Why Spotify thinks you belong in Burlington, Vt.

Why Spotify thinks you belong in Burlington, Vt.

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Spotify released its annual Wrapped feature on Wednesday, giving listeners a chance to review what songs, artists, podcasts and albums they frequently played throughout the year.

In a new gimmick this year, Spotify assigned users a specific “sound town” based on their listening habits. It caused quite a stir on social media, with many flagging their “sound towns” and expressing whether they were accurate.

And amid the conversation, three seemingly random locations emerged — Burlington, Vt., Cambridge, Mass., and Berkeley, Calif.

Those three towns ignited jokes on X (formerly Twitter), TikTok and Instagram, with some users suggesting that Spotify just picked them at random. Others wondered whether Spotify was working with local governments to promote tourism.

But those three cities were not so random, as Spotify’s official X account referenced them as well, saying, “hey besties” while tagging the cities’s official X accounts. (The city of Cambridge’s account responded to Spotify with “Hey Bestie” along with a GIF of a waving Taylor Swift, Spotify’s most streamed artist of the year).

So why were you assigned one of those towns? Well, according to Spotify, the “sound town” feature was created to show how listening habits are shared across different communities. The assigned town for each listener “has the most similar taste profile to their own,” a spokesperson for Spotify said in a statement. “It is objective and entirely driven by a user’s listening history.”

There are more than 1,300 cities possibilities among the “sound towns.” About 1 percent of all users got assigned either Burlington (0.6 percent), Berkeley (0.3 percent) or Cambridge (0.1 percent). Spotify did not say if those three cities were among the most popular across its user base.

“We’re having fun with this too,” said John Flanagan, communications director of Burlington’s arts department who spoke on behalf of the city’s mayor’s office.

Flanagan said Spotify did not reach out to Burlington about its Wrapped feature. But, he said he hopes the exposure “will inspire folks of all tastes and interests to come experience the amazing, inclusive arts community we have here.”

“We’re excited but not surprised to see so many listening habits align with the tastes of Burlingtonians,” he added. “We’re an eclectic and welcoming city that takes enormous pride in our vibrant arts and music scene.”

Aside from the big three cities, another common thread emerged among Spotify’s “sound towns” — many of them are college towns. Burlington is home to the University of Vermont, Berkeley is home to the University of California at Berkeley, and Cambridge is home to Harvard University.

Other social media users noted that they were assigned cities like Ann Arbor, Mich., (University of Michigan), Flagstaff, Ariz. (Northern Arizona University), Ithaca, N.Y. (Ithaca College), and Provo, Utah (Brigham Young University).

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It’s not surprising to see Spotify Wrapped to generate this sort of conversation. In previous years, the company has identified how a user’s music choices represent different moods, like in 2022 when Spotify said users embraced a “coastal grandmother” vibe.

The “sound towns” certainly brought more attention to Spotify Wrapped, which named Taylor Swift as the most streamed artist across the world in 2023 with 26.1 billion global streams. Bad Bunny, the Weeknd, Drake and Peso Pluma rounded out the global top five.

It’s unclear what Burlington had for its Spotify Wrapped playlist, but it’s likely similar to Nicole Boyce, co-host and writer for the “Owned with Rex Chapman” comedy podcast. She asked her followers on X if any of them got cities beside Burlington or Berkeley. More than 400 people replied with varying cities and locations.

As for Boyce, a New York resident, it seems Wrapped has inspired her, too.

“I am looking forward to my new life in Burlington!” she joked.

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