Apple Music Replay now offers monthly Wrapped-style listening stats – but what’s the point?

Move over, Spotify Wrapped. Apple Music Replay offers a monthly – potentially pointless – deep dive into the soundtrack of your life. Is it really necessary?

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Young man wearing wireless headphones and listening to streaming music via app on his smartphone, while walking on the street sidewalk.

Crredit: Getty / Marcio Binow De Silva

If, like me, another month has passed soundtracked by a sonic merry-go-round of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works albums, a monthly recap of your listening habits could make for bleak viewing. Unfortunately for us, that’s just what the newly upgraded Apple Music Replay feature now provides.

Of course, insights into your streaming statistics aren’t new – Apple Music Replay was first introduced in 2019 as a yearly insights tool, following the launch of Spotify Wrapped in 2016. TIDAL has also been running a similar Rewind feature since 2020.

However, now Apple has made this feature monthly, analysing your play counts and time spent, and calculating your top songs, albums, artists, playlists, genres, and stations. Yes, this roundup isn’t quite as visually or gamefully creative as Wrapped, but the analysis goes deep.

Subscriber retention might be one reason for the update. In a bid to cut ahead of the competition and keep users from jumping ship to the likes of Spotify, Qobuz, Amazon Music, Deezer or TIDAL, Apple Music’s made an eagerly-awaited feature appear 11 more times in users’ digital peripheries over the calendar year. And will other platforms follow suit? They usually do.

This seemingly innocent data-gathering exercise reminds us that every move we make – even listening to our favourite music – is constantly under the watchful eye of colossal tech giants. And these giants ultimately want us to stay on their platforms for as long as possible and drain us of our money. Following a week where Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek compared the music industry to sports in a statement he apparently assumed would justify the controversially low payouts artists receive from Spotify, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to fall into another temptatious web spun by the likes of Apple Music.

Your data isn’t just there for a fun recap of your favourite music at the end of each month. Streaming services rely on your data to keep you subscribed to their apps. Your listening habits, preferences, and user interactions are analysed to create personalised playlists and suggest relevant content. It’s important to consider how the streaming giants benefit from your data, not just you.

So, your data is used to suggest music based on your preferences. And when you think about the fact that Spotify, in 2021, revealed it will give artists a prominent position in listeners’ suggested feeds if they agreed to receive a “promotional recording royalty rate”, AKA less royalties, you’ve got to ask, ‘what is my data even being used for?’.

Yes, there’s something undeniably joyful about discovering new music trends and patterns in our listening habits. I won’t lie that sharing your Spotify Wrapped with your friends – who do not care at all – can provide a self-discovery-fueled dopamine hit. But does this joy outweigh the potential stress of constant analysis?

Next time you find yourself refreshing your feed, impatiently awaiting your next Apple Music Replay rundown, spare a thought for the musicians receiving approximately $0.003 – $0.005 per stream. Perhaps your money would be better spent benefitting them directly via Bandcamp’s ‘Bandcamp Fridays’ where artists receive 93 per cent of your money, or on a Soundcloud subscription – a platform that in 2021 announced a revised “fan-powered” royalties model.

It’s about time we questioned our alignment with these music-streaming mammoths. Will we be sucked into another scheme laid out by an $8.3 billion corporation, or are we better than that?

For more op-ed features, head to MusicTech.


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