music
  • Each slide contains a share button at the bottom, making it simple for users to share their data on social platforms

The result? Over 90m+ people engaged with Spotify Wrapped in 2020.

Wrapped is only getting better

As Spotify collects more data on users, it can offer more interesting insights.

For instance, this year’s Wrapped included a “Soundtrack to your life” feature and an “Audio Aura, ” which generates a customized color palette based on listeners’ favorite musical moods.

So who won 2021?

  • Top song: “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo
  • Top artist: Bad Bunny (2nd year in a row)
  • Top podcast: The Joe Rogan Experience

But don’t panic, Drake fans — he’s still in the top.


Sean John, the apparel brand created and later sold by Sean Combs (AKA Puff Daddy, P Diddy, or simply “Diddy”) filed for bankruptcy. Combs has reportedly shown interest in buying the brand back. #ecommerce-retail

Teslas in Texas: Tesla announced it has officially settled into its new headquarters in Austin, Texas. #clean-energy

Meta payments: Meta announced it is testing a feature letting users split payments from the Messenger app. #emerging-tech

Hacking the government: The phones of 9 US State Department employees were hacked by spyware developed by the Israeli-based NSO Group. #privacy

Crypto ads are coming: Meta reversed a policy banning crypto companies from running ads across its platforms. #fintech-crypto

Big integration: Uber added an integration in India that lets users book a ride with a text message in WhatsApp. #big-tech

MFM: Sam explains how he retired at the age of 31 with $20m+. #mfm

Twitter thread: The Hustle‘s Rob Litterst breaks down the New York Times’ bundling strategy. #hustle-picks

Most-used emoji

The most used emojis in 2019 (Source: Unicode)

Who invented the ‘face with tears of joy’ emoji?

In the world of digital communication, one emoji reigns supreme: 😂.

Per the Unicode Consortium — a non-profit that sets standards for emojis — the “face with tears of joy” is the most-used emoji of 2021 (5%+ of all usage).

The emoji also topped the only previous list (2019). The ❤️ emoji was 2nd in both years.

Emojis were invented…

… in the late 1990s in Japan by NTT DoCoMo, one of the country’s leading telecoms.

Per The Guardian, NTT wanted to woo young consumers to its pager product and an employee — Shigetaka Kurita — suggested the use of simple images to accompany text.

Kurita created a 1st batch of 176 emojis “inspired by manga, Chinese characters and street signs” that laid the groundwork for future emojis.

The ‘face with tears of joy’…

… first came out as part of an emoji set from a competing Japanese telecom, SoftBank.

The Unicode Consortium officially blessed the emoji with its name in 2010. At the time, emojis were still very much a Japanese thing.

Apple didn’t make emoji keyboards an international standard for iOS until 2011. Emojis exploded in the following years.

By 2015, 😂 was already the most popular emoji on Twitter and it’s been pure dominance since.

Interesting: Among health-related emojis, “only 🥵 and 🥴 managed to enter the Top 100 in 2021. 😷 moved up from 186 to 156 while 🦠 only just made it into the Top 500.”

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Spreadsheets for stealing/sharing →

Source: Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto/Getty Images

By the numbers: 50m pounds of syrup, child care’s 1% profit margins, and more

1) In what’s perhaps the most Canadian stat of the year, the Quebec Maple Syrup Producers group will release 50m pounds of syrup (½ of the supply) from its strategic reserve to address a 21% spike in demand on one end and low yields on the other.

2) In most states, child care costs more than in-state college tuition, and the individuals providing care — 87% of whom completed some higher education — earn ~$24k annually. The dicey business model means the average child-care center has just a 1% profit margin, according to the US Department of the Treasury.

3) Some news about Huckleberry Finn(ance): As with many things at the moment, huckleberry demand is up and yields are down. The $50m huckleberry market has seen per-pound prices double to $17 in the last 2 years.

4) Cavity to fill: Around 10% of dentists in America are educated at NYU, where they can expect to spend $572k+ on their education. The program’s 2015 and 2016 graduates had a median debt of ~$349k and median income of $82k 2 years after graduating.

5) Shares of e-signature company DocuSign dropped 42% Friday after the company lowered guidance for the 4th quarter. As pro-memer Dr. Patel said so eloquently, “Docusign stock price [is] down… after analysts discover that the entire business can be replaced by pen and paper.”


What’s ahead for the future of work? This Wednesday, our expert explains

The world of work is constantly evolving, and it doesn’t just impact whether you can Zoom without pants.

​In this interactive seminar, Steph Smith will bring you up to speed on the future of work. Whether you’re looking for an edge, seeking new ideas, or hoping to attract the best talent, you’ll learn about:

  • ​How to stay competitive in the new landscape
  • New benefits companies are using to attract talent
  • ​10+ gaps for untapped products and services…

​… and much more.

​Steph is a director of marketing at HubSpot, podcaster, and one of the original creators of Trends, our premium newsletter surfacing emerging business opportunities.

​As she says best, it was crazy to think the 40-hour workweek wouldn’t change. But it’s even crazier to think it won’t keep changing.

RSVP now to stay ahead →

📜 On this day: In 1865, the US ratified the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery. President Abraham Lincoln had already issued the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862.

That’s interesting: This map shows light pollution across the world.

🤩 Useful: This tool from Plynth lets you bring your greeting cards to life — like Harry Potter’s living pictures — for free. Make and upload a video to get a QR code to include on your paper cards. Then, recipients can scan the code with their phones to turn still images into video!

🧑‍💻 How to: If you’re lucky, a recruiter might contact you. But how do you reach out to them? Harvard Business Review explains.

🐦 Wait, what: When people think of bird-watching, they typically imagine going to forests, parks, or jungles. But one author makes a case for observing the urban pigeon.

🐘 Aww: Baby elephant Pyi Mai, who lives at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand, recently celebrated her 1st birthday. Here’s an adorable highlight reel.

Images of the day

Some of the first emojis ever designed. Shigetaka Kurita created 176 emojis for NTT DoCoMo in the late 1990s. Above are 20 of the 12×12 pixel images… Not an 🍆 in sight.

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