Spotify Wrapped’s Sound Towns, Explained

Spotify Wrapped’s Sound Towns, Explained

The annual much-hyped Spotify Wrapped was released worldwide on Wednesday and soon went viral on social media, with users of the global streaming giant reacting to a new feature where the company matches a listener with a “Sound Town” based on their favorite music.

The end-of-the-year phenomenon is hugely popular: The company has more than 574 million users, and on Thursday morning, Spotify was the top trend on X (formerly Twitter), with more than four million posts.

What generated the most buzz online this year were Spotify’s new “Sound Towns.” The company matched its users to more than 1,300 cities across the globe, which were “objective and entirely driven by a user’s listening history,” a Spotify spokesperson told NBC News.

The city with the most matches was San Luis Obispo, Calif., which paired with 0.8% of listeners, Spotify told NBC. The hit caused the small city along the central California coast to go viral. The city’s government responded via social media with delight, saying it was trending because it listens to an “eclectic mix of music.”

The district’s U.S. representative Salud Carbajal also joked that he and the city’s mayor were “getting a lot of new constituents today” and welcomed Spotify users to the “beautiful Sound Town.”

Social media users also noticed the popularity of three other American cities—Burlington, Vt., Cambridge, Mass. and Berkeley, Calif.—and the sexual orientation of Spotify listeners getting matched with them. Online LGBTQ publication Them noticed many people who identify as queer had been paired with the three college towns.

One social media user quipped that “Spotify is trying to make a gay commune in Berkeley, a lesbian commune in Burlington, and a bisexual commune in Cambridge.” Another commented that Spotify Wrapped was the new “are you gay?” quiz online, popularized by Buzzfeed and others.

Spotify even acknowledged the focus on the three towns with a post on X calling out “hey besties” to the cities of Burlington, Berkeley and Cambridge. Some of the cities’ leaders responded, with Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui asking her followers what they thought of Spotify Wrapped’s playlist for the city.

City spokesperson Jeremy Warnick told TIME in an email that they were excited to see Cambridge among the most popular sound towns. Music is an integral part of the city’s culture, identity and vibrancy, he said, and Cambridge has a long history of supporting independent music venues and local artists. 

Musicians like Taylor Swift, Charli XCX, boygenius, Gracie Abrams and Phoebe Bridgers, who matched with the Sound Town, “perfectly encapsulate the creative, progressive spirit of Cambridge,” he said.

“Our city values self-expression, inclusion, and innovation—the very qualities embodied by these musical trailblazers,” he said.

Some social media users joked that the cities’ tourism boards had worked with Spotify to boost their profiles.

TIME reached out to Spotify on Thursday for information on how the Sound Towns were selected and the data behind the matches. 

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