No, Burlington wasn’t the most popular Spotify Wrapped sound town

by NEW YORK DIGITAL NEWS


This week, the internet celebrated Spotify Wrapped and in the process, it led us to believe that the vast majority of us share a musical affinity with Burlington, Vermont, but in reality, it was a textbook case of social media creating a moment of false universality.

Wrapped is one of the most anticipated days for Spotify users. It’s when the streaming giant gathers your listening data for the past year and compiles your top songs, artists, and genres onto a series of shareable graphics. It’s nearly impossible to exist online and not see someone posting their Wrapped results across your feed. This year, Spotify introduced us to our “sound towns,” the city whose listening most closely aligns with our own.

On X / Twitter, sound towns quickly became the forefront of the Spotify Wrapped conversation. Seemingly everyone, myself included, was matched with Burlington, Vermont — and to a lesser extent Berkeley, California, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Most notably, these are college towns.

One X / Twitter user posted a graphic of three Disney Games teams labeled, “Burlington, Berkeley, and Cambridge” and captioned it, “the tl rn.” It received 53,000 likes. A quote tweet saying, “Imagine explaining this to me literally 24 hours ago” of another meme garnered 137,000 likes. There’s no denying the ubiquity of the sound town conversation.

However, Spotify later revealed to NBC News that only 0.6 percent of listeners got Burlington, 0.3 percent got Berkeley, and 0.1 percent got Cambridge as their sound towns. In fact, the most popular sound town was San Luis Obispo, California, clocking in at 0.8 percent out of over 1,300 total sound towns.

So why did it seem like everyone matched with Burlington, even prompting artists like Troye Sivan and Charli XCX to respond to the meme with their own takes?

It’s because on Spotify Wrapped Day, the social media echo chamber worked overtime. Jokes about these specific cities gained traction and proliferated as more X / Twitter users vied to cash in on the viral moment, creating a false narrative. As more people posted about Burlington, it began trending on X and exploded even further into something that it, statistically, was not. Accounts encouraged their followers to share if they were a “Berkeley, California son or Burlington, Vermont daughter” and their place at either the gay commune in Berkeley, lesbian commune in Burlington, or bisexual commune in Cambridge — sparking an endless feedback loop of people posting and being reaffirmed by accounts already sharing similar media tastes and demographics.

Rather than interrogate the relationship between the type of music you listen to and who you follow or how often you post on social media, Burlington’s popularity was deemed universal, or at the very least universal to the LGBTQ+ community, according to Them.

It’s also possible that tweets about Burlington received so much traction because the town was already trending due to recent tragic events in the news. The false ubiquity of Burlington on Spotify Wrapped quickly flooded the actual news of the shooting of three college students of Palestinian descent.

The phenomenon was then legitimized by members of mainstream media outlets, many of whom exist in the same hyper-online spaces. News sites, Mashable included, covered the Burlington trend, leading to more exposure and even more posting and sharing.

Despite being in jest, the online discourse around sound towns spread an inaccurate portrait of Wrapped and the app’s users. While Burlington’s popularity may not be very consequential, it underscores the effects of the social media echo chamber — a result of algorithms that impact more than just our news and how we engage with it.

It’s safe to say that if we all moved to our sound towns, Burlington would be rife with internet drama because that’s seemingly where the Extremely Online are headed.





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